NFYI Supports Lawsuit to Force State and County to Fulfill Obligation to Foster Youth—Calls for Parties to Meet Immediately
Statement by Rebecca Louve Yao, Executive Director, National Foster Youth Institute
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The class action lawsuit filed by public-interest law firms Public Counsel, the Alliance for Children’s Rights, Children’s Rights, and Munger, Tolles & Olsen LLP against the California Department of Social Services, California Health and Human Services Agency, California Department of Health Care Services, Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health lays out an overwhelmingly strong case that the defendant governmental entities have failed to meet their constitutional and statutory obligations. It does not propose or suggest ways to provide the housing, mental health, and other supportive services to which youth in and exiting foster care are entitled. If successful, the lawsuit will require the defendants, in consultation with the plaintiffs and the court, to develop a comprehensive plan to address the system deficiencies. If this process were to wait until the case winds its way through the judicial system, additional youth will be harmed by these same failures.
The legal action must and should go forward, but youth in care should not have to wait for that resolution to have their needs addressed. NFYI calls on all of the defendant governmental organizations to come together now with the plaintiffs, their attorneys, and others they may designate, to develop a comprehensive plan to fully address the needs of youth in our care.
NFYI is a youth development organization that works directly with current and former foster youth aged 18-30. We are committed to working with our national, regional and local partners, current and former foster youth and families to create systemic solutions for current and former foster youth in Los Angeles County.
Our members know firsthand the struggles of youth failed by the system during and after their time in care. They have experienced inadequate placements, lack of access to urgently needed mental health services, and exclusion from placement on the basis of parenting or pregnancy or mental health disability. The failure to serve youth adequately prior to leaving care has profound negative effects on the next few years, causing homelessness and housing insecurity, emotional instability, and unemployment, and undermining a successful transition to adulthood.
NFYI understands these issues through the lived experiences of the people we try to help:
● 95% of our members in L.A. have experienced housing insecurity or homelessness;
● 25% are actively housing insecure and
● 20% are currently in extended foster care;
● Many face a housing cliff as they age out of child welfare services.
In our work on the ground in L.A., we hear constantly from our members about their traumatic experiences transitioning from foster care with little to no support in navigating housing. Often they are given outdated phone numbers or websites with no other information, a continuation of the system failing to appropriately assist them in their transition to adulthood. Members often have only their peers or mentors to help them navigate, and for some, there is no network of support. A key focus NFYI’s new strategic plan is finding solutions for the postsecondary education housing crisis.
At this critical point in time, the class action lawsuit against the State of California and LA County is an important tool to try and remedy these inequities. As it goes forward, the thinking and action of all parties must be directed to the urgent need for solutions now.