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Newsom Announces Aid for Foster Care Youth Affected by COVID-19, New Agreement With Oregon and Washington

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 (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that the state plans to allocate $42 million — including $1.6 million from the federal government — to address the needs of young people in foster care and others living in low-income families.

"Bottom line is we have less social worker visits, we have less child welfare referrals because kids are not at school and because people are practicing physical distancing. And that means we still have to find creative ways to safeguard the well-being of our children," Newsom told KQED.

Speaking at his daily press briefing about the well-being of at-risk young people, Newsom noted that "disparities persist ... particularly (among) children in our welfare system."

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He spoke about his own family's experience of caring for a foster care child when he was young. The governor noted that some 59,000 children are in California foster care. Newsom said the state plans to use emergency funds to augment support that's currently unavailable because of school closures and reductions of in-person home visits. The governor said the funds would go toward bolstering connections with social workers and supporting the 211 system, which provides links to resources.

In addition, the governor announced an extension of the foster program to give older youth the option of staying with their current caregivers. Approximately 200 foster care youth age out of the system each month as they become adults. Low-income families will also be getting an additional $200 a month to help pay for food and other necessities.

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"We're just trying to do our best and we're just trying to create some supports, create a sense of community, let folks know that they're not alone, create some more resources, as well as just direct monetary relief to also help with the stress," Newsom said.

Noting that hospitalizations and the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units are only modestly increasing, Newsom also said that his administration would be working with the governors of Oregon and Washington state to draw up plans for reopening their respective economies. He said this would only happen when the time is right.

"We are announcing that California, Oregon and Washington have agreed to work together on a shared approach for reopening our economies – one that identifies clear indicators for communities to restart public life and business," the three governors said in a statement.

"While each state is building a state-specific plan," the governors will create a roadmap with specific guidelines, noting that "health outcomes and science – not politics – will guide these decisions."

Newsom said he would unveil California's metrics for determining a phased-in reopening, based on data-driven criteria, Tuesday.

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