A Fresh Start for Foster Care in Santa Clara, CA (S2E9)

Coming out of foster care has enormous challenges. For those in Santa Clara County, Ca., a hard life got a little easier.

County of Santa Clara’s Basic Income Pilot: ‘This program is changing lives’ press release.

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A Fresh Start for Foster Care in Santa Clara, CA (S2E9) Transcription

David Martin: This is the Good Government Show.

Monicia Ramirez: I know who I want to be like. They taught me how to get there. There’s really nothing that I can’t overcome. There’s really nothing that any of us can overcome. Right? Like if we really give ourselves the time to process it.

Nyla: The $1,000 is more like my backup money. I want to say I try not to use it unless I really have to.

I like to use whatever I earn from work to pay for my bills, like my rent and my car bill. And then if I need to take money out from that $1,000, then I will take money out to cover any other expenses.

Monicia Ramirez: Being able to be what they call quote unquote, a soccer mom. Right. Because I’m there and we practice in there every rehearsal, everything, you know.
And I’m there cheering her on and I want to be able to do that. If I didn’t have the extra income.

Carol D’Auria: Welcome to the good government show. I’m Carol D’Auria.

David Martin: And I’m Dave Martin.

Carol D’Auria: And today on the good government show, we’re going to be discussing a very special group and what the county of Santa Clara, California, is doing for them. In a nutshell, it’s giving them free money.

David Martin: Free money. This sounds like this could be a little controversial. But first, welcome to the good government show. If you’re like us, tell your friends to listen to make sure to follow us and please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. And please, please rate us when you’re listening to us right now. That’s going to help us bring you more stories of good government action like this one.

David Martin: So, Carol, free money.

Carol D’Auria: Those are real do words, free money.

David Martin: And today’s free is for me. But I think that’s over time.

Carol D’Auria: No, no, no, no, no.

David Martin: It’s a very serious topic. No, it is.

Carol D’Auria: We are talking about foster kids, not all of them, just the ones who are aging out of the foster program when they reach age 25 and 26, they are given $1,000 every month for two years to spend as they see fit. No strings attached.

David Martin: No strings.

Carol D’Auria: None.

David Martin: None.

Carol D’Auria: It is controversial, I bet. But as you heard, the young woman at the top of the show say she’s ready to march into adulthood. She knows how to survive and she needs the extra money.

David Martin: Well, this sounds like a pretty impressive program and it sounds very progressive. The devil’s in the details. So let’s get to the details. Yes.

Carol D’Auria: Okay. I’m happy to do that. First off, we’re talking about Santa Clara County. Now, this is in the middle of the state of California. It’s mostly on the west coast, just south of San Francisco is basically what you would consider Silicon Valley. You have the big tech and tech.

David Martin: Is out there. That’s right.

Carol D’Auria: Like Hewlett Packard, IBM, Apple, and also you have the colleges, San Jose University and Stanford

David Martin: Stanford University. So these are this is a this is a very intelligent, very educated area, very wealthy, a lot of money.

Carol D’Auria: Right. In fact, here’s a fun fact, David.

David Martin: Yes.

Carol D’Auria: Santa Clara has the third highest GDP in the world. In the world, Zurich, Switzerland and Oslo, Norway.

David Martin: So this is a very, very progressive area and very expensive.

Carol D’Auria: You got that.

David Martin: And they still have kids in foster care, right?

Carol D’Auria: It seems almost like. How does this happen?

David Martin: See, this is one of the things about the show that I think is really interesting is that you find we are finding that in in places where you wouldn’t think they’re a problems. There are problems. And, you know, you don’t have to be in the most expensive zip code to have challenges that the government has to test solve.

David Martin: Right.

Carol D’Auria: Exactly. And so that’s what keeps all of these counties in business, all the problems that people have. So what they did, because it’s an expensive place, they started a pilot program for foster kids who are looking for extended help. And Melanie Jimenez Perez is a program director.

