JBAY Featured on KQED to Discuss Universal Basic Income for Foster Youth

Youth aging out of the foster care system in California would receive a universal basic income, UBI, of  $1,000 a month for three years, under legislation proposed by newly-elected state Senator David Cortese (D). John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) executive director Amy Lemley and Senator Cortese discussed the proposal, SB 739, and the challenges facing foster youth during COVID recently, on KQED’s Forum.

UBI is an unconditional, periodic cash payment that a government makes to everyone with no strings attached. It gained national attention in 2019, when Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs piloted it by providing 125 randomly selected people $500 per month for three years.

Now Senator Cortese is proposing the approach for former foster youth. He is basing his proposal on a UBI program for former foster youth in Santa Clara County, which he initiated in 2020 while serving as a county supervisor before his election to the state Senate last November. 

“The idea is not to be too prescriptive,” said Cortese. “It’s not Big Brother saying we know what’s best for you. It’s about here’s some basic, fundamental support, since you don’t have family support. Your family is the county, get out there and do your best with it.” 

JBAY executive director Amy Lemley agreed with the Senator. “At times we’ve spent too much time talking about how foster youth are different and not enough time talking about how they need the same types of support that all young people need when they become adults,” Lemley told KQED. 

“We know most families are providing some kind of support to their adult children, more adult children are living with their families, and they’re getting regular economic support. So foster youth are really no different; we want to give them the same kind of support to have a healthy young adulthood.”  

“Foster youth have always faced a steep climb and the climb got a lot steeper with COVID,” added Lemley. “They’re being disproportionately impacted in terms of housing, employment, their connection with school. So we really need to step back and think about this next phase of their development and give them the same kinds of support that other young adults receive from their extended family.”

JBAY is working with Senator Cortese to help move this proposal through the legislature into law. The KQED Forum interviews with Amy Lemley and Senator Cortese are now available online.

JBAY Youth Advocate Featured on KQED’s Forum

On Tuesday, December 22nd, JBAY Youth Advocate Aja Dunlap was featured on Forum, a daily radio program on KQED 88.5.

The topic of the program was foster youth and how they are faring during the pandemic. Aja spent the first ten minutes discussing her own experiences in foster care, as well as those of other foster youth during the COVID-19 pandemic. And she talked about JBAY’s work to help foster youth and improve the system.

Aja went into foster care with her siblings after an episode of domestic violence. According to Aja, that experience was traumatic and difficult at such a young age, “If you look at how old we were that was way too much on us,” said Aja. “They traumatized us during the process, and I was triggered every time I went to a new placement and different school.”

Aja was in four foster homes and attended six different high schools in the Sacramento Area, remaining committed to her education throughout her experience. In 2018, she graduated from high school and now attends Sacramento State, where she majors in criminal justice.

According to Aja, the pandemic has been particularly difficult for youth who have been in foster care. Without extended family to provide support, foster youth are left to fend for themselves. Many have lost jobs, had their work hours reduced, experienced food insecurity, and struggled with mental health challenges.

Aja also told KQED about the challenges foster youth faced when schools and colleges switched entirely to virtual learning: “Some of the foster youth didn’t have laptops, some didn’t even have cell phones or wifi. So John Burton Advocates for Youth helped them get laptops and cellphones.”

In May, JBAY conducted a survey of youth providers to understand how foster youth were faring during the pandemic. It found that many young people are struggling: 77% of respondents served youth that have been laid off, 76% served youth that have had work hours severely cut and 50% served youth that have a week or less of money available.

Mental health was the area of biggest challenge: 83% served youth that experienced depression, anxiety or another mental health condition.

As a young leader and former foster youth, Aja is playing an important role in raising awareness about the unique challenging facing foster youth. She will play an important role in JBAY’s legislative agenda in 2021.

To listen to Aja on Forum together with other guests, follow this link: https://www.kqed.org/forum/2010101881283/what-the-pandemic-means-for-youth-in-foster-care-and-their-families

JBAY’s Advocacy Featured in Multiple Media Outlets

JBAY’s advocacy was featured in numerous media outlets in the build-up to the passage of the state budget, effective July 1st.

JBAY Youth Advocate Emmerald Evans was featured in a KTVU news story on the importance of supporting foster youth during COVID-19. “Campuses have been closed. Students have to go home, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that foster youth have a home to go to,” she said.

The story also featured Assembly Member Phil Ting, who championed a key provision for foster youth in the state budget to prevent homelessness in high cost areas of the state, including San Francisco.

“We want to keep foster youth on a path to success. Otherwise, they become a permanent part of our caseload,” said Ting. “This is smart fiscally and it’s the right thing to do.”

In the San Jose Mercury News Executive Director Amy Lemley explained the challenges facing foster youth and the importance of allowing youth to voluntarily remain in extended foster care during COVID-19, “If their minimum needs can be covered, they can keep a leg up in higher education and can hold on until the economy returns,” Lemley said. “The odds are already stacked against them to graduate from high school and higher education, and yet they’re doing it.”

Additional coverage of JBAY’s advocacy was included in EdSource, the Chronicle for Social Change, WFMZ News, World and LA Progressive. For a full list of JBAY in the media, follow this link.

Facing COVID-19 as a Foster Youth is ‘Formidable’ says Chronicle

A recent San Francisco Chronicle article featured John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) efforts to ensure at-risk youth have the resources needed during and after COVID-19. Here’s just part of the story:

As schools closed and roommates fled to childhood homes, many foster youth had nowhere to go. Even if they find a couch to sleep on, they may lack computers or internet access to study for final exams.

Social workers fear that when the economy rebounds, these young adults will stumble. Many won’t finish college and may be turned away from jobs.

“A situation that might be complex but manageable for a normal kid becomes overwhelming for someone coming out of the foster system,” said Debbie Raucher, director of education at John Burton Advocates for Youth, a San Francisco nonprofit that helps former foster children.

At JBAY, we know it’s daunting to not have a family to depend on during such a crisis. Many foster youth are not prepared for such changes in the world.  Our goal is to help them navigate this new world moving forward.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.