Juvenile Law Center

Fostering Connections To Success Act's Older Youth Extensions in Pennsylvania

Two new Pennsylvania laws provide greater opportunities and support to older youth in foster care. By extending adoption and guardianship subsidies to age 21 for some youth, these laws not only help provide support and guidance for youth who are not ready to be on their own at age 18, but they will also increase the number of youth who leave the system and achieve permanency.

Act 91 amends various provisions of the Juvenile Act to expand the criteria for youth to remain dependent and under court jurisdiction. It also allows eligible youth to re-open their dependency case before turning 21 if they aged out within 90 days of turning age 18 or any time after turning age 18.  View the related excerpt from Act 91 here

Watch our new videos explaining Act 91, eligibility requirements, and more! Facilitating a group discussion on the Act 91? Use our discussion guide, download it here.

Webinar: Implementing Act 91 - Scucesses and Challenges

Act 91: Extended Care and Re-Entry:

Act 91: Re-Entering Foster Care:

Act 80 amends provisions of the Public Welfare Code to extend guardianship and adoption subsidies to age 21 for eligible youth whose subsidy arrangement became effective at age 13 or older. View the related excerpt from Act 80 here

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ACT 80 AND ACT 91

Please note: This FAQ represents the interpretation of Juvenile Law Center. We will update this FAQ as we learn new information, so please check back frequently for updates.

 

The Basics

When does Act 91 take effect?
What sections of the law does Act 91 change?
When does Act 80 take effect?
What sections of the law does Act 80 change?

Extension of Care Past Age 18 Under Act 91

What does the law change about the conditions for staying in care past age 18?
What activities can a youth engage in to remain in care past age 18?
Does a youth have to do more than one of these activities to remain in care?
Does a GED preparation program lead to a credential that is the equivalant of secondary education?
What are examples of institutions that provide post-secondary or vocational education?
What are examples of programs actively designed to promote or remove barriers to employment?
Can a youth who works and does not attend school or any educational or training program stay in care past age 18?
How will youth prove that they are working 80 hours a month?
Can a youth work more than 80 hours per month?
Does Act 91 provide any provisions for youth with disabilities and/or treatment needs?

Are any of the activities listed in the law preferred over any of the others?
Can a county decide to allow youth to extend care past age 18 based on only some of the Act 91 criteria, but not others?
What about dispositions—should they be different based on what activity the youth selects?
Is it recommended that youth have a "back-up plan" or alternative criterion for eligibility?
Can youth change the activity they select as the basis to remain in care past age 18?

Notifying Youth About Act 91

Is the county children and youth agency obligated to notify youth about their right to remain in care past age 18 under Act 91?

How Youth Request to Remain in Care Past Age 18

Are youth automatically continued in care past age 18 if they are meeting any of the listed criteria?

The Impact of Staying in Care Past Age 18 on the Rights of Youth Who Are Legally Adults

Do young adults who remain in the child welfare system past age 18 or re-enter the system between ages 18 and 21 still retain all the rights of an adult?

Whether the Child Welfare Agency Should Be Given Legal Custody of a Dependent Youth Who is an Adult

Should the juvenile court give the child welfare agency legal custody of an 18-year-old who remains in care past age 18?
Does the child welfare agency need legal custody of the 18-year-old dependent youth to receive Title IV-E reimbursement for the youth's cost of care (foster care maintenance)?
What does "responsibility for placement and care" mean?

