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Extended foster care to age 21
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 [Public Law 110-351] is a federal child welfare law designed to ensure greater permanency for and improve the well-being of children and youth served by the public child welfare system. A key provision of the Act provides states the option of extending support for youth remaining in foster care beyond age 18 by offering continued Title IV-E claiming for youth ages 18 and older who are living independently in a supervised setting.
Minnesota regulations have allowed youth in foster care at age 18 the option to remain in foster care to age 21. Local funds have been the primary funding source for extended foster care. Amendments to state law passed during the 2010 legislative session ensure that extended foster care statutes conform to new federal requirements for Title IV-E claiming. Changes were effective August 1, 2010.
Who is eligible for extended foster care to age 21?
Six months prior to the 18th birthday of a youth in foster care under Chapter 260C or 260D, counties are required to advise youth, their parent or legal guardian, and foster parents of the availability of continued foster care benefits up to age 21. This requirement is located in Minnesota Statutes, section 260C.451, subdivision 1. If a youth does not wish to remain in extended foster care, a personalized transition plan must be developed and executed during the 90-day period immediately prior to the discharge. Youth who are not able to return home or otherwise achieve permanency prior to age 18, and who desire to continue in foster care past age 18, must meet at least one of the following conditions on an ongoing basis.
A youth must be:
Youth ages 18 – 21 may continue in a traditional foster care setting or in a supervised setting where they are living independently. The particular foster care setting, including supervised independent living settings, for youth shall be selected based on their best interest, and an individual determination of their needs. [Minnesota Statutes, section 260C.212, subdivision 2]. A significant part of selecting the placement setting is the assessment of a youth’s needs, goals, and their personal preference.
Agencies have an opportunity to develop a range of supervised independent living settings for youth. These may range from apartments, dorms, host homes, or other innovative ideas that meet a youth’s need for supervision and support as they move toward independent. Supervised independent living settings are not required to be licensed, but ensuring appropriate supervision, minimally one face-to-face visit each month, is required for youth living in these settings.
All youth in extended foster care remain eligible for foster care maintenance payments. The process and items covered in the foster care maintenance payment remains the same as a foster child of any age, consistent with Minnesota Rules, parts 9560.0650 to 9560.0670. The foster care maintenance payment includes the basic foster care maintenance and the assessed difficulty of care rate. Difficulty of care is a supplement in addition to the basic maintenance payment for children with special needs due to existing mental, physical or emotional disabilities who require additional supervision or assistance in behavior management, activities of daily living, management of medical needs or interactions with their birth family and community. All youth, including those in supervised independent living settings, must be assessed for difficulty of care payments. [Minnesota Rules, part 9560.0653] In cases where a foster youth is a parent placed with their child in the same foster home, facility or supervised independent living setting, the foster care maintenance payment must be assessed to cover the cost of the youth’s child.
Payments must be made through a foster parent, child placement agency, or a child care institution. For youth age 18 or older living independently in a supervised setting, there may be no direct caregiver providing food, clothing, shelter, daily supervision, school supplies, personal incidentals or reasonable travel for home visits or school stability. In those situations, the agency may pay all or part of the foster care maintenance payment directly to the youth. This flexibility to pay all or part of the maintenance payment allows the agency to help individual youth adjust to independent living and learn to budget and pay bills.
Under certain conditions, youth over age 18 may request to return to care after they have been discharged from placement. The request to return to care should be made to the county or tribal social service agency that was responsible for a youth’s placement and care immediately prior to their discharge.
Youth who left foster care while under state guardianship as dependent or neglected must be allowed to return to care, if they commit to meet one of the required conditions. Other youth previously in placement under Chapter 260C or 260D of Minnesota Statutes in the six consecutive months prior to their 18th birthday, or who were discharged while on runaway status after age 15, may return to care between the ages of 18 and 21, to the extent funds are available. The ability of youth who were under tribal care and responsibility at discharge to return to extended care is dependent on a tribe’s code and practice.
Youth approved to return to care should sign a voluntary placement agreement with the responsible agency, authorizing the placement. Notice of denial of benefits and a youth’s right to appeal under Minnesota Statutes, section 256.045 must be given to a youth requesting and denied return to care under this section.
