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Sparky's Letter to the Editor: AB 12 gives foster youth a chance

Exerpt from the San Jose Mercury News Letter to the Editor October 26, 2010

Unlike Richard Wexler's opinion piece 'California foster care bill treats the wrong wound' (Oct. 22), I am among those celebrating the passing of AB 12, which will extend foster care to age 21. As CEO of the Bill Wilson Center for 28 years, I have worked hard to reunify children and youth with their families and keep kids out of both the foster care and juvenile justice systems. Of the youth served every year in our runaway and homeless youth shelter, more than 85 percent return and stay home. With the transition-age youth (18-24) homeless population steadily growing, research points out that many of these youth have aged out of the foster care system and have been thrown to the wolves. They wind up homeless, jobless, without families to turn to for support. In response to this growing population, we developed transitional housing and support services and have helped hundreds of former foster youth make the transition to independence. With AB 12 in place, youth who turn 18 in foster care will have a choice: Do I stay in my foster home or do I take a housing subsidy to help me make the transition to independence? More foster youth will attend and finish college, more will obtain employment, fewer will become homeless -- sounds pretty good to me.

Sparky Harlan

CEO, Bill Wilson Center San Jose