Placements for Youth in Care Between Ages 18 and 21

Where can youth who continue in care past age 18 be placed?
How are placements for dependent youth ages 18 to 21 funded?
What are transitional living placements (TLPs)?
How have supervised independent living placements been provided in Pennsylvania?
Are SIL settings Title IV-E reimbursable for youth ages 18 to 21?
Is more flexibility allowed in how SIL is provided to youth between ages 18 and 21?
What examples has ACF provided to states regarding what can be considered a reimbursable supervised setting in which a youth lives independently?
What is a host home?
Must SIL settings be licensed for youth 18-21 in the same manner as foster homes and group care?
Can an SIL setting be IV-E reimbursable if the county agency or provider pays the youth directly for the cost of the SIL setting?
What are examples of situations in which it makes sense to pay the cost of care directly to the youth?
Are there any tools available to help child welfare agencies determine if an SIL setting that a youth selects is appropriate?
If a youth who is between the ages of 18 and 21 finds a living arrangement that could be considered an SIL, can the county receive reimbursement from the state to fund this placement, even if the location of the SIL is in a biological parents' home?
If a youth who is between the ages of 18 and 21 finds a living arrangement that could be considered an SIL, can the county receive IV-E reimbursement to fund this placement, even if the location of the SIL is in a biological parents' home?
Can a child welfare agency consider a youth who is age 18 or older who is living in a substance abuse, mental health, or other adult residential treatment facility to be in a reimbursable SIL setting?
Can a youth who returns to the court’s jurisdiction be placed home with a parent as part of a plan for reunification?

Resumption of Dependency Court Jurisdiction: Re-Entry

Can youth who discharged from care really re-enter care?
What is the legal mechanism for allowing a youth over age 18 to re-enter care?

Is a new finding of dependency required for the court to resume jurisdiction of the case?
Would a youth who discharged from the court's jurisdiction at age 16 and who is now 19 and needs help be eligible to re-enter care under Act 91?
Are youth who were under the court's jurisdiction at age 18 or older, but placed in the home of a parent at that time, eligible to ask the court to resume jurisdiction?
Are youth who were dependent, but whose last placement was through the delinquency system, eligible to re-enter care under Act 91?
Can eligible youth who have their own children request to re-enter?
If a youth who has a child re-enters care does his/her child need to be found dependent?
Can a youth who has a juvenile adjudication or a criminal conviction re-enter care?
Can a youth who has a driver's license and a car re-enter care?
What if the youth is not yet engaging in one of the required activities when he or she asks to re-enter care?
Is there any time period or time limitation during which re-entry is allowed?
What about the concept of a "trial discharge"?

Youth Who Are Covered by Act 91

Is a youth who aged out of care prior to the enactment of the law - but who is still under age 21 - eligible to re-enter?
Does this include youth who were dependent and aged out in states other than Pennsylvania?

Procedures for Resumption of Jurisdiction

What is the procedure for resumption of jurisdiction?
Who can file a resumption of jurisdiction motion?
Is the county children and youth agency required to file a motion for resumption of jurisdiction if a youth makes the request?
What must be contained in the motion for resumption of jurisdiction?
Does the child welfare agency need to notify the youth's parent or guardian of the motion for resumption of jurisdiction?
What can county child welfare agencies do to implement this notification requirement in a way that promotes older youth permanency and respects youths' wishes?
If a youth has moved between counties in Pennsylvania, where should the resumption of jurisdiction motion be filed?
Are youth who were dependent in other states eligible to ask that the court resume jurisdiction of their case in Pennsylvania?
Does the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts provide a sample Motion for Resumption of Jurisdiction?
How soon after a resumption of jurisdiction motion is filed should a hearing be held?
Are there any provisions for expedited hearings when a youth needs placement or services immediately?

Using Voluntary Placement Agreements in Resumption of Jurisdiction Cases

Can a youth re-enter care through entering a voluntary placement agreement (VPA) with the county children and youth agency?
Can VPAs be used to assist youth as they work to establish eligibility for resumption of jurisdiction?

Requirements and Options for Youth Once the Court Resumes Jurisdiction Under Act 91

What does a youth need to do once he or she re-enters care?
What kinds of services can a youth get when the court resumes jurisdiction?
Does the youth's attorney represent the youth's wishes and/or what the lawyer thinks is in their best interests in a resumption of jurisdiction case?

Placement for Youth Who Re-Enter Care Under Act 91

Where can youth who re-enter care be placed?

Title IV-E Eligibility for Youth Who Re-Enter Care

How is IV-E financial (income) eligibility handled for youth who re-enter care under Act 91?

Notifying Youth About the Right to Request Resumption of Jurisdiction

Is the county agency required to notify the youth about the right to request to re-enter care?