Social workers have responsibility to collaborate with youth to create a case plan for extended care. A case plan includes the out-of-home placement plan and an independent living plan. The case plan should reflect the agency’s ongoing duty to make reasonable efforts to implement a plan for supports and services for independent living related to a youth’s employment, vocational, education, social, or maturational needs, and to finalize the agreed-upon permanency plan with the youth. If a youth’s continuation in extended foster care is due to incapacity to participate in school, employment, or vocational training due to a medical condition, the social worker must regularly update the case plan to include written information that addresses the medical condition(s) and the youth’s incapacity.
Reasonable efforts to finalize an agreed-upon permanency plan include working with youth to ensure that foster care is the best legal arrangement for them, and assisting them in building life-long relationships with family, siblings, and other caring, safe and supportive individuals.
Social workers have responsibility to document that a youth remains eligible for extended foster care. The eligibility condition(s) for each youth must be included in the case plan and documented in SSIS. Verification of each eligibility condition must be maintained in a youth’s case file. Maintenance of verifications is of particular importance for Title IV-E youth.
All ongoing case work responsibilities applicable to youth under age 18 in foster care continue for all youth in extended foster care. These requirements continue regardless of a youth’s Title IV-E eligibility determination. Youth in extended foster care will be included in federal Child and Family Service Reviews.
Examples of ongoing case work requirements include:
Youth in extended foster care are adults for all purposes except the continued provision of foster care. The agency must have legal responsibility to place or maintain anyone over age 18 in foster care. For youth under court jurisdiction prior to age 18, that responsibility may be obtained through:
Legal responsibility for youth who re-enter foster care after attaining age 18 should be obtained by the youth entering into a voluntary placement agreement with the agency responsible for the placement. A unique voluntary placement agreement has been developed for this purpose (see resource section). The voluntary placement agreement is available in SSIS and eDocs.
When a youth is in extended foster care, there is a need for court reviews and judicial determinations.
Youth Continuously in Foster Care
When a youth is in continuous foster care, the court must conduct court reviews of reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan for a youth at least every 12 months. The agency must ask the court to review and make findings on the agency’s reasonable efforts to:
Youth Re-entering Foster Care
A voluntary placement agreement should be executed with youth re-entering foster care after age 18. Within 180 days of a youth’s placement by voluntary placement agreement, the court must make a judicial determination that placement is in a youth’s best interest. The finding may be based on a youth’s request for extended foster care benefits.
When a youth re-enters foster care after age 18, court reviews of reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan must be held at least every 12 months, beginning from the date the youth re-enters foster care. The agency must ask the court to review and make findings on the agency’s reasonable efforts as noted above.
Asking the Court to Make Required Determinations
The county agency may ask the court to re-open the juvenile protection file on a youth in order to request the court to make a required best interest determination. The county attorney’s office should discuss with the local court what procedural requirements are necessary to re-open court jurisdiction and the file. The county’s Children’s Justice Initiative team is an ideal place to have this discussion. Procedural requirements might include filing a motion for the court to re-assume jurisdiction under Minnesota Statutes, section 260C.193, subdivision 6, as amended in Minnesota Session Laws 2010, Chapter 3-1, Article 3, section 6; and filing with the court a request for review hearing under Minnesota Statutes, section 260C.212, subdivision 7, for determination that placement is in a youth’s best interest. The agency should file the out-of-home placement plan and a report containing sufficient information for the court to conduct a review and make a determination.
The best interest judicial determination is required within 180 days of a youth’s re-entry into foster care, which closely coincides with the required timing of administrative or court reviews required under Section 475(5)(B) of the Social Security Act and Minnesota Statutes, section 260C.212, subdivision 7.
When a tribe has a Title IV-E agreement with the state or with a local social service agency, the tribe is responsible for meeting requirements of Title IV-E which, in Minnesota, include providing the opportunity for youth to remain in foster care past age 18. This requirement does not apply to tribes that do not have a Title IV-E agreement with the state or with a local social service agency.
