Last week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed off on Assembly Bill 12, which extends benefits for youth in the foster care system from age 18 to 21. Jimmy Wayne has been pushing for AB 12 since hearing about the bill in February while walking across America on his project Meet Me Halfway campaign, raising money and awareness for homeless teens who age out of the foster care system.

Jimmy was on the road when he was informed of the bill's passing, and it took him a few days to really wrap his mind around the huge accomplishment for these teens. "It's that bingo rush you get," Jimmy tells The Boot. "It definitely reinforced my belief in what I'm doing and what I'm doing it for. It's the right thing. I am extremely happy."

"For generations, foster care youth faced being kicked out of their foster homes simply because they had turned 18 or graduated from high school," says Assemblymember Jim Beall (D-San Jose), who introduced AB 12. "Without any means of support, they were left to wander the streets for shelter and food. Many had no choice but to return to the parents who had neglected or abused them. AB 12 ensures they'll have a safe place to live and stability until they are 21. It will help clear the way for eligible foster care youths go to college and begin careers that will contribute to our society."

In a prepared statement, Gov. Schwarzenegger said, "Our foster care youth deserve every opportunity to succeed in life, and extending foster benefits and services through age 21 will help better equip them with the necessary tools. AB 12 will ensure our foster youth have access to important resources as they transition into adulthood."

AB 12 aligns California's foster care with the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, making the state eligible to obtain federal funding for transitional support for qualifying foster youth and also the state's Kin-Gap program, which facilitates the adoption of children by their relatives instead of placing them in institutionalized care.

A once homeless teen himself, Jimmy knows just how important the signing of AB 12 is for the future of youth today. "To be a homeless kid, then going back to school to working in order to pay my way through college, then teaching myself how to play guitar and moving to Nashville, to doing the walk halfway across America, and then to have part in changing a bill that effects homeless kids; if it all ended today, tell me that's not worth it all."

AB 12 was introduced in December 2008, and it passed through the Legislature, receiving widespread bipartisan support. The extension of benefits begins January 1, 2012, and will be phased in over three years.