Tools and Templates Available for Resumption of Jurisdiction

What tools has Juvenile Law Center developed to assist with the resumption of jurisdiction/re-entry process?
What templates has the Administrative Office for the Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) developed?

Extension of Adoption and Permanent Legal Custodianship Subsidies Past Age 18

Do the changes in the law impact adoption and permanent legal custodianship?
Do children whose Permanent Legal Custodian (PLC) or adoption subsidies are extended past age 18 have to engage in any particular activities to be eligible?
How will a youth's compliance with the activity requirements be monitored?
Which children and families are eligible for extended subsidies?
What about children who are still under 21, but had their adoption or guardianship arrangement finalized when they were age 13 or older, but before the date of the enactment of Act 80?


The Basics

When does Act 91 take effect?

Act 91 was signed by the Governor on July 5, 2012, and became effective on that date. 

What sections of the law does Act 91 change?

Act 91 amends and expands the definition of a child in the Juvenile Act at 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 6302. Act 91 amends two sections of the disposition section of the Juvenile Act.

42 Pa. C.S.A. § 6351 (f) is amended to:

  • Require that the court determine for a youth between ages 18 and 21 if they continue to meet the definition of a child under the Juvenile Act.
  • Require that the court find that an appropriate transition plan has been presented to the court before a youth who is between the ages of 18 and 21 can be discharged.

42 Pa. C.S.A. § 6351 (j) is amended to allow youth to re-enter care before turning age 21. 

When does Act 80 take effect?

Act 80 was signed by the Governor and became effective on July 1, 2012. 

What sections of the law does Act 80 change?

Act 80 amends the Public Welfare Code in several sections:

  • It amends the definition of "child" in the Adoption Opportunity Act at 62 P.S. § 772. 
  • It amends the definition of "child" in the Kinship Care Act at 62 P.S. § 1302. 
  • It creates the Subsidized Permanent Legal Custodianship Program at 62 P.S. § 1303.1 and § 1303.2.

Extension of Care Past Age 18 Under Act 91

What does the law change about the conditions for staying in care past age 18? 

Act 91 expands the criteria for staying in care past age 18 and provides more detail regarding eligible activities. Prior to Act 91, youth could only stay in care past age 18 if they were in a program of "treatment" or "instruction." While case law made clear that the term "instruction" was broad and at least included post-secondary education1, interpretation of the term varied throughout the state. Thus, many eligible youth did not remain in care.

Act 91 provides much more clarity on eligible activities while leaving the youth and those working with the youth the ability to individualize the plan. As a result, focus can be placed on developing the skills youth need to support themselves and be productive and healthy when they leave care. 

What activities can a youth engage in to remain in care past age 18?

In addition to being adjudicated dependent before turning age 18, and requesting to continue in care, since the enacting of Act 91, youth can remain in care past 18 if they are doing any one of the following:

  • Completing secondary education or an equivalent credential;
  • Enrolled in an institution that provides post-secondary or vocational education;
  • Participating in a program actively designed to promote or remove barriers to employment;
  • Employed for at least 80 hours per month; or
  • Incapable of doing any of the activities described above due to a medical or behavioral health condition, which is supported by regularly updated information in the permanency plan of the child.

Does a youth have to do more than one of these activities to remain in care?

No. The youth must do at least one of the listed activities, or meet the exception (v). Of course, a youth can combine activities such as part-time work in addition to going to college or a trade school. However, if the youth chooses to focus on one activity, that is still a permissible basis for continued court jurisdiction.

Does a GED preparation program lead to a credential that is the equivalent of secondary education?

Yes. While not defined in the statute, programs that prepare a youth for getting their General Equivalency Diploma (GED) are alternatives to completing secondary education and are eligible activities for extended dependency jurisdiction under Act 91.

What are examples of institutions that provide post-secondary or vocational education?

These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Community colleges or junior colleges
  • Four-year colleges or universities
  • Trade schools, including Job Corps

What are examples of programs actively designed to promote or remove barriers to employment?

