News on Human Services Programs, Legislation & the People We Serve – September 30, 2016

Media memo

To submit stories for inclusion in CWDA’s weekly Media Memo, email Sarah Jimenez. County staff and others not currently receiving the Media Memo directly can sign up on the CWDA website at the bottom of the home page.

*Media Memo will be on hiatus next week due to the 2016 CWDA Conference.*


The ‘Welfare Queen’ Is a Lie | The Atlantic | September 28, 2016

Programs that should be crafted around people’s needs are instead designed to deal with a problem that doesn’t exist.

At a campaign rally in 1976, Ronald Reagan introduced the welfare queen into the public conversation about poverty: “She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.” The perception of who benefits from a policy is of material consequence to how it is designed. For the past 40 years, U.S. welfare policy has been designed around Reagan’s mythical welfare queen—with very real consequences for actual families in need of support.

Aging & Poverty

For Some Seniors Without Housing, A Parking Lot Is Home | NPR | September 18, 2016

Marge Giaimo makes her way to a picnic table under the shadow of an oak tree. Santa Barbara’s trees, like its oceans and mountains, are one thing she says she never tires of here. After losing her senior housing three years ago, this table is where she does her painting these days. ”I feel very fortunate to have my car,” Giaimo says. “It’s a little cramped, but it’s softer than cement.” Of all her once-valued possessions, today her 20-year-old, gold Oldsmobile is her most important one. It is her home, and she keeps it as neat as a pin…In the wealthy coastal city of Santa Barbara, north of Los Angeles, the demand for senior housing is so great the wait list is now closed. After all, California’s senior population is expected to grow by 50 percent in the next decade. For the seniors left out in the cold, their only option is living in their cars. ”It is a hidden population and a growing population,” says Cassie Roach, who oversees Safe Parking, a city-funded program at the New Beginnings Counseling Center. “And it is quite different from the street homeless.”

Child Welfare

Why some wonder if there will be enough Inland foster homes | The Press-Enterprise | September 29, 2016

Brandy Herrera remembers being a lonely foster child bouncing from one home to the next, often separated from two younger siblings and frequently feeling like she had been abandoned. Now 27 and working as a hospice nurse, the Riverside woman and her husband have decided to take a foster child into their home. Their goal? Make the experience better for another youngster. “As an adult, a foster parent, I will build bonds and connections no matter what kind of child I get,” Herrera said, choking back tears in a recent interview. “If I’m hurt as an adult, that’s OK,” she said. “But the child shouldn’t have to feel that way.” Aiming to improve the experience for tens of thousands of uprooted children, California is rolling out a sweeping foster care reform campaign that is phasing out traditional group homes. And while many support that goal, some worry the effort will overwhelm Inland Southern California’s child welfare system and create a shortage of foster homes

Brown Signs Bill to Close Mental Health Gap for California’s “Out-of-County” Foster Youth | Chronicle of Social Change | September 27, 2016

California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on Monday that aims to resolve issues preventing kids placed in out-of-county foster homes from getting needed mental health treatment. About one in five foster youth in California — or about 13,000 youth — are considered out of county, meaning they have been placed in a county other than the one where they first entered the state’s child welfare system. Many out-of-county foster youth currently face lengthy delays or failures to receive needed mental health services due to the way the state’s mental health system is currently constituted. Under previous law, when a foster youth moved to a different county, responsibility for providing mental health services — and any related funding — remained with the county of origin and its network of service providers

Legislators call on Governor Brown to sign bills to protect foster youth | Mercury News | September 26, 2016

 Foster youth advocates and Bay Area legislators on Monday told a panel of state officials that the alarming conclusions of a recent state audit highlighting California’s weak oversight of psychiatric drugs for foster kids could be solved if Gov. Jerry Brown signs three pieces of key legislation into law this week. “The audit is troubling because it points to the fragmented” California foster care system and its “inability to monitor” the medications the state prescribes to about 9,500 foster youth, said Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose. The audit, released Aug. 23, mirrored many findings of this newspaper’s series “Drugging Our Kids” that disclosed the state’s dependence on psychotropic medications to control troubled children in the state’s foster care system and the failure to track how the drugs are prescribed.

