Partnership and the Politics of Care: Advocates’ Role in Passing and Implementing California’s Law to Extend Foster Care
As a result of California’s Fostering Connections to Success Act (commonly known as AB12), foster youth in California now have the right to stay in care until their 21st birthday. This report traces the history of the AB12 legislation from its introduction in the California State Assembly, through its passage and signing, and ultimately to its innovative and extensive implementation planning process. The case of AB12 shows that even in a time of fiscal cutbacks and reduced state capacity, when some might expect greater tension between governmental and nongovernmental parties, cooperation and collaboration between government and nonprofit stakeholders has the potential to lead to major policy change.
The report aims to document the California experience, highlighting its successes and challenges, so that other states may benefit, potentially smoothing the legislative and implementation processes there. Beyond telling the story of AB12, this report also focuses on two other issues. The first is the strong role played by a group of stakeholders (e.g., advocates, foundations, county administrators) in passing this bill and seeing it through implementation planning. We find that their central involvement was a result of their own desire to see the policy through to implementation, the limited capacity of state government agencies to implement such complex legislation, and the willingness of foundations to help fund implementation planning. The second is the degree to which research evidence was used in both the legislative and implementation planning phases. Our findings about use of evidence indicate that for research to be effective in shaping legislative decisions, it needs to be more timely and geared to policymakers’ concerns. In particular, research on specific state-level contexts is greatly valued. For legislation that concerns sympathetic populations, testimonial or discursive evidence can be just as effective with legislators as research evidence. Moreover, in times of budgetary constraint, research evidence about cost effectiveness may be as important as research evidence about program or policy effectiveness.