What can be considered an acceptable program under this criterion will be individualized and depend on the specific barriers to employment that the youth is facing. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Programs funded or designed by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) for individuals with disabilities
  • Vocational or trade programs
  • Programs designed for individuals with disabilities to improve work readiness or work skills
  • Vocational or job skills development programs through the Office of Income Maintenance (welfare), Career Link or other Workforce Development entities
  • Courses, programs, or services recommended by the county Independent Living Program may also fall into this category.

Can a youth who works and does not attend school or any educational or training program stay in care past age 18? 

Yes. This is a new category in the law. As long as youth are working at least 80 hours a month, they can remain in care past age 18. Some youth decide to focus on developing job skills and working; others take time after completing high school to enter the work world rather than immediately continue their education. These youth do still need the support of the system as they gain experience in the work world and master adult living skills. For some youth, an employment experience may help them make decisions about their career path that leads them back to higher education and training. Child welfare workers are encouraged to use the experience of work as a practical opportunity to help the youth master other adult living skills such as budgeting, time management, decision making, and social skills. 

How will youth prove that they are working 80 hours a month?

The law does not provide direction on this. Attorneys and caseworkers should advise their clients to keep and copy work schedules, pay stubs and any other documents that record their hours at least on a monthly basis.  If the youth's employment comes from a combination of sources, such as paid employment and an unpaid internship, for example, special care should be taken in documenting total work hours. Developing forms or other easy to use tools to record and document work hours is also recommended and should be connected with case planning, including independent living and transition planning. 

Caseworkers and Independent Living (IL) workers may want to consider creative ways to work this documentation requirement into IL instruction, such as keeping a schedule, understanding taxes, budgeting, and saving.  

Can a youth work more than 80 hours per month?

Yes. 80 hours a month is a minimum requirement for court jurisdiction. Many youth who opt to stay in care based on this criterion will likely be working full time or working toward a full-time schedule. Other youth who face more barriers to employment may only be able to work 80 hours per month. 

Does Act 91 provide any provisions for youth with disabilities?

Yes. If a youth has a medical or behavioral health condition that prevents them from meeting any of the listed activity-based criteria, they may still remain in care. Documentation of the condition, and the fact that this condition prevents the youth from engaging in any of the other activities, must be provided by the youth’s treatment provider and must be included in the permanency plan and updated at least at each permanency plan review and revision. The youth's caseworker and attorney should help ensure that appropriate documentation is in the youth's file and included in the permanency plan to assure continued eligibility. Because federal law requires that the youth’s case plan contain the most recent health and education records, including information about treatment providers and any medical issues, this documentation should be readily accessible.  See 42 U.S.C.A. § 675 (1)(C). 

In addition, Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Rules require that the court make findings about any health and disability issues at each court hearing, and can order evaluations and treatment in certain situations.  See Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Rule 1512 (D)(i).  If evaluations or treatment is needed, it can be ordered by the court.

Are youth who are delinquent in addition to being dependent also eligible to extend care under Act 91?

Yes. As long as they meet the eligibility criteria (were adjudicated dependent before turning age 18, request to remain in care, and engage in at least one of the required activities, or meet the exception), a youth who is also delinquent—in addition to being dependent—can stay in care past age 18 under Act 91.

Case Example: Youth was adjudicated dependent at age 12. She was adjudicated  delinquent at age 16.  She remained under dual jurisdiction of the juvenile court when she reached age 18. Because she was attending high school as junior and requested to remain in care past age 18, she was eligible under Act 91 for continued court jurisdiction. 

Are any of the activities listed in the law preferred over any of the others?

No. Under the law, a youth is eligible to remain in care if they are otherwise eligible (i.e., adjudicated dependent before age 18 and request to remain in care) and are engaging in at least one of the activities—or the exception—listed in Act 91. That means that for the purposes of eligibility, all activities are equal. For example, if a youth is working 80 hours a month or enrolled in a vocational program, he or she will be as eligible under Act 91 to remain in care past age 18 as another youth who is pursuing post-secondary education.

