On Wednesday, February 17, 2021, Foster Club and the Juvenile Law Center co-hosted another Older Youth Pandemic Relief. This session discussed the extension of foster care services provisions from the Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act legislation passed in December 2020.
Presenters included Jennifer Pokempner from the Juvenile Law Center, Sabrina Forte from the Youth Law Center, and Julie McCormick from the Children’s Law Center of California. The law is effective as of December 27, 2020, and the law includes many provisions that do not need guidance as states wait for federal guidance from ACF, to move forward, including extended services and re-entry.
The extended services provision instructs child welfare agencies to not terminate services or placement for youth in foster care due to age; if a young person would age out at 18 or 21 in a state, they have to continue to provide placement and services for those youth through the public emergency. States should be trying to maximize IV-E and drawdown for youth who reach age 21. In addition, states can use the increase in Chafee funds to fund the implementation of this provision for youth who are not IV-E eligible.
In considering eligibility for extended services, some examples for states to consider are:
- Robert, who turns 18 on April 1, 2021, in a state that does not have extended foster care. He would be eligible to continue receiving foster care placements and services until September 30, 2021.
- Justine, who is in extended foster care in her state and turns 21 tomorrow, she is also eligible to remain in extended foster care.
- Alex is 21 years old and is receiving extended services through a state moratorium that is set to expire on June 30, 2021. She is eligible for extended services and should not be exited from care due to age.
Re-entry is a corollary to extended foster care services. For young people who exited care during the pandemic, states must provide re-entry to all young people under age 22 who aged out during the pandemic from April 1, 2020, to September 30, 2021. States should notify young people about re-entry and conduct a public awareness campaign about the option.
In considering eligibility for the re-entry provisions, all of the following youth examples are eligible to re-enter care and continue receiving foster care placements & services until September 30, 2021.
- Alia, who turned 18 on April 1, 2020, and exited care later that month due to age;
- Jason, who exited care shortly after his 18th birthday on September 30, 2020;
- Lucia, who was in extended foster care in her state and exited after her 21st birthday on December 2, 2020; and
- Max, who turned 21 on January 15, 2021, was exited from care because his state had not yet implemented the federal moratorium.
Extended services and re-entry are important because young people leaving foster care have significant needs related to housing, food, access to basic services, and supports that the pandemic has exacerbated. These young people tend to be without family, strong support, and resources, especially during the pandemic.
In California, Governor Newsom signed an executive order on April 17, 2020, allowing youth to remain in care until June 30, 2020, and suspended the extended foster care participation requirements. In June 2020, the Governor signed the state budget that included provisions allowing youth to continue receiving placement and services past age 21 until June 30, 2021. Last October 2020, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) issued guidance for the continued assistance of young adults in extended foster care upon turning 21 to all child welfare agencies in the state and providers.
California shared the actions to implement the extended services provisions must include identifying youth who age out of care between December 27, 2020, and September 30, 2021, and declare that placement and services be continued for those youth. In addition, child welfare agencies must instruct placement and service providers to continue providing placement and services to young people and develop plans to increase placement and services capacity for young people to receive continued services.
For young people who aged out between April 1, 2020, and now, states must identify youth and notify them about the option to re-enter. Child welfare agencies should consider identifying sufficient placement options or a means to provide financial assistance to pay for placement. Community providers and state advocacy organizations will need to play a huge role in notifying young people.