Santa Clara County considers $1,000 monthly payment to youth transitioning out of foster care

Transitioning into adulthood can be an arduous period for many people. But especially so for the young men and women moving out of foster care and onto their own.

Santa Clara County’s foster care center, The HUB, offers multiple services to the 1,000 youths in the program, ages 15 to 24. But once those same young people turn 25, they are no longer able to receive that assistance and must go it on their own. 

Mother of four Lakeisha Thomas has been in the program since she was 16, and is approaching the threshold.

“Thinking about how all the help is gonna disappear basically and leave me to be alone. A mom on her own. It just worries me,” she said.

Santa Clara County Dist. 3 Supervisor Dave Cortese is proposing a Universal Basic Income for about 100 young people set to transition out of foster care in the coming fiscal year.

“We’re talking about a two-year pilot program, $700,000 a year for every youth of transitional age,” said Cortese.

Under his proposal, each would receive $1,000 per month for two years, paid from the county’s general fund.

“It allows them to do what they need to do. To better themselves. To survive. To be productive citizens without hovering over them,” said Cortese.

Researchers say the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) in a broad sense gained traction during the tumultuous 1960s.

“Actually both sides from the left and the right have liked this idea,” said San Jose State University Sociologist Scott Myers-Lipton.

He said Milton Freedman’s idea was studied over a 10-year span, from the Deep South to the Pacific Northwest. The results show UBI for entire families does work in some cities. He believes a pilot program focusing on foster youths is a good crucible to see if the idea can work on a smaller scale.

“The young folks, graduated from high school, there was less dropout, that people were better able to support their families,” said Dr. Myers-Lipton. Added Lakeisha Thomas, “It would help me pay for groceries. Rent. Especially rent.”

The Cortese proposal is in its infancy. He hopes to get board approval to move forward in March, and funding for the forthcoming fiscal year when the board does its budget in May.