Amid State Foster Care Reforms, Relatives in L.A. Still Face Obstacles

December 20, 2017
New reforms were designed to bring more relatives into California’s foster care system. Instead, they’ve actually made it much harder to keep a child in a home with family members as foster care providers.

Mahoganie LaFranks initially welcomed the opportunity to bring 16-year-old foster youth Tiffany* into her Long Beach home this past year.

In September, LaFranks started the process to be formally licensed as a resource parent under California’s new approval process, a key part of child welfare reforms in California that started in January.

But LaFranks has yet to be approved, which means that at least $923 in monthly support to care for Tiffany isn’t coming in.

“I’m actively expecting my landlord to show up at any point in time and hand me a three-day notice and start the eviction process,” LaFranks said. “I love this kid, but I am completely petrified.”

She is one of 4,600 caregivers in Los Angeles County tied up in the Resource Family Approval (RFA) process, an effort to ensure better-quality foster homes for California’s foster youth. The process is a crucial part of the Continuum of Care Reform (CCR), through which the state hopes to see more foster youth thrive in family-like settings and decrease its reliance on group homes.

Officials expected the RFA process to take three months. But data from Los Angeles County obtained by The Chronicle of Social Change shows thousands of families are facing months-long delays to become approved, and are often waiting for months before they are fully paid for taking care of an abused or neglected child.

That, advocates say, is placing hundreds of new foster care placements at risk of disruption, potentially thrusting many children deeper into the county’s foster care system and hampering the state’s reform efforts.

“We’re hearing about situations every day that are fairly dire,” said Susan Abrams, policy director at the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles, which represents foster children in the county’s juvenile dependency courts. “We’ve seen placements fail, we’ve had caregivers say, ‘I can’t take care of these kids, I literally just don’t have the finances.’ One of the caregivers for our children, their uncle, said he was selling everything he could at a pawn shop to raise money to keep the kids with him.”

Read more here