SACRAMENTO—Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-San Bernardino)and Yurok Tribal Chairman Joe James today issued the following statement upon learning of the governor’s veto of AB 273 which would have established additional requirements for social workers, probation officers, and juvenile courts when a child or non-minor dependent (NMD) is missing from foster care, including immediate notification requirements, hearing timelines, and due diligence reporting deadlines.
I am disappointed and saddened by the governor’s veto of AB 273. When foster children go missing, county practices are routinely out of compliance with both federal and state law, and the minimum California Department of Social Services guidance standards. This carelessness can lead to grave, life changing, even lethal consequences for children. The potential risk is magnified for Native American children in the system. It is long past due for us to do better by our children.
However, I am heartened by his direction to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) “to work with county partners to assess existing protocols and identify any needed improvements. With that information, CDSS will work with the author and stakeholders to inform additional guidance, training, or recommend statutory changes to protect all foster youth, especially tribal youth.”
I will work with the administration, the bill’s sponsors, the Alliance for Children’s Rights, California Tribal Families Coalition and Yurok Tribe and the Department, to ensure that local counties are consistently employing the best practices and protocols to locate, place, and stabilize missing foster children.
In July 2022, NBC reported that a Health and Human Services regional inspector are not complying with screening or reporting requirements when foster children are missing. That same news report stated, “In 36 states, the average number of days foster children were missing varied from seven to 46, and nine states reported that missing children disappeared for more than 50 days on average.” NBC also cited a National Foster Youth Institute estimate that 60 percent of child sex-trafficking victims have been in foster care or another part of the child welfare system.
Indian foster youth are even more vulnerable. Native American children enter the child welfare system at a rate that is 2.7 times their representation in the population, the highest of any racial group (AFDC 2020). National data shows that 85% of all missing Indigenous children over a 10-year period were endangered runaways. Nationally, American Indian or Alaska Native children had the highest rate of victimization at 14.8 per 1,000 children in the population of the same race or ethnicity.
It’s critical that we do all we can to support our missing foster youth, especially as we know that disproportionate numbers of these missing and vulnerable youth then become part of the grim statistics around child trafficking or in tribal communities, victims of our Missing and Murdered Indigenous People cases.
Yurok Tribal Chairman James stated:
We at the Yurok Tribe, in partnership with Tribal leaders, and communities of color who are also disproportionately impacted by the foster care system, know that our children are our most valuable resource and must be protected. While we are disappointed AB 273 was vetoed, we want to thank Assemblymember Ramos and the State legislature for their hard work and commitment to our children, and the children of many other under-represented poor people in California. In the spirit of addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People and ending the pipeline from the foster care system to MMIP, we will continue to fight for our children’s safety and protection, and for their futures.
Assemblymember James C. Ramos proudly represents the 45th Assembly district which includes the Cities of Fontana, Highland, Mentone, Redlands, Rialto and San Bernardino. He is the first and only California Native American serving in the state’s legislature. Ramos chairs the Assembly Committees on Rules.