Extension of Foster Care Beyond Age 18 - Montana

Date: March 2022

Availability of Foster Care to Age 21

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 52-2-601; 52-2-602; Admin. Rules 37.51.102

The legislature—in recognition of the wide and varied needs of youth in need of care, delinquent youth, and youth in need of intervention of this State and of the desirability of meeting these needs on a community level to the fullest extent possible—establishes by this part a system of substitute care to provide facilities and services for youth placed out of their homes and establishes a program to provide those facilities and services through local nonprofit corporations, counties, and the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

The 'transitional living program' is a program with the goal of self-sufficiency in which supervision of the living arrangement is provided for a youth who is age 16 or older and younger than age 21.

In regulation: A child in foster care is a person younger than age 18 who has been placed in a youth foster home by the department, another State agency, a Tribe, or a licensed child-placing agency. A youth older than age 18 may remain in foster care if they are still in secondary school.

Requirements for Remaining in Placement

Citation: Child & Fam. Serv. Pol. Man. § 408-1

In policy: A youth may qualify for the foster care independence program if the youth meets the following criteria:

  • Is age 14 or older and currently in foster care
  • Has 'aged out' of foster care and is not yet age 21
  • Was in foster care at age 18
  • Had a guardianship established or adoption finalized after their 16th birthday

Priority for services is given to youth who have exited foster care because they reached age 18 and to youth age 14 and older likely to be in foster care until age 18.

Youth must meet one of the following criteria to access room and board assistance:

  • The youth must be employed full time or actively seeking full-time employment, unless they are attending school or can demonstrate why they should not be expected to work full time.
  • The youth is enrolled on a full-time basis in a postsecondary education program that does not meet the requirements for assistance through the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood program.
  • The youth is enrolled on a part-time basis in a postsecondary education program, and it has been determined by program management that the youth's circumstances are such that the youth should not be required to attend school full time or to work and attend school.

Placement Agreements

Citation: Child & Fam. Serv. Pol. Man. § 408-1

The transitional living plan (TLP) is a written document that is a part of the overall case plan for a youth. It should clearly identify the best possible permanency plan for the youth, well-defined goals and objectives for becoming self-sufficient, and how and when the goals and objectives will be met. Youth must be encouraged to actively participate in the development of the plan and, whenever possible, attend in-person meetings to develop or update their TLP.

The TLP is updated and rewritten at least every 6 months or more often if the youth's needs have changed. The TLP must be updated within 90 days prior to the youth reaching age 18 (or within 90 days before aging out or being discharged if a youth extended foster care past their 18th birthday). The plan must document agency efforts in offering the youth assistance and support and in implementing a personalized TLP, including options such as housing, health insurance, education, mentors, support services, workforce supports, and employment.

The regional service provider must include and assist youth in obtaining information on health-care power-of-attorneys for youth's TLPs. The TLP also will include information on the importance of designating someone to make health-care treatment decisions on behalf of the youth in foster care if the youth is unable to do so and does not have or want a relative who would otherwise be so designated under State law to make such decisions. This law provides the child with the option to execute a health-care power-attorney, health-care proxy, or other similar document recognized under State law.

Transition Supports Provided

Citation: Admin. Rules §§ 37.51.805; 37.51.820; Child & Fam. Serv. Pol. Man. §§ 408-1; 408-2; 408-4

The foster parents shall cooperate with the placing agency and, when appropriate, the birth or legal parents in providing or arranging an age-appropriate education, employment, or training program for each child that addresses the child's needs in the areas of social living, sex education, consumer education, career planning, and preparation for independent living. In addition, the foster parents shall do the following:

  • Ensure that all children attend a public school unless otherwise approved by the department
  • Cooperate with the department's independent living (IL) program staff and contractors to ensure that eligible youth in foster care are encouraged and assisted to access services and benefits offered under the department's IL program
  • Assist the placing agency, the youth, and the IL program staff and contractors in developing an appropriate transitional plan for each youth aged 16 or older
  • Encourage and assist each teenage youth in preparing for the transition from foster care to independent living
  • Assist the placing agency, the youth, and the IL program staff and contractors in developing the youth's job readiness skills and, when appropriate, assisting the youth in locating employment
  • Assist youth in exploring postsecondary educational opportunities

In policy: All youth aging out of care must be provided with the following:

  • Their certified birth certificate
  • Their Social Security card and information on available benefits, including Tribal benefits for Indian youth
  • Placement history
  • Summary of how, when, and why the youth first came into foster care
  • A copy of the court order
  • A copy of their medical records and relevant family health history
  • Education history
  • State-issued identification cards
  • Official documentation necessary to prove the youth was previously in foster care before aging out of foster care

Youth may receive assistance for the following:

  • Secondary school educational expenses, including tutoring not available through the school system, driver's education, application fees, dorm deposits, tuition, books, or supplies
  • Vocational training, including apprenticeships or other job training
  • Job readiness assistance, such as resume and application assistance, etiquette instruction, appropriate interview and work clothing, haircut, etc.
  • The cost of travel to educational, apprenticeship, or job sites
  • Counseling or therapy when it has been determined that such services are needed and other funding is not available
  • Medical expenses that are deemed medically necessary and for which other funding is not available
  • Basic apartment or dorm room set up (limited to the purchase of basic necessities)
  • Security deposits, phone activation, and utility connection fees
  • Rental deposits and postsecondary on-campus living expenses (including a meal plan)
  • Assistance with monthly rental payment
  • Assistance with monthly utility payments
  • Assistance with purchasing food

The amount of assistance will be based on the youth's personal circumstances and needs, other available community resources, previous use of funds, and the availability of funds. The need for room and board assistance must be clearly demonstrated.

Each child in foster care age 16 and older must receive a copy of any consumer credit report annually until they are discharged from foster care and must be assisted in interpreting the credit report and resolving any inaccuracies.