Extension of Foster Care Beyond Age 18 - Alabama

Date: March 2022

Availability of Foster Care to Age 21

Citation: Admin. Code r. 660-5-48-.05; 660-5-48-.06; 660-5-51-.01

Discharge from the system of care occurs at the point in time the Department of Human Resources (DHR) no longer has care, custody, or planning responsibility, or supervision of youth, and it also encompasses situations in which youth age out of the system of care. Aging out of the system of care occurs on a youth's 19th or 21st birthday. All youth, without exception, age out of the system of care on their 21st birthday.

Youth, ages 18 to 20, who have previously resided in DHR foster care may request reentry into the system following discharge if they are living in a situation that poses an identifiable risk of harm that would typically result in the provision of child welfare services if they were under age 19. A youth's reentry into foster care may be authorized through DHR's resumption of legal custody if the case remained open on the court's administrative docket or it may be authorized through completion of an Agreement for Foster Care.

Transitional and independent living programs and placements shall serve Alabama youth, in DHR custody and residing in foster care, who are ready to transition from the dependence of childhood to living independently as an adult. These youth must be at least age 17 for independent living and age 16 for transitional living programs and younger than age 21 for either program. Placements also may be provided to youth who were in Alabama foster care on or after their 18th birthday and have not yet reached age 21 when the decision is made by the individualized service planning team that the youth needs to reenter foster care.

Requirements for Remaining in Placement

Citation: Admin. Code r. 660-5-51-.03

All youth desiring independent living placements must work full time or part time and be involved in a diploma, general equivalency diploma (GED), or vocational program. Youth working full time who have received a diploma or GED may participate in independent living services. They are required to work with their DHR social worker and the provider agency's social worker or case manager in developing short- and long-term goals to be included in their individualized service plan (ISP). These short- and long-term goals will be based on the desired outcomes that support youth in achieving independence.

Additional requirements for youth desiring independent living placements include the following:

  • Youth must submit a weekly budget to their case manager and their DHR social worker prior to moving into independent living housing, and the budget must fall within a youth's monthly income.
  • Youth must submit a plan for rent payments and security deposit prior to the housing lease being signed. Youth may cosign the housing lease with the provider agency when they are of legal age (i.e., age 19). DHR is prohibited from signing or cosigning a lease for housing.
  • Youth may share housing with one other person of the same (or near the same) age and of the same sex. The program provider and the individualized service planning team may grant an exception to this requirement to allow siblings to share housing. This exception is dependent upon each youth's ISP and the availability of housing space for the additional sibling(s).
  • Youth must have their own bedroom regardless of the number of youth who share housing.

Placement Agreements

Citation: Admin. Code r. 660-5-48-.04; 660-5-51-.05

The youth must be between age 17 and 21 before transitional or independent living can be considered. The court must approve the change in placement when transitional or independent living is determined appropriate, or if there is no court involvement, the parent or legal custodian must consent to the placement unless the youth is age 19. Additional criteria will be considered by the ISP team to assess the potential success of the placements.

Decisions and plans for living will be made by the ISP team. Prior to youth in foster care moving into any licensed or approved transitional or independent living setting, the team will assess the plan and give approval to implementing the plan. If a youth's living arrangements need to change, the ISP team shall meet within 72 hours to review the need for the change and to review and revise the youth's plan.

Youth who are planning to move into an independent living setting are required to review and sign the Personal Safety Agreement. If the youth refuses to abide by the safety guidelines, the placement cannot occur. Providers shall ensure that a new form is reviewed and signed each year that the youth remains in the independent living placement.

Transition Supports Provided

Citation: Admin. Code r. 660-5-48-.04; 660-5-51-.02; 660-5-51-.03

Transitioning from the dependence of childhood to living independently as an adult is a process requiring a decrease in adult supervision. The following are two types of resources that may assist in this transition:

  • Transitional living, which is an alternative living arrangement that provides youth in foster care (ages 17 through 20) with opportunities to practice independent living skills in a variety of on-campus settings with decreasing degrees of care and supervision
  • Independent living, which is an alternative living arrangement whereby the youth lives in community-based housing rather than in a foster home or on a group home campus and that ideally allows the youth the opportunity to continue the decreased care and supervision so that the youth will ultimately be responsible for their own care and will ultimately be prepared to live on their own in the same location when DHR no longer holds custody

Youth in DHR custody may reside in a transitional or independent living placement only if the program providing the placement is operated by a DHR-licensed child-placing agency or residential child care facility or a DHR-approved foster family home.

Transitional and independent living programs must have components that teach youth the skills they need to live independently. These skills must be tailored to a youth's current level of functioning. Youth in transitional or independent living placements must be provided a realistic living experience in which they can take full responsibility for themselves.

Transitional living placements are offered through a variety of residential on-campus living arrangements where youth have opportunities to practice independent living skills with decreasing degrees of care and supervision. Apartment living also may be considered when the apartments are grouped together in what is known as a 'pod,' and only individuals participating in the program are allowed to live within the pod. A pod must be in a specific location with a supervisor living in one of the on-site units in the pod 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Independent living placements use 'scattered-site housing,' which is a dwelling that is typically located in the same town or city in which the program provider is located. Scattered-site housing, a least-restrictive placement type, does not have a supervisor living on-site and may or may not have other independent living placements located near it. Youth desiring to live in independent living placements require careful selection, close supervision, and an exceptionally collaborative working effort between the provider agency's program staff and DHR. Independent living placements shall begin no earlier than a youth's 17th birthday and no later than 6 months prior to a youth's discharge from DHR's system of care.

The child care facility or child-placing agency shall provide youth certain articles and supplies for furnishing their home. The articles and supplies must include a bed and bed linens, a dining table and chairs, living or sitting room furniture, a stove, a refrigerator, kitchen furnishings, and a telephone.