How to temporarily stop youth from aging out of care?

The Play

Create a policy to stop youth from aging out of foster care during this crisis.

Who Can Do This?

Varies by state. Examples: the Governor via Executive Order, the State Supreme Court via a court decision, the State Legislature via a bill, or, in some states, the Child Welfare Director or equivalent.

Timeframe

This will vary by state and method used to achieve the policy change.

Difficulty

Hard; Easier if you can leverage policy language adopted by another state. We will have shared language from 2-3 states posted here soon.

The Problem It Solves

Without action, foster youth will continue to exit care. Foster youth already face increased odds for homelessness, unemployment, and other negative outcomes. During this national crisis, states can take action to ensure their foster youth do not age out during this time, and therefore have access to basic needs like housing.

How To Do This

1. Suspend any requirements for extended care related to participation in school, higher education and training, program participation, and treatment. Extended foster care is a lifeline for young people at this time. For many, however, activities that are crucial to remaining eligible for extended care have been disrupted. For many young people, work, school, and programs have been cancelled or eliminated. To ensure the safety of youth, the requirements for participation in school, work and formal programming should be suspended during the crisis.

2. Place a moratorium on discharging any youth from extended foster care during this crisis and for 6 months after the end of the crisis and continue to provide funds to county child welfare agencies so that they can provide placement and caseworker services to young people. Cutting young people off from their main source of support and stability during a health crisis will result in harm to youth. Young people who do not have the support of family will have an extraordinarily difficult time being able to meet their needs if they are discharged from care during this crisis. Their chance of generating a family sustaining wage and maintaining housing will be almost impossible during this time. Without the safety net of family, these youth will be at great risk of harm, and illness.

Example language from the District of Columbia: “To retain custody of a youth committed to the Agency who becomes 21 years of age during a period of time for which the Mayor has declared a public health emergency pursuant to section 5a of the District of Columbia Public Emergency Act of October 17, 2002”

3. Require county child welfare agencies to provide expedited processes for youth to re-enter care that allows their immediate needs to be met. Re-entry into care is a crucial safety net available to youth who aged out of care and are under age 21. Re-entry is an important mechanisms for responding to the immediate needs of youth in crisis. Closure of most courts and many child welfare agencies make re-entry unavailable for young people in need. County agencies must develop a way to respond to these cases and provide placement and services to youth immediately so that their time in unsafe situations can be reduced. An expedited proceed could include using Voluntary Placement Agreements (VPAs), which do not require immediate court authorization as well as establishing presumptive eligibility.

4. Provide county child welfare agencies access to additional funds to provide housing and other supports for youth in foster care who are in college and were displaced. Many youth have had their educational experience disrupted and county agencies are challenged to find alternative living arrangements as well as supports to ensure youth can continue their education.

5. Provide additional funds to child welfare agencies to increase the Chafee Aftercare funds available to support youth who have aged out to meet their immediate and basic needs during the crisis. Like many citizens in our state, young adults who have left foster care, are now struggling to make ends meet. However, as young people with less family and adult support, there are fewer social networks and resources they can rely on. Some youth may not have a bank account, credit history or savings. Our capacity to get funds to youth quickly and provide them case management and connection with services is vital. It will be life saving if we can increase counties capacity to outreach to more young people who are on their own and respond to their needs by augmenting Chafee funds, which can serve youth up to age 23.

6. Provide additional funds to child welfare agencies to increase the family based setting and appropriate living arrangements that can be provided for older youth. The importance of having family and supportive adult connections to the health and well-being of young people cannot be more clear in a time a crisis. Now, more than ever, child welfare agencies must be supported in connecting older youth with family and kin so that they have support and connection to weather crises. County child welfare agencies need the support of the state to take immediate and enhanced action to support caregivers for older youth and provide the staff support to make those settings long-lasting.

7. Direct child welfare agencies to ensure that planning is done with young people to ensure they are connected to vital resources, people, and assistance in this time of crisis. Youth in foster care often feel alone and isolated. The COVID-19 crisis has increased this isolation and it is acute for older youth who may be living on their own. Child welfare agencies should increase the frequency of virtual visitation and develop plans that are responsive to the youth’s current housing, education, employment, health, and well-being needs. Plans should also include assurances that all youth have access to both internet and smartphones and/or computers, to allow for contact with agency personnel and service providers, telemedicine, educational programming, employment, food, and family and social connections.

Who’s Doing This?

  • California (legislative).

  • District of Columbia (legislative): Has passed a law to allow youth to stay in care for the duration of the Mayor’s declaration of a public health emergency.

  • Illinois (EO): “DCFS is extending services to youth who have aged out of care within the last six months, allowing them to receive services through the end of June 2020.”

  • Michigan: “Youth currently enrolled in YAVFC and have lost eligibility due to circumstances related to COVID-19 should remain in the program and not enter a grace period. This applies to youth who lose eligibility due to not meeting employment/volunteerism requirements for the month as a result of being quarantined or self-quarantined, or whose employment was reduced or lost due to the employer cutting back employment.”

  • Rhode Island (EO).

  • Connecticut (policy memorandum).

  • South Carolina (policy memorandum):

    • For youth who are turning 18: "Any youth who has reached age of majority while in DSS custody is already eligible to remain in DSS licensed placement until turning the age 21. During the CV19 pandemic, the agency is temporarily waving the requirement of education enrollment and employment."

    • For youth who are turning 21: "During the CV19 pandemic, any youth who reach age 21and is currently in a SCDSS licensed placement will be allowed to temporarily remain during the duration of the pandemic. During the CV19 pandemic, the agency is temporarily suspending the maximum age of 21, the requirement of education enrollment, and employment."

Relevant Resources

Organizations working to make these changes possible

  • Foster Care Alumni of America

  • Juvenile Law Center