Assemblyman Ken Cooley’s Bill to Expand Foster Youth Access to Court Appointed Special Advocates Signed by the Governor

For immediate release:

RANCHO CORDOVA – Assemblyman Ken Cooley’s (D-Rancho Cordova) AB 2417 was signed in to law by Governor Brown this afternoon.  AB 2417 expands foster youth access to court appointed special advocates, known as CASAs. These are volunteers who are appointed by a judge to provide one-on-one mentorship and advocacy to abused and neglected children who are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. Children with court appointed special advocates have demonstrably better long-term outcomes: they are more likely to find a safe permanent home, half as likely to reenter the foster care system, and have far greater success in school.  However, there are currently not enough CASA volunteers to advocate on behalf of the foster children in need of their services.

CASA programs are required by law to fingerprint each volunteer to screen for a criminal background before allowing them to mentor and advocate for youth. Non-profit organizations that serve children do not have to pay the California Department of Justice fees for background checks, but CASA programs are currently excluded from this benefit. This places an undue financial burden on this critical child advocacy program.

AB 2417 enhances foster youth access to CASA volunteers by including CASA programs in the existing fee exemption that other child-focused non-profit organizations enjoy.

“Foster kids face obstacles that affect their long-term education, job prospects and even housing stability,” said Assemblyman Cooley.  “AB 2417 expands access to CASAs that provide foster youth vital support and services they need to transition into independent adulthood.”

"We applaud Assemblymember Cooley for his leadership and Governor Brown for his approval of this simple legislative change which will result in more children in foster care having the caring advocacy of a Court Appointed Special Advocate," said John Lipp, CEO of the California CASA Association. "This represents a great savings to our local CASA programs that they will leverage to recruit, train, and supervise CASA volunteers, whose advocacy improves and transforms the lives of abused and neglected children."

AB 2417 will take effect January 1, 2017.