The goal of all the expanded criteria is to provide youth an array of productive activities that will assist them in developing the skills they need to be independent and self-sufficient as they enter adulthood. Act 91 provides a range of activities that are acceptable for the purposes of remaining under court jurisdiction.  Ideally, the youth and his or her team are working together to develop individualized permanency and transition plans that include activities and services to help the youth achieve his or her goals. The activity chosen to meet eligibility under Act 91 should be determined after considering a youth’s needs, strengths, and preferences as he transitions to adulthood and should form an integral part of both these plans.

Can a county decide to allow youth to extend in care past age 18 based on only some of the Act 91 criteria, but not others?

No.  Act 91 provides the criteria for eligibility to remain in care past age 18.  Counties cannot select some of the activities listed in the law, but not others. 

Case Example: County A feels strongly that higher education is key to youth developing self-sufficiency skills and decided it would only allow youth to remain in care past age 18 if they enroll in high school or higher education. Under this policy, youth who work at least 80 hours a month would be ineligible to remain in care in County A. 

This policy is impermissible under Act 91. Counties must honor all four of the activities allowed under Act 91, and the exception, as bases to remain in care past age 18. Counties that want to encourage youth to pursue higher education can and should implement policies and support services that increase the odds that youth will pursue higher education. However, they may not prevent youth from accessing extended care by removing one of Act 91’s eligibility criteria or the activity exception in furtherance of this goal. Examples of programs or services that would encourage youth to pursue education could include providing more academic support and college exploration activities as early as possible and as part of the IL curriculum. It could also include partnerships with local colleges and universities to better prepare youth for higher education and help with retention. Connecting youth with SAT and ACT preparation classes and academic mentoring programs could also be implemented. Providing all of these services and supports and communicating to youth that the county values their education is a great way to increase the odds that older youth will pursue higher education and training and is not only permissible, but encouraged.    

What about dispositions—should they be different based on what activity the youth selects?

Under the Juvenile Act, all dispositions should be individualized.  See Janet D. v. Carros, 362 A. 2d 1060, 1076 (Pa. Super. 1976). They should also be “best suited to the safety, protection and physical, mental, and moral welfare of the child.”  42 Pa. C.S.A. § 6351 (a). A youth’s disposition includes treatment, services, visitation, and supports as well as where the youth will live (placement or living arrangement).  The activity the youth has chosen—school, work, training, etc.—will play a role in the type of disposition chosen because it will impact the support the youth needs and may affect the placement needs of the youth. The differences in the dispositions would be based on the individual differences in the youth’s needs. However, no activity should be treated more preferably than another in terms of the services or supports provided to a youth. For example, a youth should not be rewarded or given more privileges than another youth simply because of the activity he or she chose to pursue.

Is it recommended that youth have a “back-up plan” or alternative criterion for eligibility?

Yes. Adolescence and young adulthood are naturally times of growth, experimentation and confusion. Young adults are exploring their independence, learning who they are, and what their interest and strengths are. Taking this into consideration, having a back-up or alternative criterion for remaining in care past age 18 makes sense. Having an alternative activity in mind will help those working with the youth to be prepared to support and guide the youth as he or she experiences different career paths and opportunities on the path to self-sufficiency and adult living.

Can youth change the activity they select as the basis to remain in care past age 18?

Yes. The law does not prohibit the youth from changing bases for eligibility.  However, at each permanency hearing the court must find that the youth still meets the definition of a “child” including meeting the activity requirement or its exception. 42 Ps. C.S.A. § 6351 (f)(8.1).   

The goal of remaining in care past age 18 is to help youth develop the skills they need to be successful in the adult world. As we all know, figuring out the path to success, including decisions about career, work, and education takes some exploration and time. Youth should be supported in this exploration and receive guidance and instruction as they navigate their options, skills, and talents. Changing the activity selected may be the result of growth and experience. For example, a youth who decided to focus on employment may decide that he or she wants to pursue higher education or training to further career opportunities after seeing co-workers with more education get promoted. Alternatively, changing the activity may reflect the emergence of a treatment need or identification of a disability that requires a more-specialized program or services. The youth and his or her team should work together to integrate this change into the independent living and transition plan so that appropriate goals and support can quickly be put in place to reflect any changes.


