Extension of Foster Care Beyond Age 18 - California

Date: March 2022

Availability of Foster Care to Age 21

Citation: Wel. & Inst. Code § 303

The court may retain jurisdiction over any person who is found to be a ward or a dependent child of the juvenile court until the ward or dependent child reaches age 21. A nonminor who has not yet reached age 21 and who exited foster care at or after the age of majority may petition the court pursuant to § 388(e) to resume dependency jurisdiction over them.

Nothing in this code shall be construed to provide legal custody of a person who has reached age 18 to the county welfare department or to otherwise abrogate any other rights that a person who has reached age 18 may have as an adult under California law. A nonminor dependent shall retain all of their legal decision-making authority as an adult. The nonminor shall enter into a mutual agreement for placement, unless the nonminor dependent is incapable of making an informed agreement or a voluntary reentry agreement for placement and care in which the nonminor consents to placement and care in a setting supervised by, and under the responsibility of, the county child welfare services department, Indian Tribe, Tribal organization, or consortium of Tribes.

Unless otherwise specified, the rights of a dependent child and the responsibilities of the county welfare or Tribe and other entities toward the child and family also shall apply to nonminor dependents.

Requirements for Remaining in Placement

Citation: Wel. & Inst. Code § 11403

Nonminor dependents are eligible to receive support until they reach age 21, consistent with their transitional independent living case plan. A nonminor who satisfies the age criteria and who is otherwise eligible shall continue to receive CalWORKs payments or, as a nonminor former dependent or ward, aid pursuant to Kin-GAP or adoption assistance payments.

A nonminor former dependent child or ward of the juvenile court who is receiving foster care benefits pursuant to § 11405 and who satisfies the criteria is eligible to continue to receive aid as long as the nonminor is otherwise eligible for foster care benefits under this subdivision. This subdivision applies when one or more of the following conditions exist:

  • The nonminor is completing secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential.
  • The nonminor is enrolled in an institution that provides postsecondary or vocational education.
  • The nonminor is participating in a program or activity designed to promote or remove barriers to employment.
  • The nonminor is employed for at least 80 hours per month.
  • The nonminor is incapable of doing any of the preceding activities due to a medical condition, and that incapability is supported by regularly updated information in the case plan of the nonminor.

The requirement to update the case plan under this section does not apply to nonminor former dependents or wards in receipt of Kin-GAP program or Adoption Assistance Program payments.

Placement Agreements

Citation: Wel. & Inst. Code § 11400

A 'mutual agreement' is a written voluntary agreement of consent for continued placement and care in a supervised setting between a minor or a nonminor dependent and the county welfare services department or Tribal agency responsible for the foster care placement that documents the nonminor's continued willingness to (1) remain in supervised out-of-home placement under the care of the responsible county, Tribe, consortium of Tribes, or Tribal organization; (2) remain under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court as a nonminor dependent; and (3) report any change of circumstances relevant to continued eligibility for foster care payments. The agreement documents the nonminor's and social worker's agreement to work together to facilitate implementation of the mutually developed supervised placement agreement and transitional independent living case plan.

A 'voluntary reentry agreement' is a written voluntary agreement between a former dependent child or a former nonminor dependent who has had juvenile court jurisdiction terminated and the county welfare or Tribal placing entity that documents the nonminor's desire and willingness to do the following:

  • Reenter foster care
  • Be placed in a supervised setting under the placement and care responsibility of the placing agency
  • Immediately participate in one or more of the conditions of § 11403(b)(1)-(5)
  • Work collaboratively with the placing agency to develop their transitional independent living case plan within 60 days of reentry
  • Report any changes of circumstances relevant to continued eligibility for foster care payments
  • Participate in the filing of a petition for juvenile court jurisdiction as a nonminor dependent pursuant to § 388(e) within 15 judicial days of the signing of the agreement and the placing agency's efforts and supportive services to assist the nonminor in the reentry process

The term 'nonminor dependent' means a child in foster care who is a current dependent child or who is a nonminor under the transition jurisdiction of the juvenile court and who satisfies all the following criteria:

  • They have reached age 18 while under an order of foster care placement by the juvenile court and are not more than age 21.
  • They are in foster care under the placement and care responsibility of the county welfare department, county probation department, Indian Tribe, consortium of Tribes, or Tribal organization.
  • They have a transitional independent living case plan.

Transition Supports Provided

Citation: Wel. & Inst. Code § 391

The department shall make the following available to the nonminor:

  • Written information concerning the nonminor's case, including any known information regarding the nonminor's Indian heritage or Tribal connections, if applicable; their family history and placement history; any photographs of the nonminor or their family in the possession of the county welfare department, other than forensic photographs; the whereabouts of any siblings under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, unless the court determines that sibling contact would jeopardize the safety or welfare of the sibling; directions on how to access the documents the nonminor is entitled to inspect; and the date on which the jurisdiction of the juvenile court would be terminated
  • The following documents:
    • Social Security card
    • A certified copy of their birth certificate
    • Health and education summary
    • Driver's license or identification card
    • A letter prepared by the county welfare department that includes the following information:
      • The nonminor's name and date of birth
      • The dates during which the nonminor was within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court
      • A statement that the nonminor was a youth in foster care in compliance with State and Federal financial aid documentation requirements
    • If applicable, the death certificate of the parent or parents
    • If applicable, proof of the nonminor's citizenship or legal residence
    • An advance health-care directive form
    • The Judicial Council form that the nonminor would use to file a petition pursuant to § 388(3) to resume dependency jurisdiction
    • The written 90-day transition plan prepared pursuant to § 16501.1
    • Written verification that the eligible nonminor is enrolled in Medi-Cal and the nonminor's Medi-Cal benefits identification card
  • Written information notifying the child that youth exiting foster care at age 18 or older are eligible for Medi-Cal until they reach age 26, regardless of income, and are not required to submit an application
  • Continued and uninterrupted enrollment in Medi-Cal for eligible nonminors
  • Written information notifying the child of any financial literacy programs or other available resources provided through the county or other community organizations to help the youth obtain financial literacy skills, including, but not limited to, banking, credit card debt, student loan debt, credit scores, credit history, and personal savings
  • Written information notifying the nonminor that they may be eligible to receive CalFresh benefits and where the nonminor can apply for CalFresh benefits
  • Referrals to transitional housing, if available, or assistance in securing other housing
  • Assistance in obtaining employment or other financial support
  • Assistance in applying for admission to college or to a vocational training program or other educational institution and in obtaining financial aid, where appropriate
  • Assistance in maintaining relationships with individuals who are important to a nonminor who has been in out-of-home placement for 6 months or longer from the date the nonminor entered foster care, based on the nonminor's best interests
  • For nonminors between the ages of 18 and 21, assistance in accessing the Independent Living Aftercare Program in the nonminor's county of residence and, upon the nonminor's request, assistance in completing a voluntary reentry agreement for care and placement pursuant to § 11400(z) and in filing a petition pursuant to § 388(e) to resume dependency jurisdiction
  • Written information notifying the child that current or former dependent children who are or have been in foster care are granted a preference for student assistant or internship positions with State agencies pursuant to § 18220 of the Government Code until the child is age 26