California’s Foster Care System: Implementation of AB 403 in Sonoma County

This Policy Lab will focus on how child welfare agencies in Sonoma County can develop policies that best meet the needs of children and youth who need to be placed in foster care. Specifically, the Lab will provide these agencies with guidance on implementing a new California statute, AB 403, which made significant changes to the rules governing foster care placement in California. AB 403 requires counties to preference placement in foster family homes rather than group homes, institute heightened provider accountability, and provide wrap-around services for youth in foster care.

In California, over 60,000 children are in foster care as a result of child abuse or neglect or juvenile delinquency, with a majority remaining in the foster care system for at least a year. In Sonoma County, between 50 and 75 children require foster care placement each day. The nature and quality of the placement is critical to protecting the well-being of these children.

Working closely with the Policy Lab client, the Sonoma County Juvenile Justice Commission, the research team will assess the major provisions of AB 403 and its federal counterpart (the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018), examine how Sonoma County is serving youth in the wake of AB 403 implementation, and develop guidelines that county agencies can use in choosing the best placement alternative for each child. Activities will include summarizing the intention and requirements of AB 403; examining the county’s progress in responding to the law; analyzing relevant data on placement decisions; identifying gaps in services, policies and procedures; developing a toolkit of resources and practices for county administrators and other providers and stakeholders; and formulating policy recommendations to ensure both implementation with the law and best practices for serving youth. In addition to legal and other research, students will interview relevant stakeholders. The policy lab will culminate with an oral presentation to the Juvenile Justice Commission.

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California's Foster Care System: Implementation of AB 403 in Sonoma County 1