Santa Clara County Increases Funding for Foster Youth

San Jose Spotlight | August 15, 2023

By: Julia Forrest

Three key foster youth programs in the county are receiving more money that will help kids in the classroom and even after they turn their tassels.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors extended the foster youth education services contract today, approving it without discussion. The contract provides funding for programs aimed at helping students achieve greater high school graduation and post-secondary enrollment rates.

The contract will run over a five-year period. For fiscal year 2022-23, supervisors allocated $1.9 million toward the programs. For the 2023-24 year funding will increase to $2 million, which reflects increased staffing costs, according to the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

The funding will go toward education management to help youth with open cases for youth dependents receive educational services. The foster youth support services program will help former foster students with educational services and transitioning into post-secondary education. The non-minor dependent scholarship program will help foster youth pay for post-secondary education.

Damion Wright, interim director of the department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS), said that by extending this contract, it will continue to help foster youth who are in high school or who are navigating post-secondary education. The services will be provided as part of a partnership between DFCS, the office of education and the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency.

“This is something that is a need for our youth and young adults in our foster care system,” Wright told San José Spotlight. “It’s a good example of how the county and its departments are working together in this case to support foster youth.”

Supervisor Otto Lee said the increase will prevent the county from shortchanging children by cutting programs or services that help students.

“Our foster youth in many ways have not necessarily gotten the best outcomes,” Lee told San José Spotlight. “There’s definitely more need for foster youth. This will be an important increase to make sure that we have sufficient resources and funding to help our foster youth through their difficult journey.”

These programs are a part of the county’s continued emphasis on assisting foster youth. The board of supervisors allocated $12.6 million in July on top of $20 million approved in 2021 to kickstart the construction of the community center, called The HUB, which will be completed in 2025. The center will offer services such as case management, subsidies for transportation, food, clothes and utilities for foster care youth ages 15 to 24. The four-story building on 1.62-acres will house the 17,000-square-foot community center on the ground floor and three stories with 81 affordable, supportive apartments.

Santa Clara County also previously launched a first-in-the-nation basic income program for foster youth moving out of the foster care system in 2020. It gave 72 youth $1,000 a month. State Sen. Dave Cortese first presented the idea when he was on the board of supervisors in 2019.

Dontae Lartigue, CEO and cofounder of Razing the Bar, a nonprofit focused on helping current and former foster care youth, said about 75% of foster youth across California are performing below grade level in school. He said the increased funding for foster youth education services will prove helpful when trying to reach these students in a more effective way.

“When we look at privilege, privilege to me is not just having the opportunity, it’s actually having a high level access to a resource,” Lartigue told San José Spotlight. “Young people need people to invest in them.”

View this article in the San Jose Spotlight.