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Transitioning CPUC Foster Youth Program Raises Concerns

The California Public Utilities Commission must ensure a smooth transition from a pilot to a permanent California LifeLine foster youth program, commenters said Tuesday in docket R.20-02-008. The CPUC may consider a Jan. 10 proposed decision to make the program…

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permanent at its Feb. 15 meeting. However, the proposal doesn't address how pilot program participants will receive service after the proposed permanent program replaces it July 31, said T-Mobile, the pilot’s service provider. The permanent program would use other service providers. "Due to confidentiality concerns with foster youth, T-Mobile has no direct contractual relationship with any of the youth nor does it know their identities,” the carrier said. "T-Mobile simply has no way -- or authority -- to continue to provide service after July 31, 2024.” The pilot’s administrator iFoster said the CPUC should allow foster youth to continue receiving pilot program services for a year after the pilot ends “to encourage continuation of service and reimbursement of the current service.” Otherwise, the transition could result in inadvertently cutting off service to the pilot's 11,700 participants, it warned. Also, iFoster raised concerns that the proposed decision wouldn’t require data-sharing agreements with counties before transferring pilot program data to the new administrator. Without them, iFoster can’t transfer pilot data, it said. Also, the CPUC should allow foster youth to participate in the program until they are 26, iFoster said. The CPUC proposal would end benefits at 18, or 21 if the youth is in extended foster care. “Foster youth are extremely vulnerable once they leave the foster youth system” and will need a phone to apply for jobs, college or government benefits, iFoster said. The Utility Reform Network (TURN) urged the CPUC to clarify that it will own all data from the program. Also, establishing that the agency “will enter contracts and data sharing agreements for the permanent program will prevent the need to re-negotiate those agreements any time the [third-party administrator] changes, which would reduce transition time and enhance program continuity,” TURN said. The CPUC should require providers to replace mobile devices at no cost, it added. "Foster youth can change placement frequently, sometimes with little advance notice, so there is a risk of losing devices when they move.”