Melanie Jimenez Perez: They have all been within the foster care system. And at the age of 24, most of them are still trying to complete their education and working full time and searching for stable housing. So it takes at a critical time where it’s really just been used to stabilize their lifestyles. They use the majority of the funds for housing so that they can stay where they’re at.
And for a majority of them, they also find they’re only for the first time in their lives.

Carol D’Auria: Which is a big step.

Melanie Jimenez Perez: Absolutely. They were couch surfing or kind of going through the different housing programs that were provided, but all looking at temporary housing. And with this stable funding, they were able to sign a lease for some of them who are parents also for the first time to have bedrooms for their children in those smaller spaces.

David Martin: So this thousand dollars, is this all they receive from the county?

Carol D’Auria: Oh, no, no way. They do qualify for other programs because usually they make very little money. Remember, a lot of these kids don’t even have high school diplomas. So for more details on this, let’s go to a fellow named David Little.

David Martin: So this so David, a little. Go ahead. Who is he?

Carol D’Auria: Yeah, not like you. He’s David Little, the Santa Clara.

David Martin: That was a big deal, of course.

Carol D’Auria: He’s the Santa Clara director of Family and Children’s Services.

David Martin: Now, is he our hero here? Is he the guy who says, I can fix this, I can make this?

Carol D’Auria: He’s pretty close. He’s the idea guy. He has a lot of the concept that he’s trying to put forth. And Melanie, who you heard just a minute ago. Right, she’s like the nuts and bolts person. She’s the one who keeps everybody else.

David Martin: She made it.

Carol D’Auria: Work. She made it work. So they’re both heroes.

David Martin: So these are these are the these are our county workers who said, I see this problem and I can make this better. Yes. All right. Let’s hear from David.

David Little: One of the other components that go along with this is really ensuring that that each of these young, young adults has access to the existing safety net of supports that are available so that if somebody is able to get assistance for buying groceries, we would want them to get connected up with that resource and then be able to use this for the why.

Why number of kind of expected or unexpected cost to come up with this being kind of on your own. So, you know, on the breakdown utilities, you know, being able to go out and do stuff for fun, like being able to actually just be a young adult. And one of the one of the things that we’re really working on within our county is the idea that, you know, children who are foster youth oftentimes carry that stigma and that kind of label with them.

And whatever we can do to help, help kind of remove that and let children, young adults, just be children, young adults.

So before we get too much farther down the road here, what are the actual requirements to get into this program?

Carol D’Auria: Okay. You’re going to be surprised. There aren’t many. The first one is you have to be in the foster care system, number one. Number two, you have to be a Santa Clara County resident. And number three, you have to be in the right age group. These are people who had agreed to stay in extended foster care. In other words, in Santa Clara at age 18, if you’ve been in foster care at age 18, you can say sayonara.

That’s it. I’m out of here. I don’t want to do this anymore.

David Martin: But these kids decided to stay in the program.

Carol D’Auria: Right? So they were put in transitional housing. Okay. And a lot of their transitional housing ends by the time they turn 24 at the end of the 23rd birthday. So then they they need a little bit more. And that’s where this program comes in handy. All right.

David Martin: Well, let’s get back to this. No strings attached. They just get $1,000. They can do whatever they want. That’s their money. It’s at 36.

Carol D’Auria: That’s it. No questions asked. That’s exactly right. And how about we let Melanie Jimenez Perez, the program director of try and explain. Yes.

David Martin: I want to I want to hear how this.

Carol D’Auria: One I’m sure you do.

Melanie Jimenez Perez: This is a no strings attached pilot so they can participate in other services that they aren’t required to. And one of the great services that we were able to offer was access to financial mentorship. And we had my past, who has done the financial literacy curriculum with youth, and they trained some of our of are actually we call them our stakeholders and our tour leaders.

It’s one of our local credit unions. Okay credit union to train their actual financial advisors, to work specifically with the youth and meet with them individually to navigate them through how to use these funds, how to fill out taxes for the first time, because that was a new process. And also just to start monitoring their credit scores and be leery of the new credit card offers that they were going to get as a result of having some stable income for the first time.