Notifying Youth About Act 91

Is the county children and youth agency obligated to notify youth about their right to remain in care past age 18 under Act 91?

Yes. The Children in Foster Care Act requires that youth be notified of their right to request to remain in care past age 18 under the law. Now that the Juvenile Act has been amended by Act 91, the notification must be based on the amended law. This means that the children and youth agency must inform youth that they can request to remain in care past age 18 and of the criteria under the law for making their request.  A youth-friendly brochure on the new law can be found here. 

It is recommended that county agencies, providers, lawyers, and judges start discussing the option to remain in care past age 18 well before the youth reaches age 18 so that an ongoing dialogue can occur about the pros and cons of remaining in care as well as the importance of transition planning.


How Youth Request to Remain in Care Past Age 18

Are youth automatically continued in care past age 18 if they are meeting any of the listed criteria?

No. Act 91 does not change the requirement that the youth must make a request to the court that jurisdiction be continued past age 18 and the youth wishes to remain in care. For this reason, it is extremely important that the youth and the youth's attorney make the request clear to the court and the children and youth agency. As mentioned above, the child welfare agency should notify youth of this right, and also assist them in documenting this request.</p> <p>Youth should also put their request in writing as soon as they can before turning age 18 and renew the request regularly thereafter. In the request, the youth should state the activity or activities they plan to engage in, or whether they have a health or behavioral health condition that prevents them from meeting the activity requirements. The Family Service Plan (FSP) and Individual Service Plan (ISP) meetings are good times to bring up the issue of extension of care and make sure the youth's intentions are clear and documented. A sample template for youth requests can be found here.


The Impact of Staying in Care Past Age 18 on the Rights of Youth Who Are Legally Adults

Do young adults who remain in the child welfare system past age 18 or re-enter the system between ages 18 and 21 still retain all the rights of an adult?

Yes. Like many young adults who remain in the home and rely on the care of their parents, a dependent 18-year-old retains all the legal rights of an adult. For example, he or she can vote, make all his or her own health care decisions, and decide who gets to see his or her health records, etc. That the young adult has these rights does not mean that he or she does not benefit from—and usually want—the input and guidance of caring adults. The child welfare system should make all efforts to respect and acknowledge the adult status of the young person while also balancing the obligation to provide him or her with treatment and care. 


Whether the Child Welfare Agency Should Be Given Legal Custody of a Dependent Youth Who Is an Adult

Should the juvenile court give the child welfare agency legal custody of an 18-year-old who remains in care past age 18?

No. The child welfare agency should not be given legal custody of a competent adult. The agency should be given “responsibility for placement and care” of dependent youth who is age 18 or older. As will be discussed below, the child welfare agency only needs “responsibility for placement and care”—and not legal custody—to claim Title IV-E reimbursement for the youth.

Does the child welfare agency need legal custody of the 18-year-old dependent youth to receive Title IV-E reimbursement for the youth’s cost of care (foster care maintenance)?

No. Under federal law, the child welfare agency must have “responsibility for placement and care of the youth” for the youth to be IV-E eligible. See 42 U.S.C.A. § 672 (a)(2)(B). The Administration for Children and Families (ACF)—the federal agency responsible for overseeing the implementation of the federal child welfare laws—has made clear that responsibility for placement and care does not equate with legal custody of a child. See Administration for Children and Families, Child Welfare Manual, 8.3A.12 TITLE IV-E, Foster Care Maintenance Payments Program, Eligibility, Responsibility for placement and care, Questions 1 & 4. 

“Responsibility for placement and care” is sufficient authority to allow the child welfare agency to make decisions about the child’s placement and provide required and needed services while allowing a dependent youth over the age of 18 to retain all the legal rights of any other adult.

What does “responsibility for placement and care” mean?

