Medi-Cal Matters for Former Foster Youth: Jasmine’s Story
I became homeless due to many issues and abuse going on in my home. When I was 13 I was forced out of home a week before Christmas and I had nowhere to go. I got on a public bus and saw a bus advertisement that said, “LA County Hotline: If you need emergency food or shelter, call 211.” I got off the bus and walked towards the nearest payphone and called 211. I was referred to a teen shelter in Hollywood and was picked up by a shelter staffperson in front of a Taco Bell. That night I was very grateful to have somewhere to lay my head.
I stayed in that shelter for three months and then lived in a short-term group home. I then moved to a long-term group home where I lived in until I graduated high school and applied and was accepted to the University of Southern California on a full scholarship. I thought all my problems would be solved because I was accepted to a prestigious private university. But as wonderful as it was to get accepted to college, there were a whole different set of issues that I faced once I entered college. I couldn’t return to my group home when the dorms closed and the adjustment to college was difficult. It was so different from the places and people that I lived with before.
My second year in college, I became eligible for AB12 funding (which helps support foster youth until age 21) and started receiving funds that were especially helpful during the summers and when I had to move into a new apartment. I knew I qualified for services with Department of Children and Family Services under AB12 until I turned 21 and when I was 19, my 21st birthday seemed so far away. But recently I turned 21 and my case with DCFS officially closed and I was cut off from all services except from Medi-Cal. My social worker informed me that I was eligible for Medi-Cal until age 26, which sounded too good to be true. I didn’t go to my regular dental check ups when I was in college and right before I turned 21, I found out I had a lot of dental work that needed to be done.
When I lived in group homes, I had to go to the dentist every six months because it was court mandated and I didn’t have a choice. My case manager would take me to the dentist and it didn’t feel scary knowing I wasn’t there alone. It made me uncomfortable to have the dentist so close to me because I wasn’t used to it. When I was a kid I went to the dentist maybe four times and I didn’t start having regular check ups until I entered foster care. But when I got to college, I became so consumed with classes and homework and trying to survive being a college student, that I neglected my health by default. I didn’t have someone to take me to the dentist and on top of that, the only dentist I knew was the one that I went to near my old group home in Hollywood which was a bit far from my college campus since I don’t drive or have a car. I am glad that I will be able to see a dentist now that my Denti-Cal has kicked in.
I recently graduated and am worried about life after college: finding a job, housing, purchasing a vehicle, and thinking about my future. Don’t get me wrong; I am excited that I graduated and that I reached this milestone, and knowing that I will have reliable medical and dental insurance for the next five years is something that I am extremely thankful for. I’m even more thankful that other foster youth will also be eligible for this and won’t have to worry about health and dental insurance, too.