David Martin: So, again, you know, it’s just they get this money and it’s $1,000, it’s theirs. They put it in their wallet. They can do whatever they want with it. They could go to the liquor store and spend all they could take a trip down to Mexico for the weekend. They could do anything they want to say.

Carol D’Auria: They blow the whole thousand dollars in one night.

David Martin: They could do it. Yes. And there’s nothing to stop them. Yes.

Carol D’Auria: All right. They don’t have to answer any questions. Okay. But apparently, from what Melanie tells me, that tends not to happen. Melanie said most of the money is used actually for housing.

David Martin: So what are the taxpayers think about this? Because everyone can be on board with this. When you hear you’re giving $1,000 to 24, 25 year old kids, probably not good with money, probably not a lot of good financial backing. It had there had to be some backs.

Carol D’Auria: Right. The taxpayers are the ones footing the bill. Some like it, some don’t. Here’s Melanie on that very specific question that I asked her.

Melanie Jimenez Perez: We have heard some criticism and one particular radio show, some of the callers were concerned that we shouldn’t be giving them money, we should be getting them to work. And that is an issue that we’ve addressed head on with our participants and what we’ve seen is that this hasn’t motivated them to stop working. It’s motivated them to reduce their hours so that they can also go to school.

They have higher long term earning potential.

David Martin: So I just want to stay with this for a moment. There had to have been some feedback from the county. There had to have been some backlash. How did they deal with that? What did they hear?

Carol D’Auria: Well, for one thing, the county really likes to talk about this in very positive terms. And they emphasize that they are a progressive county and that this concept of giving them the $1,000 a month is really part of a much larger conversation about universally guaranteed income. It’s along those lines eventually in the big picture of foster care. They want fewer and fewer kids in foster care and eventually don’t want foster care.

And then a lot of this money will then be moved over into prevention programs, universal basic income. That’s what they’re hoping for. So it’s a progressive place where a lot of people agree with that.

David Martin: So this is really a step towards, you know, sort of a universal paycheck for the folks in the county.

Carol D’Auria: That’s what they say eventually down the road. But this one’s a sticky wicket because it’s young people who don’t have to answer for how they spend the money. Let’s go back to David Liddle for some more perspective on how this works.

David Martin: And let’s hear from David.

David Little: Historically, data or outcomes for children who end up kind of aging out within foster care until they’re 18. We know that historically they’ve been poor, that we see lower high school graduation rates and then subsequently more annual earnings. And then when you include the fact that the majority of children who are impacted by foster care really across the country are are children of color.

That compounds kind of the the challenges faced by youth who are exiting the child welfare system. So, you know, our county, I think, is historically been fairly progressive, especially around children’s issue and child welfare. So there is an opportunity to really see, you know, how can we help address some of the economic disadvantage that our young adults, our former bosses experience and try to give them more of a level playing field as they’re starting their journey into kind of adulthood?

David Martin: All right. Well, there’s something else I’m kind of curious about. Why 25. I mean, you know, you graduate from high school at 18, more or less. You know, at 18, you’re considered an adult, more or less. Why do they wait till they’re 25?

Carol D’Auria: Well, see, that’s the key is in your question, more or less. These are kids that are not, quote, ready to fly. I mean, think of your kids. In my kids in their early twenties, they still need lots of help. And these kids don’t have families they can count on. So the force of care program in the extended version becomes their safety net.

David Martin: Didn’t your son borrow your car the other day.

Carol D’Auria: More than once and he doesn’t leave it clean? I found his bills in the car.

David Martin: All right. But I think.

Carol D’Auria: That’s what mothers and fathers do for the kids. These foster kids don’t have that.

David Martin: And your daughter lives at home?

Carol D’Auria: My daughter lives at home.

David Martin: But she’s in school.

Carol D’Auria: She’s in school. She did her four year degree and she says, well, I think I’ll go do more school. And now she’s going to be a nurse. So she’s in school.