ACF has explained that:

The term placement and care means that the State agency is legally accountable for the day-to-day care and protection of the child who has come into foster care through either a court order or a voluntary placement agreement. Sometimes this responsibility translates to "custody" or "care and control" of the child via a court order, but custody is not a title IV-E requirement. Placement and care responsibility allows the State agency to make placement decisions about the child, such as where the child is placed and the type of placement most appropriate for the child. It also ensures that the State provides the child with the mandated statutory and regulatory protections, including case plans, administrative reviews, permanency hearings, and updated health and education records.

—Administration for Children and Families, Child Welfare Manual, 8.3A.12 TITLE IV-E, Foster Care Maintenance Payments Program, Eligibility, Responsibility for placement and care, Question 4.


Placements for Youth in Care Between Ages 18 and 21

Where can youth who continue in care past age 18 be placed?

After age 18, youth can remain in the same types of placements as youth under age 18. This includes:

  • Family foster homes
  • Formal kinship care homes (kin licensed as foster parents)
  • Group homes
  • Institutions
  • Transitional living placements (TLP)
  • Supervised independent living placements (SIL)

As with youth of all ages, the law requires that the youth be placed in the least restrictive and most family like placement. The requirement to provide reasonable efforts to achieve permanency still exists for youth who resume jurisdiction. Family like settings and settings that support connections with caring adults who are committed to the youth past the transition from care should be provided. The placement must also be appropriate to the youth’s age and needs. This means that placement in group care and institutional settings should be rare, especially for older youth who need to learn independent and adult living skills. The majority of older youth should be placed in family settings and settings that facilitate the acquisition of independent living skills and the development of supportive adult connections. As will be discussed below, child welfare agencies have increased opportunities to provide supervised independent living settings to youth between the ages of 18 and 21. These settings, in combination with building and maintaining supportive adult connections and family for the youth, should be encouraged.

Youth who remain in foster homes should be provided age-appropriate freedom and responsibility. Child welfare agencies, advocates, and courts should consider how this setting should look different for youth who are now adults so that independence, trust, and skill building are developed. Caseworker and Independent Living Workers can assist youth and foster families in navigating these issues. Tools that can helpful in guiding the discussion and creating a plan to formalize arrangements and rules include the Youth Fostering Change Teen Success Agreement and California’s Shared Living Agreement.

How are placements for dependent youth ages 18 to 21 funded?

Like all child welfare placements, providing placements for dependent youth between ages 18 and 21 is the responsibility of the county children and youth agency.  In Re Tameka M., 534 A. 2d 782 (Pa. Super. 1987), aff’d., 580 A.2d 750 (Pa. 1990). The cost of care is split between the county and state based on Act 148 and consistent with Pennsylvania Regulations.  62 P.S. § 709.1 et seq.; 55 Pa. Code § 3140.22 (“reimbursable services”). If the youth is Title IV-E eligible and is in placement for which IV-E reimbursement can be received, the county can be federally reimbursed for the placement as well. Regardless of whether or not reimbursement is available from the state or Title IV-E funds, the county child welfare agency is responsible for providing any services ordered by the juvenile court. 55 Pa. Code § 3130.12 (c)(5). 

What are transitional living placements (TLPs)?

The intent of a TLP is to provide youth with the opportunity to learn and practice life skills while receiving consistent, but not constant, supervision and guidance. TLPs are licensed by the Department of Public Welfare under Title 55 Pa. Code, Chapter 3800 regulations (relating to Child Residential and Day Treatment Facilities). A TLP is a home or living unit for fewer than five children, who are 16 years of age or older, with or without their own children who are able to live in a semi-independent living setting. These placements provide a less restrictive placement setting for older dependent or delinquent youth. Chapter 3800 regulations exempt TLPs from some of the requirements for residential settings in terms of supervision and staff-to-youth ratio. These exemptions reflect the age-appropriate design of the program and allow youth to receive supportive services and case management. 

