From the Chronicle of Social Change–Ten years ago, I was George White, a 17-year-old high school student in foster care advocating for the extension of foster care to age 21 through AB 12.
Today, I introduce myself as 27-year-old Dr. Akin Abioye, a program manager at a community foundation, board chair of Peace4Kids, social scientist, a husband, and father of three amazing children. A long way away from where I was a decade ago.
Back in 2010, I argued in the LA Times “that when young adults stay in foster care until age 21, their outlook for education, housing stability and mental health dramatically improve. Those three additional years of support help keep these young people safe, in school, off the streets and out of jail.” I still believe this to be true.
But as a young adult with a career, several degrees, and a far more complex understanding of the nuances of public policy than I did at 17, I recognize something more powerful than more time, better and more comprehensive support. And while I have a great deal of admiration for the desire to extend foster care even further to provide a broader safety net for young people transitioning out of foster care, I would be derelict in my position as an expert with lived experiences in the system if I did not warn potential supporters of the recently introduced Senate Bill (SB) 912 of the potential carnage.
SB 912 would extend California’s optional foster care system for young adults through age 25. It was introduced by State Sen. Jim Beall (D), who authored the AB 12 law I championed years ago.
I too, thought a decade ago, if these young people just had more time, outcomes could be far different. As a father, I now know that allowing my kids more time to live with me would not alone change the trajectory of their lives. Instead, here I offer three things the state could do that would have a far greater impact than extending foster care to age 26.