Extension of Foster Care Beyond Age 18 - Rhode Island
Availability of Foster Care to Age 21
Citation: Gen. Laws § 14-1-6; Admin. Code 214-30-00-1, § 1.17
When the court has obtained jurisdiction over any child prior to the child's 18th birthday by the filing of a petition alleging that the child is dependent, neglected, and abused pursuant to §§ 14-1-5 and 40-11-7 or 42-72-14, the child shall, except as specifically provided in this chapter, continue under the jurisdiction of the court until they reach age 18.
A child who is in foster care on their 18th birthday due to the filing of a petition alleging that the child is dependent, neglected, or abused may voluntarily elect to continue responsibility for care and placement from the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and to remain under the legal supervision of the court as a young adult until age 21 provided they meet the eligibility requirements.
In regulation: Young adults may elect to continue to receive services and placement from DCYF and remain under the legal supervision of the family court until the young adult's 21st birthday through the Voluntary Extension of Care (VEC) program.
Any young adult who has an open case with DCYF and who elects not to participate in the VEC program or who terminates their VEC participation may request to be reinstated into the VEC program prior to their 21st birthday if they continue to meet the eligibility requirements.
DCYF may terminate a youth's involvement in the VEC program prior to the young adult's 21st birthday with the approval of the family court based on a motion for good cause.
Requirements for Remaining in Placement
A young adult who wishes to remain under the supervision of the court to age 21 must meet the following requirements:
- The young adult was in the legal custody of DCYF at age 18.
- The young adult is participating in at least one of the following:
- Completing the requirements to receive a high school diploma or GED
- Completing a secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential or enrolled in an institution that provides postsecondary or vocational education
- Participating in a job-training program or an activity designed to promote or remove barriers to employment
- Is employed for at least 80 hours per month
- Is incapable of doing any of the foregoing due to a medical condition that is regularly updated and documented in the case plan
Citation: Gen. Laws § 14-1-6; 14-1-3; 14-1-11.1; Admin. Code 214-30-00-1, §§ 1.10.2; 1.22
At least 6 months prior to a child turning age 18, the court shall require DCYF to provide a description of the transition services (including housing, health insurance, education and/or employment planning), available mentors, and continuing support services (including workforce supports and employment services) afforded the child in placement or a detailed explanation as to the reason those services were not offered. As part of the transition planning, the child shall be informed by DCYF of the opportunity to voluntarily agree to extended care and placement by DCYF and legal supervision by the court until age 21. The details of a child's transition plan shall be developed in consultation with the child, wherever possible, and approved by the court before the child's 21st birthday.
A 'voluntary placement agreement for extension of care' means a written agreement between the State agency and a young adult who meets the eligibility criteria and is acting as their own legal guardian that is binding on the parties to the agreement. At a minimum, the agreement recognizes the voluntary nature of the agreement, the legal status of the young adult, and the rights and obligations of the young adult, as well as the services and supports the agency agrees to provide during the time that the young adult consents to giving DCYF legal responsibility for care and placement.
When a young adult who meets the eligibility criteria wishes to continue in foster care after age 18, the young adult and an authorized representative of DCYF shall, before the youth reaches age 18, discuss the terms of a voluntary placement agreement for extension of care to be executed upon or after the young adult's 18th birthday.
When a young adult who meets the eligibility criteria exits foster care at or after age 18 but wishes to return to foster care before age 21, DCYF shall file a petition with the court for legal supervision of the young adult. A voluntary placement agreement for extension of care executed by the young adult and an authorized representative of DCYF shall be attached to the petition.
In regulation: The service plan must include a document that describes the rights of the youth with respect to education, health, visitation, court participation, credit reports, being safe and avoiding exploitation, and the right for youth aged 18 and older to receive the following upon discharge:
- Their birth certificate
- Their Social Security card
- Health insurance information and medical records
- Their driver's license or State-issued identification card
- Official documentation necessary to prove the youth was previously in foster care
At least 6 months prior to a child turning age 18, or up to age 21 if the youth elects to participate in the VEC program, DCYF is required to provide the court with a description of the transition services provided to the youth or a detailed explanation of why such services were not offered.
Minimally this description must include the youth's housing, health insurance, education and/or employment plan, available mentors, and continuing support services, including workforce supports and employment supports. The details of this plan are developed in consultation with the youth whenever possible and approved by the court prior to the dismissal of an abuse, neglect, or dependency petition before the youth's 21st birthday.
During the 90-day period immediately prior to the youth's 18th birthday, or up to age 21 if the youth elects to participate in the VEC program, the primary service worker and, as appropriate, other representatives of the youth provide the youth with assistance and support in developing a discharge plan that is documented in the service plan. The discharge plan is personalized at the direction of the youth and is as detailed as the youth may elect.
Transition Supports Provided
Citation: Admin. Code 214-30-00-1, §§ 1.10.2; 1.17; DCYF Pol. Man., # 700.0175; 700.0180; 700.0115
Each youth in foster care who is age 14 and older receives an annual credit report until discharged from foster care. The department will assist with any inaccuracies in the credit report.
The VEC program assists young adults with the following:
- Educational, vocational, and employment opportunities
- Connections to behavioral, emotional, and physical care providers
- Financial literacy and money management skills
- Acquisition of key documents
- Developing long-term natural supports
- Securing living arrangements
Youth whose cases are likely to be closed by DCYF on or after their 18th birthday are not discharged unless reasonable efforts have been made to prepare the youth for transition toward a self-sufficient and productive adult life.
The discharge plan is focused on skills to gain independence and transition to successful adulthood and includes specific options in the following areas:
- Health insurance
- Local opportunities for mentors and continuing support services
- Workforce supports and employment services
The discharge plan includes information about the following:
- The importance of designating another individual to make health-care treatment decisions on behalf of the youth if they become unable to participate in such decisions and they do not have or do not want a relative who would otherwise be authorized under law to make such decisions
- Provides the youth with the option to execute a health-care power-of-attorney
In policy: DCYF's Youth Services Development Division (YSD) is responsible for managing cases of eligible youth ages 17 through 21, primarily in out-of-home placement, who are moving toward independence. YSD staff assist young adults with educational, vocational, and employment supports; connections to behavioral, emotional, and physical care providers; financial literacy and money management skills; acquisition of key documents; and assistance with developing long-term natural supports.
YSD staff are responsible for providing case management services to eligible youth who elect to participate in the VEC program. YSD staff functions include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Assisting the youth in securing stable housing in which they can continue to reside after age 21
- Assisting the youth in accessing various resources available to them that will support the goal of achieving independence
- Providing opportunities to maintain parent, sibling, extended family, and other kin and fictive kin connections
- Providing opportunities for the youth to develop permanent supportive adult relationships
The YSD worker may determine that additional assistance is needed by the youth in one or more skill development areas. Enhanced supports may include the following:
- Housing security and stability
- Educational support
- Workforce readiness or employment and career development
- Identification and development of supportive adult connections or relationships
- Accessing community resources
- Resolution of criminal justice involvement or challenges
- Crisis intervention
The Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services provides medical assistance benefits to youth under age 26 who were in foster care on their 18th birthday, whose case has been closed by DCYF, and who are residents of Rhode Island. These youth are deemed categorically needy, and there is no income or resource test applied when determining eligibility.