David Martin: Right. And you know, my daughter, I guess, you know, I’m in the same boat. My daughter just recently graduated from college. She moved back home. She has two jobs. So, you know, kudos to her for that. But she still lives at home because really, even with the two jobs together, you know, we live here in Brooklyn, in New York City.
She can’t afford the rent.

Carol D’Auria: It’s very expensive.

David Martin: We got her own car.

Carol D’Auria: Right. See? What about her health insurance?

David Martin: She’s on the family plan. Right.

Carol D’Auria: So my kids. Right. They’re on the family health plan until they’re age 26. You see that magic number?

David Martin: You don’t see? My daughter does. And she’s doing this issues like five, you know, like every $10 to go get something she needs to change.

Carol D’Auria: Because she’s very smart.

David Martin: Well, okay. If you want to say smart, I’ll go with smart. Okay. But yeah, I see what you mean. I mean, you know, 23 year old college graduate.

Carol D’Auria: I mean, look, certainly I remember my parents telling me my father was 25 years old when he got married. My mother was 23.

David Martin: And I was just silly.

Monicia Ramirez: Yes.

Carol D’Auria: They were all set to go. Yeah, they had an apartment. And within a couple of years my father built the house. I grew up in a different time. And he didn’t come in. Come from foster care?

David Martin: No, but he still had. But he had. I’m sure his dad helped him build his house, right?

Carol D’Auria: No, he did not. Well, his brother.

David Martin: Did his brother. Okay. Well, see, there you go, families close by.

Carol D’Auria: Right. So the people who designed the program say these kids, as they age out of foster care, don’t have the safety net. And that’s why they need $1,000 every month. So now let’s take a break. When we return, we’re going to go into how if there were no strings attached, the county has to keep track of this money.

David Martin: I want to hear I want to hear how they’re watching their work.

Carol D’Auria: But first, a word from our sponsor, Naco, the National Association of Counties.

David Martin: The Good Government Show welcomes a new sponsor for season two, and that’s NACO. And that’s the National Association of Counties. Carol, did you know that county government affects more people than any other form of government?

Carol D’Auria: Well, I do now. Funny you would think city or the federal government is bigger.

David Martin: Well, right, but. But it’s not. You’d think about this. Roads, highways, hospitals, schools, recycling, law enforcement, water, sewers: in most of the country, those services are maintained by the county. That’s county government.

Carol D’Auria: And we want to see good county government. And that’s where Naco comes in.

David Martin: Exactly. They’re a nationwide organization that represents all 3,069 counties across the U.S..

Carol D’Auria: Now, that’s a lot of support and more importantly, brain power.

David Martin: Exactly. And they have many organizations and committees and they do things like share best practices and they work together on national issues.

Carol D’Auria: And they are urban, suburban and rural counties that have different challenges. But they can still work together.

David Martin: Yes, they all work together. So NACO helps county government work better. And as we see in this and other episodes, when county government works well, that’s just good government.

Carol D’Auria: So thanks, NACO, for providing us with great stories and helping support good government.

David Martin: And thanks NACO for supporting the good government. And remember, citizens, don’t forget to vote.

Carol D’Auria: Welcome back to the good government show. So, David, let’s see if we can follow the money.

David Martin: And track this money.

Carol D’Auria: Go ahead. Here is Melody Jimenez Perez, the director.

Melanie Jimenez Perez: We have quarterly surveys that they are allowed to participate in, but they are not mandated to participate in. So that’s a big a big difference. And what we’ve seen. Initially, participation was a little bit low of them telling us kind of how things are going. But as they built trust with us that we weren’t looking to see exactly how they were using every dollar, but how they were using the funds to increase their stability and well-being.

They started participating more in surveys and even engaging with us outside of the survey period to find out more about county services that are available to them. And we do receive aggregate data from the card provider as to how the funds are used. But we’re not looking at it on an individual transaction level. So we’ve been able to see that over time.

They’re moving more of the funds to savings or using them. Maybe you can see the big withdrawal, which they say that they’re using for the housing payments. So we’re seeing that behavior, but we’re looking at it kind of on a bigger scale. So of what each of them is doing at the beginning. During the pandemic, we did see those smaller, urgent transactions for food and basic necessities that have dwindled a little bit.

