Extension of Foster Care Beyond Age 18 - North Carolina

Date:

Availability of Foster Care to Age 21

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 108A-48; CW Man., Perm. Plan. Serv. Pol.

The Department of Social Services is authorized to establish a State Foster Care Benefits Program to assist children who are placed in foster care facilities by county departments of social services in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Social Services Commission. The department may continue to provide benefits pursuant to this section to an individual who has reached age 18 and chosen to continue receiving foster care services until reaching age 21.

In policy: Foster Care 18 to 21 is a program that offers young adults opportunities to continue foster care placement and transition to independence with county child welfare agency supervision. There are some young adults who may not be ready to exit foster care upon turning age 18 and may choose to stay in Foster Care 18 to 21 as long as certain requirements are met. Young adults who exit foster care at age 18 are also able to return to the Foster Care 18 to 21 program at a later date as long as they have not reached their 21st birthday.

County child welfare agencies are responsible for providing eligible young adults who enter into an agreement for Foster Care 18 to 21 services with ongoing efforts to help prepare and ensure the young adult's successful transition into adulthood. This policy defines the legal basis for providing foster care benefits and services to young adults, as well as eligibility requirements, development of the voluntary placement agreement (VPA), county oversight, required court hearings, and placement options for young adults receiving services.

Requirements for Remaining in Placement

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 108A-48; CW Man., Perm. Plan. Serv. Pol.

The department may continue to provide benefits to an individual who has reached age 18 years and chosen to continue receiving foster care services until reaching age 21 if the individual is meeting any of the following criteria:

  • Completing secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential
  • Enrolled in an institution that provides postsecondary or vocational education
  • Participating in a program or activity designed to promote or remove barriers to employment
  • Employed for at least 80 hours per month
  • Incapable of completing the educational or employment requirements of this subsection due to a medical condition or disability

In policy: The young adult also must meet all the following criteria:

  • Was in foster care on their 18th birthday
  • Is at least age 18 but not yet age 21
  • Agrees to enter a VPA with a county child welfare agency and abide by the provisions of the agreement
  • Agrees to reside in an approved placement

A young adult who was in foster care on their 18th birthday may reenter Foster Care 18 to 21 any time before reaching age 21. Upon exiting foster care at age 18 or older, the young adult must be provided information on how to enter the Foster Care 18 to 21 program at a later date. If the young adult does choose to return, they may contact the county child welfare agency that previously held custody or the agency in the county where the young adult is currently residing.

The reentry is considered a new foster care episode and eligibility determination is required. The county child welfare agency must verify program eligibility as well as determine funding eligibility.

To reenter Foster Care 18 to 21, the young adult must meet the following conditions:

  • The young adult is aged 18, 19, or 20.
  • The young adult was in foster care on their 18th birthday
  • The young adult meets at least one of the eligibility requirements for Foster Care 18 to 21.
  • The young adult is willing to enter a VPA and abide by the provisions of the agreement.
  • The young adult agrees to reside in an approved placement.

Young adults receiving Foster Care 18 to 21 services are adults for all purposes except the continued provision of foster care services. These young adults need the same degree of independence and decision-making that other young adults over age 18 are granted.

A young adult who is at least age 18 but younger than age 21 and was in the custody of a county child welfare agency upon reaching their 18th birthday must enter into a VPA with the county child welfare agency to receive Foster Care 18 to 21 services. The court will hold an initial review hearing and may periodically review placement and services for young adults receiving services.

Placement Agreements

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-910.1; CW Man., Perm. Plan. Serv. Pol.