For the first time, California releases test scores for foster youth — and they’re not good | Los Angeles Times | September 22, 2016

For the first time, California education officials have separated out the standardized test scores of the state’s foster youth — and advocates now have sobering proof of what they long suspected: These students are learning far less than their peers. In 2014-15, the first year scores of the new, harder state tests were reported, 18.8% of students in the foster care system met or exceeded standards in English/language arts, compared with 44.2% of their non-foster peers statewide. In math, 11.8% of these students reached or beat the benchmarks, compared with 33.8% of non-foster students. Foster students also had somewhat lower rates of participation on the tests. In English, 27,651 foster students — or 89.8% of those enrolled — were tested, as opposed to 96.1% of non-foster students. In math, that number was 27,475, or 89.3%, compared with 96.3% of their non-foster peers.

Sonoma County approves foster care overhaul | Press-Democrat | September 20, 2016

Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday approved a major overhaul of the local foster care system, a move aimed at dramatically scaling back on group home placements while increasing the use of home-based family care. The plan is a response to upcoming statewide changes that recast group homes as short-term residential treatment programs, establish new levels of provider accountability and bolster supportive services for youths placed with relatives and foster families. But the success of the plan largely depends on whether the county can get more families to participate in the retooled foster care system and provide stable permanent homes for the system’s most troubled kids, officials said. “That’s the key to this whole reform: How do we recruit and support and retain families? We’re having some success already,” said Nick Honey, Sonoma County’s director of Family, Youth and Children’s Services.

Child Sex Trafficking

California decriminalizes prostitution for minors after Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills to aid trafficking victims | Los Angeles Times | September 26, 2016

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed more than half a dozen bills that decriminalize prostitution and increase protections for young trafficking victims in court amid growing efforts in California to help children and young adults swept into the trade of forced sex and labor…Senate Bill 1322, authored by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), make the crimes of solicitation and loitering with intent to commit prostitution misdemeanors inapplicable to children younger than 18. It also allows law enforcement to take sexually exploited children into temporary custody — only if leaving them unattended would pose an immediate threat to their health or safety. 

Why escort ads continue — in spite of law enforcement objections | Los Angeles Daily News | September 24, 2016

Five years after the National Association of Attorneys General urged classified advertisement website to remove its “escort” listings, law enforcement officials appear no closer to realizing their goal of eliminating what they consider thinly disguised solicitations for prostitution. Since the letter signed by all 50 attorneys general was sent to Backpage, there have been some successes in prosecuting the pimps that place the ads, which dance around the edges of the law by withholding most mentions of price for “candy,” “massages,” and “service.” Just last week, the San Bernardino County Human Trafficking Task Force arrested Marquell Deante “Kell the King” Stewart, who investigators said forced juvenile girls to work for him and advertised their availability on Backpage. In August, detectives said they broke up a ring trafficking enslaved Chinese nationals that operated in nine counties, including San Bernardino and Riverside, and advertised on Backpage. But the big prizes, and other websites that host the ads, remain out of reach, protected by federal law and the First Amendment.

Member News

Karen Fies named new director of Sonoma County Human Services | The Press Democrat | September 25, 2016

Sonoma County has promoted Karen Fies, a veteran social services worker and second-in-command of the county’s largest department, to be its new director. Fies will succeed Jerry Dunn as director of the county’s Human Services Department, with more than 900 employees and a budget of $325 million. Dunn, who served as the department’s director since 1997, retired last week. “I am so excited and honored to be selected by the (Board of Supervisors),” Fies said. “The services we provide are so important to the community — we touch the lives of 20 percent of Sonoma County’s population every month, whether it’s help finding a job or getting medical assistance or CalFresh benefits to put food on the table.”