Gov. Brown Signs Legislation to Help Foster Children in the Juvenile Justice System

On Friday, September 26, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2607 into law.  This legislation, introduced by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, provides additional protection to foster youth who “cross over” into the juvenile justice system.  AB 2607 provides that foster children must never receive more punitive treatment than other minors in the delinquency system by being held in juvenile detention beyond the time when they should be released.  AB 2607 prohibits a county from detaining a dual-status minor in juvenile hall beyond the completion of any period of confinement imposed by the court.  If additional court hearings and team discussions are needed to discuss the minor’s long-term placement, those hearings and meetings should occur after the minor has been released from juvenile hall.

Foster youth who enter the juvenile justice system in California are called dual-status, or “crossover” youth, because they are governed by two different parts of the juvenile court system: the dependency system for abused, abandoned and neglected minors (foster children) and the delinquency system.  Although dual-st

atus youth make up only a small portion of juveniles in the foster care system (in California, there are approximately 3,000 foster youth in the juvenile justice system at any given time), these youth are by definition uniquely in need of support services, even among the broader population of abused or neglected children.

Currently counties have the option of “switching off” the foster child status of foster children when they are placed into juvenile detention. As a result, minors often lose support from the juvenile dependency system, including social workers, attorneys, and judges who are intimately familiar with their families, backgrounds, and needs.  Dual-status youth may also lose their placements and fall behind or withdraw from school once they enter the delinquency system. Because of their complex issues and needs, including the difficulty of finding appropriate placements, dual-status youth often spend additional time in juvenile hall, even after serving all of the confinement time ordered by the juvenile court.

PJDC Board Member Roger Chan, executive director of the East Bay Children’s Law Office, worked tirelessly to gather support for this important legislation and to ensure its passage.