David Martin: So these are young adults. They’re 25 years old, and it sounds like they’re kind of more dependent and needing more help then, you know, kids grow up, you know, with parents like our kids.

Carol D’Auria: Well, and one reason for that is these kids have had a very difficult life. Many of them I spoke with, two young adults were in this age group and they’re transitioning out of foster care. But they needed more help. Their stories will absolutely tug at your heartstrings. I want to introduce you to a young woman named Monisha. Monisha Ramirez is now 25 years old and she has five biological sisters and three biological brothers.

And she has been in and out of foster care since system, since she was just a few months old.

David Martin: So she’s grown up in foster care almost.

Carol D’Auria: Absolutely. Absolutely. And when she was 12 years old, her biological mother and father completely lost their parental rights. And so she had to keep bouncing around from one foster home to another.

Monicia Ramirez: Yeah, I think in high school I went to eight different high school. At the time it was always like, okay, I go to this school, you know, and I’m the new girl. Nobody likes me here. But I know maybe if I go in a couple of months, I’m going to go to another school and I’m going to have friends there.

So it was kind of like, I know it’s not permanent, so I’m not going to get comfortable and I don’t really what people think about me, what people say about me, it doesn’t matter. My senior was probably one of the most challenging years that I experienced, like being in, you know, actual, like in the actual foster home environment, because my biological mother was really sick and even though I wasn’t in her care, I still maintained a very close relationship to my parents.

So she was really sick. And I had a very my last foster home was very toxic. It was very abusive. And so they actually pulled me out, pulled me out of school, you know, and I guess, in other words, because they forced me to drop out. So I did that, you know, like the end of June. So the end of junior year, I didn’t really go to school at all, you know, because it was just complicated.

But then once I went to my senior year, I went to another high school with the same, you know, toxic foster family or whatever. I pushed it, though, and I kept telling my social worker, you know, I need to go to school, I need to graduate. This is really important to me. And so I ended up going to school and my foster mom made it clear, like, if I don’t have my classes done, like during the first semester.

So the first semester would be from August to December right before Christmas break. Right. If I didn’t have my classes, all the classes that I needed completed to graduate during that period of time, she wasn’t going to take me to school anymore, any longer. Right. So I ended up graduating, I guess you could say, early, even though I was behind, because during the last or during those couple of months from August to December, I was taking double classes.

You know, so I was taking two of everything, everything that I missed. I was just, you know, doubling in on top of each other.

David Martin: Wow. That is pretty incredible. I mean, how did she manage something like that? Because when you have that kind of upbringing, there’s a lot of ways to go. And she definitely could have gone down a much more dangerous path.

Carol D’Auria: She could have gone down a black hole. She’s actually a very, very strong, strong person. And she did graduate high school, but then her biological mother died and they put her in a group home for kids with mental health issues.

David Martin: With mental health issues. And she has mental health issues herself.

Carol D’Auria: Well, apparently not before, but she even though she was in foster care and bounced around, she kept contact with her biological mother and they were actually quite close. And so she took her mother’s death really hard.

David Martin: By putting them in the home with kids with serious mental health issues that can’t help her upbringing.

Carol D’Auria: No, they could not have been good at all. So at this point, she she turns 18 years old and they put her in transition housing because remember, at age 18, you can completely walk away from foster care or we can put you in transitional housing, which is what the county says, and you can stay on a little longer.

They’ll find you a roommate and they’ll find you a room somewhere that you can go living. So she she that’s what the road she took when she was 21 years old, she became pregnant and she had a daughter named Bethany. So she would rent a room here. Are there they do couch surfing. And she moved in with her boyfriend’s sister all this time.

Well, this is going on. She’s working and she’s enrolled in college.

David Martin: That’s that’s kind of impressive. She’s work is.

Carol D’Auria: Very.

David Martin: Impressive. She’s working and going to school throughout all this.

Carol D’Auria: Right. But she didn’t have a car. So she talks about going.

