SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed 10 bills that his office said will help protect “the most vulnerable Californians – homeless children and adults and foster youth.”
The measures include one that establishes "runaway and homeless youth shelters” as a new kind of group home and requires them to be licensed and overseen by the Department of Social Services.
There are an estimated 200,000 minors in California who are homeless, according to the California Homeless Youth Project, which operates under the California Research Bureau.
Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) authored AB 346 to address that category of the homeless population.
Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) introduced a bill that allows counties to transfer bond money approved for construction of shelters for abused or neglected children to instead be used for shelters for runaway or homeless youths. Beall’s bill, which was signed by Brown, is SB 347.
The governor also signed a bill that provides that the fact that a child is homeless or an "unaccompanied minor" is not, in and of itself, a sufficient basis for triggering the mandatory child abuse or neglect reporting laws by teachers and social service workers.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) said his bill gives those serving foster youths discretion in cases where youths might otherwise be taken into police custody or returned to a home from which they have fled.
“Young people escaping intolerant homes can now begin to get the help they need, so they don’t have to remain homeless – without ending up in police custody or being returned to unsupportive environments,” Ammiano said in arguing for his AB 652.
The governor also signed legislation requiring that when a decision is made to place a foster child who is medically fragile, priority consideration be given to foster parents who are nurse practitioners. That bill by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) is AB 1133.
Brown also signed a measure by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) that requires social workers to periodically visit foster youths in their home placements and provides for the foster youths to request a private conversation with his or her social worker.
Yee said his SB 342 is needed because in-home visits by social workers “are an essential component of our child welfare system and are critical for ensuring the safety of children placed in out-of-home care."