Extension of Foster Care Beyond Age 18 - West Virginia

Date: March 2022

Availability of Foster Care to Age 21

Citation: Code of Rules § 78-3-3; Foster Care Man. §§ 2.4.1; 5.33

A 'transitioning adult' is an individual with a transfer plan to move to an adult setting who meets one of the following conditions:

  • Is at least age 18 but younger than age 21, was in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Resources upon reaching age 18, remains under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, and/or requires supervision and care to complete an education and or treatment program
  • Is at least age 18 but younger than age 21, was adjudicated abused or neglected, or was in departmental custody upon reaching age 18 and enters into a contract with the department to continue in an educational, training, and/or treatment program

In policy: Transitional living placements may be provided to youth at age 17 up to age 23, but youth must meet certain criteria to be eligible for this type of placement. Transitional living placements may be structured for youth who need extra support and supervision, or they may be structured for youth who are capable of semi-independent living.

Youth formerly in foster care who are ages 18 through 21 and who left care at age 18 or older may apply to return to a foster care living situation if circumstances support the need for them to return to care. Foster care after age 18 applies to three categories of young adults:

  • Those youth who remain in care after age 18
  • Those youth who were youth formerly in foster care, left at age 18 or older, and request to return to foster care after age 18 through age 21
  • Those youth whose parental rights have been terminated, were in foster care immediately prior to a Division of Juvenile Services placement, and left the division at age 18 or older

Requirements for Remaining in Placement

Citation: Foster Care Man. §§ 2.4.1; 5.33

Prior to referral for placement supervised by a private agency or prior to placement in a transitional living placement setting directly supervised by the youth's worker, the youth's worker must determine the youth's eligibility for transitional living placement based on the following criteria:

  • The youth is at least age 17 but younger than age 23.
  • The youth is demonstrating responsible behavior and capable of living independently.
  • The youth has completed their life skills assessment.
  • The youth has basic living skills and can live independently.
  • The youth is motivated to achieve goals, such as education or employment.
  • The youth is pursuing education, employment, or other goal for independence.
  • The youth must have a plan for activities for 40 hours a week.

Youth who apply for a return to foster care may be placed in boarding care age 18 through age 20 under the following conditions:

  • The young adult requests continued financial supports after receiving a clear explanation of their right to independence and responsibility for self-support at age 18.
  • The young adult will continue their education (college, vocational, or training) and plans to continue their current enrollment or plans to enroll in a different school or training program within the next 3 months.
  • The adoptive parent requests approval from the department to extend the subsidy beyond the child's 18th birthday if the child meets one of the following criteria:
    • The child is completing secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential.
    • The child is enrolled in an institution that provides postsecondary or vocational education.
    • The child is participating in a program or activity designed to promote, or remove barriers to, employment.
    • The child is employed for at least 80 hours per month.
    • The child is incapable of doing any of the preceding activities due to a medical condition.

When a youth formerly in foster care applies for foster care services, an assessment of their current circumstances shall be made. The individual may be eligible for other services from the department or from another community resource that would be more appropriate to meet their needs. All other agency and community resources are to be explored before approving foster care services. The youth must sign a voluntary placement agreement.

The voluntary placement agreement must be explained to the youth in detail as a 'contract' between the youth and the department. It does not place the youth back into 'custody of the State.' The youth has certain responsibilities to uphold in working toward meeting the goals and objectives of their transition plan and in working toward becoming semi-independent and self-sufficient. The department has responsibilities to provide the youth with assistance in meeting those goals and objectives.

Boarding care must be discontinued for all youth the month upon their 18th birthday if they elect to assume their independence and/or they are not attending an educational program or do not plan to continue or enroll.

Placement Agreements

Citation: Code of Rules § 78-25-2; Foster Care Man. §§ 5.30; 5.6; 5.25

The 'transition plan' is a plan developed with a youth in foster care age 16 and older that establishes goals and a plan to help move a youth from foster care to independence.

In policy: When youth placed in foster care reach age 18, they will exit foster care unless they agree to continue to receive foster care services through a voluntary placement agreement. The youth's worker should begin planning with the youth for their transition to adulthood and/or exit from care well before the youth's 18th birthday.

Upon the youth's 17th birthday or if the youth has already turned 17 at the time the department is granted custody, the youth's worker will convene a multidisciplinary team (MDT). The purpose of the MDT is to assess the youth, collect information, and develop a transition plan for the youth's exit from the care and custody of the department. The following areas must be discussed and assessed during the MDT meeting:

  • The youth's progress with the life-skills curriculum and assessment
  • The youth's education progress and goals (including information regarding the youth's individualized education plan and transition services provided by that plan, if appropriate)
  • The youth's preparedness for independence
  • The youth's ability and/or desire to be employed
  • The importance of designating someone to make health-care treatment decisions on behalf of the youth if the youth is unable to do so and does not have or want a relative who would otherwise be designated under State law to make such decisions

All children in foster care are eligible for the Medicaid program. Most children up to age 21 who come into the custody of the department and are placed in foster care may be eligible for extended Medicaid coverage upon discharge from a foster care placement.

The transition plan is used to document all activities that need to be completed for the youth to reach self-sufficiency. This includes the selected learning goals and activities the youth's worker and/or provider will use during life-skill learning sessions and as the youth transitions to adulthood.

A youth's transition plan must be personalized for the youth, developed by the youth, and contain specific information to assist the youth in their transition to adulthood. The youth's worker and the youth will update or revise the plan at least 90 days prior to the youth turning age 18. The plan must be personalized by the youth and must contain as much detailed information as the youth decides to incorporate into the plan. The plan must contain the following specific information:

  • Housing options and services
  • Education plans and services
  • Employment plans
  • Health insurance options
  • Local opportunities for mentoring
  • Information concerning consumer credit report checks
  • Continuing support services
  • Health-care directives
  • Any services that will be paid for using funds from the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood
  • Any other information that the youth deems important

During transition planning for older youth, States must ensure that a consumer credit report is completed annually for each youth in foster care aged 16 or older. The consumer credit report must be provided to the youth without cost. The State also must ensure that the youth is assisted in interpreting the report and resolving any inaccuracies found.

Transition Supports Provided

Citation: Foster Care Man. §§ 2.4.15; 5.27; 5.35

In some instances, a youth may wish to practice living semi-independently prior to final discharge from the foster care system. Experiential learning opportunities are available for these youth through the Transitional Living Placement option in which youth in foster care establish their own household in the community but are supplied with the following support, supervision, and services:

  • Ongoing social casework
  • Continued life skills instruction
  • Assistance with career planning and employment and job maintenance
  • Scheduled face-to-face contact between the youth and caseworker in addition to regular phone contact
  • Planned and unannounced home visits
  • Medical and behavioral health services, when needed

The worker will begin gathering original documents that will be released to the youth upon their exit from the care and custody of the department. These items may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Social Security card
  • Certified original birth certificate
  • Health records, including immunization history
  • Education records
  • State-issued photo identification
  • Foster care verification letter documenting the youth's placement
  • Any other information the youth may find helpful or important

Independent living services may include the following:

  • Referral or linkage services
  • Advocacy services
  • Housing services
  • Employment services
  • Transportation services
  • Medical services
  • Clothing services
  • Educational services through education and training vouchers