David Martin: Taking the.

Carol D’Auria: Bus 2 hours on a bus ride each way. And then when she comes home, she has a.

David Martin: Baby.

Carol D’Auria: Take care of the baby. Exactly. Then it got worse. She tried to break it off with the father of her child, and he reacted violently. And he beat her really badly, so badly like she had to be hospitalized. And not only that, he also kidnaped the baby.

David Martin: Oh, my gosh. This just really does get horrible.

Carol D’Auria: Oh, horrible. Doesn’t quite cover it. But this young woman is really a survivor, David. The guy went to jail, and most importantly, she got the baby back.

David Martin: That’s good.

Carol D’Auria: Yeah, but the point here is she had to work hard even in the foster care program, to stay on track to keep her head afloat.

David Martin: Wow. It sounds like she really had to do some real hard work, and. And she must have this real great drive to succeed. And that takes a special person.

Carol D’Auria: Oh, it does. And being in foster care makes it that much harder. So in this case, any helping hand can really make a big difference. So let’s take a break. And when we come back, I’ll tell you how she’s really using her money.

David Martin: Yes. Good. All right. Let’s let’s put that behind us and let’s get to the good news part of the story. That’s coming up after the break.

Carol D’Auria: The Good Government Show is sponsored by Liquid.

David Martin: So here’s the thing about Liquid. They do their homework. So, Carol, I’m going to give you a fun fact. A recent study found that over 80% of retail shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase. Do you do that?

Carol D’Auria: Yeah, I like to know what I’m buying, but if you’re a business, it takes more time than researching for a new TV, say.

David Martin: Yeah. And for a business, you really have to do your research and you really have to evaluate who you’re working with and make sure the company are about to partner with is a good fit.

Carol D’Auria: And that makes sense. So you want to stand out to other companies that are checking out your company.

David Martin: And that’s where Liquid comes in. They can help your business create a digital presence with impact so you can be impressive to new businesses and, you know, keep your customers.

Carol D’Auria: And it’s not just about a website. See how much I learned about Liquid since the first season?

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David Martin: All good reasons to have Liquid plan your next digital marketing strategy. So check them out and talk to a Liquid professional. Visit them at www.liquidint.com.

Carol D’Auria: And you will love Liquid as much as we do.

David Martin: Because we love Liquid.

We want to welcome back as a sponsor to the Good Government Show, Kutztown University of Kutztown, Pennsylvania.

Carol D’Auria: And you want to talk about their rugby team?

David Martin: Well, they do have a good rugby team that just won a national tournament. And what I did was I called a friend, his daughter played at Kutztown, she played on the rugby team and asked him what did he like best about Kutztown?

Carol D’Auria: You mean besides the rugby team?

David Martin: Yeah, besides the team, obviously the team first. But he responded immediately and said something I didn’t know. His favorite thing is the chicken tower or it’s also called the Angry Chicken.

Carol D’Auria: What? I hesitate to ask. The Angry Chicken?

David Martin: Well, it’s such a landmark that it’s actually the school’s logo. It’s a clock tower. And apparently when you look from a special angle, the clock looks a little bit like a chicken with an open beak. So it’s the angry chicken.

Carol D’Auria: Okay, then. Well, let’s talk about the other stuff like that their degree program in music business is now nationally accredited. They offer undergraduate certificates in cybersecurity and technical writing.

David Martin: So is this what we do? Is this technical writing?

Carol D’Auria: Oh, no, no, no. Take his class and maybe get better at writing.

David Martin: Oh, come on. That’s not fair. You know what? You would benefit from the new graduate certificate program and be a school social worker. Maybe you’d be nicer.

Carol D’Auria: All right, well, the point is, Kutztown is a forward-looking university. They also offer Pell Promise scholarships. And for students to qualify, student tuitions and fees are all covered.

David Martin: And that’s just some of why we like Kutztown and are happy to be associated with this university. Oh, my friend thought it was really cool that sometimes the locals stay right here in a horse and buggy. So check out Kutztown University. That’s Kutztown University and cheer on the rugby team.

