As much as they may think otherwise, few 18-year-olds are ready to face the world on their own, especially if they come from broken families and have been reared in foster homes.
Under current law, about 5,000 foster kids each year are sent on their way as soon as they reach 18, whether or not they have jobs, are in school or even have roofs over their heads.
Cops, courts and social services experts know the problem all too well. Many of these kids end up on the streets, and ultimately become an even greater burden if they commit crimes.
A bill approved with significant support from Republicans and Democrats seeks to help rectify the situation. Assembly Bill 12 seeks to offer a hand to kids between the ages of 19 and 21, so long as they agree to remain in school or find employment.
Gov. Schwarzenegger ought to sign this bill into law. Eleven states have adopted or are considering similar measures.
The bill by Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, and Assemblywoman Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, comes at a cost, which ordinarily would be a bad idea when the state can't meet its current obligations.
To ease the strain, the bill would be phased in over three years starting in 2012 for 19-year-olds. The federal government would help with the cost.
President George W. Bush signed legislation in 2008 providing federal matching funds to states that provide help for young adults.
There is plenty of evidence that the bill would ultimately save money by helping steer young adults into jobs and college, away from a hard life on the street.
Assemblyman Mike Villines, R-Clovis, helped line up Republican votes, arguing that the state has a special obligation to these youths who are, after all, state-reared.
The bill requires that in exchange for the state's help, recipients must go to school or get jobs, a step toward becoming productive citizens.
The Assembly approved AB 12 on a 73-2 vote, and the Senate by a 27-9 margin.
That level of backing is rare for any measure involving spending, particularly spending on social services measure.
Its broad support reflects a true need that any right-thinking Californian ought to recognize.