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Jimmy Wayne backs California foster bill

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 – Jimmy Wayne, a former foster care youth, was the honored guest of California Assembly member Jim Beall on Monday in observance of May as National Foster Care Month.

Wayne went to Sacramento to speak with lawmakers on behalf Beall's Assembly Bill 12, legislation that allows California to take advantage of federal law and draw down funds to help extend foster care benefits beyond age 18 to age 21. Wayne also received a resolution in recognition of his work to raise awareness of the plight of homeless foster care youth.

"I'm grateful for Jimmy Wayne's support for AB 12,' Beall said. "As someone who was in foster care, he can effectively explain how we can help youth overcome the problems they face as they leave of the foster care system. I think he's a tremendous advocate.'

On Jan. 1, Wayne embarked on his "Meet Me Halfway' campaign, a 1,700-mile journey on foot from Nashville to Phoenix, to publicize the challenges the homeless face, especially for at-risk kids and young adults. His walk is also raising money for organizations that benefit homeless youth.

"I support AB 12,' Wayne said, "because I know first hand the importance of having a support system. During my childhood, I was in and out of the foster care system, and at one point I was homeless. At 16, I was taken in by Bea and Russell Costner. They gave me a home and a foundation of love and support, enabling me to finish high school and attend college. Most foster kids aren't that lucky. Without anyone to care for them and help them, they 'age out' of the foster care system at 18 and often become homeless.

"Many do not have the means to support themselves. That's why I believe extending foster care benefits to age 21 is a priority. We can give these worthy young people the opportunity they deserve to become productive citizens."

The singer's visit was initiated by Beall following a Twitter message sent by Wayne after AB 12 was approved by the Assembly. The bill is in the Senate Human Services Committee.

About 5,000 youths who have been abused and/or neglected by their parents leave California's foster care every year when they turn 18. Many of them leave with little or no support. A major study released in April revealed young adults who had left foster care continued to face very high rates of joblessness and homelessness. By age 24, only 6 percent had obtained a college degree.

Wayne's trip was sponsored by Cadence Design Systems and the Foster Care Month Coalition. The coalition held its sixth annual kick-off to National Foster Care Month in California on Monday at the State Capitol's north steps. Both Beall and Wayne attended.

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