A Win for Foster Youth with Disabilities

An historic turning point occurred on June 4, 2009 granting foster youth with disabilities an additional year of benefits. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch ruled in Leonard v. Wagner that California state foster care officials in the AFDC-FC program, which provides support for children in foster care, must comply with state and federal disability laws.

Josh Leonard, executive director of Bay Area Youth Centers, filed the lawsuit in 2007 alleging the State of California discriminates against foster children with disabilities through what is commonly known as "the completion rule." The completion rule states that foster children who have not completed high school by age 18, but have a strong possibility of doing so by age 19, may continue receiving foster care benefits until age 19 and their completion of high school. But children who school administrators do not think have a strong possibility of graduating by the age of 19 - including most children who suffer from mental disabilities and are receiving special education - lose their benefits, including their housing, at age 18. The lawsuit charged that the state's policy of cutting off foster care funding to youth who can't meet the completion requirement because of a disability violates state and federal disability laws.

Sunny Hills congratulates Josh Leonard for his leadership and advocacy on behalf of foster youth across the state who will benefit from this ruling. We will keep you updated as the state works to propose and implement procedures to correct the discrimination of the completion rule.

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