For tribes with a Title IV-E agreement, implementing the requirements of Title IV-E consistent with the way Minnesota opted into Fostering Connections includes:
Counties financially responsible for the cost of foster care for Indian children under tribal jurisdiction pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 260C.771, subdivision 4, remain responsible for the cost of foster care placement for tribal youth who stay in foster care past age 18, under the definition of child, amended pursuant to Minnesota Session Laws, 2010, Chapter 301, Article 3, section 5. When a tribe has a Title IV-E agreement with either the state or a county, the tribe and the county with financial responsibility should continue to work together to ensure necessary Title IV-E requirements are met and documented so the county can continue to claim Title IV-E reimbursement for eligible youth.
When Minnesota Statutes, section 260C.771, subdivision 4, does not apply because of tribal participation in the American Indian Child Welfare Initiative under Minnesota Statutes, section 256.01, subdivision 14b, tribes are responsible for the cost of foster care for youth who continue in or re-enter foster care after age 18. When Minnesota Statutes, section 260C.771, subdivision 4 does not require the county to pay for a tribally-ordered placement of a youth re-entering foster care after age 18 because the youth would not be eligible for placement by the county under Minnesota Statutes, section 260C.456, as amended in Minnesota Session Laws 201, Chapter 269, Article 2, section 3, tribes will have financial responsibility for the cost of foster care.
Tribes having no Title IV-E agreement with the state or local county make their own determinations about continuing tribal jurisdiction and providing tribal children with the opportunity to remain in foster care after age 18. They are not bound by the state’s exercise of the option to provide services to youth over age 18 and claim federal reimbursement under Title IV-E.
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act of 2008 requires that, for youth who will be discharged from foster care at age 18 or older, the caseworker develop a personalized transition plan, as directed by the youth. The transition plan must be developed and executed during the 90-day period immediately prior to the date a youth will be discharged. The transition plan must be as detailed as the youth may elect, and include specific options on housing, health insurance, education, local opportunities for mentors and continuing support services, work force supports and employment services. The agency must also provide the youth with appropriate contact information if they need more information or need help with a crisis situation through age 21.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [P.L. 111-148] further amends transition plan requirements. A youth’s transition plan must also include information on the importance of designating someone to make health care treatment decisions on behalf of a youth in foster care if the youth is unable to do so and does not have or want a relative who would otherwise be designated under state law to make such decisions. Youth also must be given information about how to execute a health care power of attorney, health care proxy, or other similar documents recognized under state law.
In Minnesota, the procedure for designation of health care treatment decisions is called a health care directive, governed by Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 145C. If a youth wants to pursue a health care directive, a suggested form is available in Minnesota Statutes, section 145C.16.
Title IV-E eligible youth in foster care to age 21 are automatically eligible for Medical Assistance (MA). Workers should follow current MA policy for children receiving Title IV-E foster care benefits. (See Health Care Programs Manual 03.25.20 – Medical Assistance (MA) for Children in Foster Care.)
Maxis will allow approval of Title IV-E eligibility type “25” for youth in extended foster care to age 21. Workers should approve MA with eligibility type “25” when notified of a determination that a youth is Title IV-E eligible.
Automatic MA eligibility begins effective the first day of the month in which Title IV-E eligibility begins. Automatic MA eligibility ends effective the first of the month after a youth’s Title IV-E eligibility ends or the first of the month after a youth attains age 21.
Children and youth in foster care who do not qualify for Title IV-E are not automatically eligible for MA. Children and youth must meet an MA basis of eligibility (child under 21, pregnant woman, or disabled) and all MA eligibility requirements associated with that basis if they are not Title IV-E eligible.
States and tribes can choose to amend their Title IV-E plans to allow Title IV-E claiming for eligible youth in extended foster care (including those in supervised independent living settings). Minnesota exercised this option.
All Title IV-E eligibility requirements that apply to children under age 18 also apply to youth in extended foster care to age 21. In addition, youth in extended care to 21 must meet at least one of the conditions for extended care. (See Who is eligible for Extended Foster Care to Age 21?) Youth in extended care will be included in federal Title IV-E eligibility reviews. Documentation of Title IV-E eligibility requirements in SSIS and MAXIS is required, and verifications to support Title IV-E eligibility, including verification of each eligibility condition (see resources, Conditions, Examples, and Recommended Verifications), must continue to be maintained in the youth’s case file.
Requirements to claim Title IV-E funds for youth in extended care include:
Bulletin #12-68-22 Extended Foster Care for Youth Ages 18-21
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