By KHTS- AM 1220 / FM 98.1
Senator Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita announced Thursday The iFoster Pilot Program received an extension from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to help provide foster youths with smartphones.
This decision extends the iFoster, Inc. pilot program through January 2023 and directs T-Mobile to share anonymized data sets.
Wilk’s Senate Bill 546 (SB 546) would preserve the extension under law and ensure the CPUC provides foster youth with these crucial resources.
“As the CPUC finalizes their plans to continue the program, I am hopeful that the continued movement of SB 546 will hold them accountable until this is a done deal,” Wilk said.
Providing resources such as access to a phone is believed to help empower foster youths to successfully transition out of the foster care system.
“This is great news for our state’s foster youth, and I applaud the CPUC for taking this action to continue the state’s policy of providing foster youth with free smartphones and cellular service,” Wilk said.
Foster youths face many unique challenges including:
+ Approximately 66 percent of aging-out foster youth are set to be unemployed and only 5 percent can expect to work more than 20 hours per week.
+ Studies have found that 8 percent of transition-age foster youth drop out of high school compared to 3 percent of the statewide student population and are also at greater risk of failing the California High School Exit Examination.
+ More than 40 percent of these youth have contemplated suicide, and 24 percent have attempted it.
+ Less than 4 percent of foster youth are expected to achieve a bachelor’s degree.
+ While 90 percent of youth in the U.S. and 79 percent of low-income youth have access to a computer at home, only 21 percent of urban and 5 percent of rural foster youth have regular computer access, according to a report by Dr. Jeremy Goldbach, a professor at the USC School of Social Work.
Phones are a crucial resource for success in school, securing gainful employment, connecting to social services, making telehealth appointments, contacting emergency services and much more, according to officials with Wilk’s office.
Additionally, the need for these devices has increased during the pandemic which makes it essential to extend programs like the iFoster Pilot Program, according to Wilk.
SB 546 received unanimous support and is expected to be heard next by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
To learn more about the final decision on the iFoster Pilot Program extension, click here.
For more information on Senator Scott Wilk, visit his website here.