Carol D’Auria: Of course.

David Martin: Yes, please.

Carol D’Auria: So we’re back and we’re talking about the $1,000 that the Santa Clara County gives to young adults who are aging out of the foster care system. And Monisha makes really good use of the money. Listen to this.

Monicia Ramirez: Really helpful because I was in the position to like take my daughter to ballet classes and gymnastics. She was four then, so that helped. That helps her mental health. She did gymnastics and she did like a sports class. They cover different sports during the class, but she was doing that and then I got myself into kickboxing. And so Monday through Friday were literally like I was working.

And then at 430 I would get off of work and at 530 that’s when our class would be on, like I would do 530 the 630 for my kid, my class and then 7:00 was whatever class she had like on those days, like I’m sure her class or that seven because we had that that goes well, we did that for about nine months straight and it really helped, you know what I mean?

Because I didn’t have to worry about like money and I didn’t really have to worry about much. Right. So it really helps. It did.

David Martin: Well, it’s really nice to hear that this story has a happy ending. We’ve already established this. This woman is a survivor and obviously she’s making good use of the money.

Carol D’Auria: She really is. I also want you to hear about another young woman who’s doing the same thing.

David Martin: I hope it’s not I hope it’s not a terrible story.

Carol D’Auria: Or some terrible.

David Martin: Story. This is the good government show.

Carol D’Auria: Her name is Nyla and she is also 25 years old. Her story is nothing as dramatic as Tunisia’s, but she’s still a young woman trying to hold it together. Now she’s been in foster care since she was about 17 years old. There are no parents in her life, but at age 25, she is raising her younger brother.

David Martin: So that makes her a parent now, too, I guess.

Carol D’Auria: Exactly.

David Martin: Okay. I’m ready to hear from Nyla.

Nyla: I am legal guardian of my ten year old brother. He gets his own money monthly for that. So that’s something. He lives with me.

Carol D’Auria: So. But he likes to eat. Ten year olds like to eat a lot.

Nyla: I guess a lot of snacks. And they think money grows on trees and well taken kind of does. But, you know, they are asking for expensive clothes and electronics. We like to go hiking basketball. We’re trying to plan a summer trip. He’s always been wanting to go to Legoland since he was younger, but it’s pretty pricey right now.

So we’re trying to figure out what we can do this summer.

Carol D’Auria: And she is really quite careful with her money. David’s $2,000.

Nyla: Well, to be honest, that money that I get every month, the $1,000 is more like my backup money I want to see. I try not to use it unless I really have to. I like to use whatever I earn from work to pay for my bills, like my rent and my car bill. And then if I need to take money out from the $1,000, then I will take money out to cover any other expenses.

I think my mindset right now is to pay off any debt that I have, such as credit cards in my car, because myself and my partner, we are planning to possibly buy a house in the upcoming years.

Carol D’Auria: And David, what you hear through all of this is how grateful these two young women are for what Santa Clara County has done for them.

Nyla: They’ve actually done a lot. That’s been very helpful.

Carol D’Auria: But without that thousand, it probably would be a struggle for you.

Nyla: Oh, yeah. I think I would probably be working maybe another job, and I don’t think I would have the opportunity to go to school and, you know, spend time with my brother and my partner. So yeah, it’s definitely been very helpful.

David Martin: Yeah, I can I can see how a second job would make her life much harder.

Carol D’Auria: Oh, my goodness. And here is Monica’s thoughts on this.

Monicia Ramirez: They’re giving it to us much longer than I expected. And I’ve been very grateful, you know, to even be considered for it. Like this is the kind of stuff that makes me happy, you know, being raised in the system and watching it go from, oh, that experience to this where it’s like they really do care about us as individuals, like they know us by name, you know what I mean?
It makes me really happy and proud trying to build myself as the woman that I aspire to be, the mother that I know I could be like. And this is kind of like me, like looking you know, this thing like now like I am a woman of power, you know, and this is me showing the system like you did go with me, you know, like I will forever be grateful.