The court shall review the placement of a young adult when the director of social services and a young adult who was in foster care as a juvenile enter into a VPA. The review hearing shall be held not more than 90 days from the date the agreement was executed, and the court shall make findings from evidence presented at this review hearing regarding all the following:

  • Whether the placement is in the best interests of the young adult in foster care
  • The services that have been or should be provided to the young adult in foster care to improve the placement
  • The services that have been or should be provided to the young adult in foster care to further the young adult's educational or vocational ambitions, if relevant

In policy: When a young adult opts to receive Foster Care 18 to 21 services, a VPA must be discussed with and signed by the young adult as well as the director of the county child welfare agency. The young adult is an equal party in the contractual agreement and must agree to the provisions of the agreement. The VPA gives the county child welfare agency authority to continue placement responsibility and provide foster care services to the young adult and is subject to the following:

  • The agreement must be signed within the month of the young adult's 18th birthday or at time of reentry into foster care.
  • If the agreement is signed before the young adult's 18th birthday, an additional signature must be obtained on or after the young adult's 18th birthday.
  • The agreement is effective on the date of the young adult's 18th birthday or, if the young adult is over age 18, the date the agreement is signed.
  • The agreement is valid until the young adult turns age 21, they no longer meet eligibility criteria, they terminate the agreement, the court determines they are not meeting the goals of the transitional living plan, they have violated the VPA, or they have been absent from their approved placement for more than 30 days without prior approval from the county department.

Prior to a youth's exit from care, they must be provided with the following:

  • Information on the importance of designating someone to make health-care treatment decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so and do not have or want a relative who would otherwise be so designated to make such decisions
  • Information about how to execute a health-care power-of-attorney, health-care proxy, or other similar documents
  • A verification letter that provides proof of the child's placement in foster care
  • An original or certified copy of the youth's birth certificate
  • The youth's Social Security card
  • All medical and educational records
  • Health insurance information
  • The youth's driver's license or State-issued identification card
  • Copies of any credit reports and documentation related to issues resolved on the credit report

Transition Supports Provided

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 108A-48; CW Man., Perm. Plan. Serv. Pol.

With monthly supervision and oversight by the director of the county department of social services or a supervising agency, an individual receiving benefits pursuant to this section may reside outside a foster care facility in a college or university dormitory or other semisupervised housing arrangement approved by the director of the county department of social services and continue to receive benefits pursuant to this section.

In policy: NC LINKS is a network of relevant services for youth so they will have ongoing connections with family, friends, mentors, the community, employers, education, financial assistance, skills training, and other resources to facilitate their transition to adulthood. The program provides independent living services and supports to help every youth and young adult who lives or has lived in foster care as a teenager to achieve the following outcomes before leaving the foster care system by age 21:

  • All youth shall have sufficient economic resources to meet their daily needs.
  • All youth shall have a safe and stable place to live.
  • All youth shall attain academic or vocational and educational goals that match their abilities and interests.
  • All youth shall have a sense of connectedness to persons and community, including a personal support network of at least five responsible adults who will remain supportive of the young adult over time.
  • All youth shall avoid illegal or high-risk behaviors.
  • All youth shall postpone parenthood until financially established and emotionally mature.
  • All youth shall have access to physical and mental health services, as well the ability to pay for those services.

The Contractual Agreement for Residential Services (CARS) is a voluntary agreement between the young adult and the agency that allows for State foster care board payment to a licensed foster care facility. The young adult is not in the child welfare agency's custody; it is a voluntary agreement between the young adult and the agency.

The agency agrees to provide payment to assist with the cost of housing while the young adult is in an academic or vocational training program and to provide foster care services and other services for which the young adult is eligible.

Young adults on CARS agreements remain eligible for all LINKS services and resources and will continue to be eligible until age 21 regardless of their status on CARS. A menu of service options includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Involvement with ongoing LINKS activities at the agency, especially as youth leaders
  • Life skills training
  • Crisis management
  • Assistance to strengthen their personal support system
  • Assistance in obtaining employment
  • Negotiation with employers, creditors, placement providers, etc.
  • Accessing LINKS Special Funds for transitional needs
  • Information and referral to appropriate community resources

Individuals who turn age 18 while in foster care continue to be eligible for Medicaid to age 26. All young adults aging out of foster care must be referred to their local Medicaid office to apply for continuing health-care coverage. County child welfare agencies must assist young adults receiving foster care services with obtaining their credit report once every year until reaching age 21.