Last week, Governor Newsom signed California’s 2019-2020 state budget, which includes a new $8 million dollar investment in combating homelessness among the state’s former foster youth and supporting young adults as they transition to independence. The investment will be distributed to county child welfare agencies enabling them to expand the successful THP-Plus program, which provides housing and supportive services for former foster youth age 18 to 24.

As an organization dedicated to serving the needs of transition-age foster youth, First Place was actively involved in advocating for this expansion funding over the course of the legislative and budget session. We are deeply grateful to John Burton Advocates for Youth for sponsoring this initiative, and to the legislature and Governor Newsom for making foster youth a priority in the state’s budget.

Why Funding THP-Plus Matters

Established in 2001, THP-Plus was the first dedicated state funding stream to provide housing and supportive services for former foster youth in California. Since its inception, the program has made it possible for thousands of young people to find their footing in adulthood after exiting the foster care system.  In our 2018-19 fiscal year, First Place provided housing and services to more than 200 young people through THP-Plus.

However, funding for the program has remained relatively stagnant at the county level, despite an increasing need. Limited funding, in conjunction with the worsening housing crisis, has created shortages in the availability of THP-Plus slots and led to long wait times for youth applying for services. This problem is particularly acute in in areas of the state with a high density of foster youth, like Los Angeles.

According John Burton Advocates for Youth’s 2017-2018 THP+FC & THP-Plus Annual Report, more than 400 youth who were eligible for services under the program were “wait listed” by providers statewide as of June 30 of last year. For former foster youth experiencing or on the verge of homelessness, delays in access to services significantly increase the likelihood of other poor outcomes, including dropping out of school, long-term unemployment, and incarceration.

When used to expand THP-Plus programing, this new injection of state funding will benefit those youth who have been most impacted by shortfalls of services, both through the immediate stability provided by transitional housing and the increased likelihood of achieving long-term positive outcomes that comes from receiving ongoing education and employment supports.

Expanded Eligibility

In addition to increasing counties’ capacity, this new funding also provides much needed flexibility in delivery of services.

While some foster care supports are available to youth who were in care on or after their 16th birthdays, both THP-Plus and THP-NMDD (AB 12 extended foster care) require youth to have been in foster care when they turned 18.The gap created by that two-year mismatch in policies left more than 100 young people unable to access services in 2018.  This is due in part to the fact that youth who reunite with their families or otherwise “achieve permanence” between the ages of 16 and 18 frequently find the stability and permanence to be short lived, and face many of the same barriers to housing and independence as foster youth who are in care at 18.

The funding included in the budget can be used to house and support all young adults age 18-24 years old, with priority given to foster and probation expansion youth, regardless of the age at which they exit care. This will enable counties and providers to serve  youth were in foster care and now face homelessness or housing instability, but who do not meet the full requirements for either THP-Plus or THP-NMDD services. This will begin to address the existing gap in services and provide help to former foster youth who would otherwise be left without resources.

What This Means for First Place

As an extended foster care and THP-Plus provider serving foster youth in some of the state’s most populous and high-need areas, we hope this expansion will result in an increase in the number of youth we are able to serve each year. We also anticipate that we will be able to provide a stronger continuum of care and longer program stays for youth who join First Place under AB 12 extended foster care, but who need additional time in program to remove barriers to education, employment, and long-term independence.

Taken together, this will result in more foster youth better supported in achieving long-term stability and success the transition to adult independence.

Fearious came to First Place at age 22, in need of housing stability. Thanks to his eligibility for THP-Plus, we were able to provide him not only with a place to call home but also support in identifying and pursuing his education and career goals. He exited our program to stable housing and recently celebrated his one-year anniversary as a member of Kaiser Permanente’s IT Help Desk team.

Read his profile in our 2018 Annual Report.