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The recent report titled Proposition 63: Is the Mental Health Act Reaching California’s Transitional Age Foster Youth?” from Children’s Advocacy Institute estimates that about 4,000 California youth age out of the foster care system annually. Proposition 63 provides services to Transition Age Youth (TAY) and Transition Age Foster Youth (TAFY). The report indicates that California is failing to provide services to these youth, with most counties receiving a grade F”.

Once a youth enters the foster care system, they become a ward of the state that is the state is responsible for their well-being. Unfortunately, the responsibility ends at the age of 18 resulting in many transitional youth falling through the cracks. Proposition 63 is designed to bridge the gap in services for this unique population that returns to our communities without parental support or a social safety net. 

This transitional age foster youth population has high-needs that require a continuation of services past the age of 18. It has been widely documented that TAFY have a higher rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when compared to war veterans. Research studies indicate foster care youth have increased rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when compared to war veterans and that they suffer from panic disorder at much higher rate than the average population. Additionally, foster care youth experience higher rates of drug dependency, homelessness, suicide, and unemployment.

Proposition 63 was designed to enhance existing programs; however, with the budget cuts for mental health agencies, are modifying their existing programs so that they can receive proposition 63 funding rather than implementing new programs as the Mental Health Act mandates.

This publication suggests that California is unfortunately failing in serving this unique population. Is it possible that this failure contributes to California’s grossly overcrowding prison system? 

~Rebeca Ishii, CJCJ staff