Like, I’m not happy that, you know, my, you know, my mom and dad couldn’t do what they should have done as parents. But, you know, I’m proud of being from the system and like being a foster kid. And everyone has their idea, like what foster kids are like, who who they are and like what they’re going to be.

But that’s not the case, you know what I mean? And not everybody uses extra money for alcohol and partying and drugs. No, some of us want to be great parents. Right. And just because we have a job doesn’t mean that we can’t use the extra money. And for me, in my case, like, it’s definitely helped me, like, expose my daughter to, like, a normal childhood, literally, you know what I mean?
Like being able to be what they call, quote unquote, a soccer mom. Right? Because I’m there and we practice a mirror every rehearsal, everything, you know, and I’m there cheering her on. And I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t have the extra income.

David Martin: Wow. She really recognizes the good that Santa Clara is doing for her and all the young people like her who are in the program. So, Carol, that brings up a question I have. How many people are in this program?

Carol D’Auria: Well, in the first group with the first portion of the pilot, there was 72 people. And then it was approved for a second cohort and they approved it for another 50.

David Martin: All right. So we’ve got some people doing this and they’re going to expand. The program is going to continue.

Carol D’Auria: They’re taking in on a group by group basis. So they they had it approved twice so far. And we’ll see. In fact, this is something that we really should get back to David down the road and check in with them and see how it’s doing.

David Martin: And all these kids are all kids who have opted to stay in some type of foster care.

Carol D’Auria: Right. That’s how they qualified for this. There really are not a lot of qualifications, but you have to be in the foster care system, number one, right? You have to be a resident of Santa Clara County and you must fit the age group, 24, 25, 26.

David Martin: So is this how long do they get this money for?

Carol D’Auria: Two years.

David Martin: So two years.

Carol D’Auria: So figure it out. 12 months a year?

David Martin: Yeah.

Carol D’Auria: $24,000 is what they get from the county.

David Martin: And but that’s enough to help them get their first last month deposit, get a new apartment.

Carol D’Auria: Exactly. They start saving up their money. And, you know, as part of this early on, Melanie had mentioned there’s a mentorship that goes on. They bring in financial advisors, these kids, oh, that’s real help. So, yeah, they’ve never filed taxes.

David Martin: They probably don’t have bank accounts.

Carol D’Auria: Right? So now they’re learning, one, how to sign a lease, they’re learning how to file taxes, and they’re learning how to budget one of them said, I didn’t realize I couldn’t start to save money until I paid off my debts. She was trying to save the money and leaving the debts floating out there. And they said, no, no, no, no, no can do.

David Martin: All right. So they have people that work with them to set them up financially and make sure they’re doing the right thing.

Carol D’Auria: Exactly. And this is why the county prefers to really focus on the positive, because it is working out for some of these kids.

David Martin: And do most of these kids, do you know, do they stay in the program or do they stay in for their two years? I mean, I guess this is the first year, so.

Carol D’Auria: Exactly. And why wouldn’t you say in the program if you’re getting free money?

David Martin: Well, this sounds like a really impressive program. It’s free money, but not really free because it’s it’s really money that they’ve earned by staying in the program, by doing the right thing. And by, you know, accepting the help and the mentorship so they can become a successful adult. Exactly. And in one case, they’re actually a parent.

Carol D’Auria: And in one case, she is a legal guardian for her younger brother.

David Martin: Wow. All right. Well, I have no doubt that the the thousand dollars is being well spent, at least by these two women.

Carol D’Auria: Absolutely. So for now, that’s the story. And this is the good government show. I’m Carol Doria.

David Martin: And I’m Dave Martin. This is the good government show. Thanks for listening. See you next time.

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The Good Government Show is produced by Valley Park Productions. Jim Ludlow, David Martin and David Snyder are the executive producers. Jason Stershic is our producer and editor. Some transcriptions were done by Kofi Ajeasi Ampah. Our hosts are me, David Martin and Carol D’Auria. Join us again for the Good Government Show, wherever you listen to podcasts.