Case Example: An 18-year-old, who has requested to remain in care past age 18, is being stepped down from a Residential Treatment Center. She is attending the local high school and has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which is providing her academic services, daily living skills, and a work experience.  The youth will be placed in a TLP. The TLP is housed in a single row home in the community.  The youth has her own bedroom. Two other youth also live in the TLP and have their own bedrooms. All the youth share a kitchen, common living space, and a bathroom. All the youth living in the home receive case management and life skills instruction by the TLP provider. A staff person from the TLP provider is present at the row home throughout each night as a resident advisor. The youth residents are responsible for keeping their daily routines, making their own meals, household chores, etc. The caseworkers and resident advisor provide guidance and support in teaching and reinforcing skills.   

How have supervised independent living placements been provided in Pennsylvania?

For many years, Pennsylvania has provided supervised independent living placements to dependent and delinquent older youth to help them prepare for adulthood. The Pennsylvania regulations define “supervised independent living service” as the “provision or arrangement of living quarters and social services designed to support and supervise children who are living on their own. The child may be in the custody of the child’s parents, the county agency, or another agency or individual.” 55 Pa. Code § 3140.22 (e) (3). This setting is reimbursed by the state at the same rate as family foster care and group care: the county pays 20% and the state pays 80% of the cost of care. (See below for more on the new ability to draw Title IV-E fund for these placements.) Generally, these settings have taken the following forms:

  1. an apartment in the community that the youth lives in alone or with a roommate under the supervision of an SIL provider agency, or
  2. an apartment in a building owned or leased by an SIL provider where provider staff lives on site a portion of the time; or
  3. a dorm setting for youth who attend college or post-secondary programs that provide residential living.

Are SIL settings Title IV-E reimbursable for youth ages 18 to 21?

Yes. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 included “a supervised setting in which an individual lives independently” as a Title IV-E reimbursable setting—along with family foster care and child care institutions—for youth ages 18 to 21. 42 U.S.C.A. § 672 (c). Therefore, not only will the county be reimbursed by the state at a 20/80 rate for this setting, it can also receive IV-E reimbursement.

Is more flexibility allowed in how SIL is provided to youth between ages 18 and 21?

Yes. ACF encourages states to be creative and “innovative in determining the best living arrangements that could meet an older child's needs for supervision and support as he or she moves toward independence." (Guidance on Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, Program Instruction, ACYF-CB-PI-10-11, at p. 9.) Child welfare agencies should work with providers in their counties to develop a continuum of placements that meet the needs of older youth. Fostering Connections frees counties and providers from some of the restrictions and limitations that apply to placements for minors so that they can innovate and develop programs that are appropriate for young adults and produce better outcomes. 

What examples has ACF provided to states regarding what can be considered a reimbursable supervised setting in which a youth lives independently?

ACF has listed the following living arrangements, “when paired with a supervising agency or supervising worker” as examples of SILs:

  • host homes,
  • college dormitories,
  • shared housing,
  • semi-supervised apartments,
  • supervised apartments or another housing arrangement

(Guidance on Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, Program Instruction, ACYF-CB-PI-10-11, at p. 9.)

What is a host home?

A host home living arrangement is one where a youth rents a room in a family or single adult’s home, shares basic facilities, and agrees to basic rules while being largely responsible for his or her own life. Host homes have some similarities with resource/foster homes. The host home provider should be a reliable and supportive individual who can provide guidance as the youth makes the transition to adulthood. However, in contrast to a foster home, the host is not necessarily a licensed resource parent and does not have to go through the process of having the home licensed. The “host” is not a caregiver for the youth, but rather a resource who can provide guidance, instruction and support. Host home living arrangements provide an opportunity for a youth to develop skills prior to becoming independent and living on their own.

A host home can be a former resource parent, teacher, coach, relative, kin, or church member with whom the youth has a positive relationship. In this environment, the youth would be able to come and go as he or she chooses and be expected to manage his or her time, money, school, work, and appointments without oversight from the host home. The youth is expected to follow the rules of the home, as with any other renting situation. Agencies should facilitate the creation of a host home agreement between the youth and the host that should be included with the case plan. An example of an agreement from Indiana can be found here. California has developed this template for host homes and shared living arrangements.

Must SIL settings be licensed for youth 18-21 in the same manner as foster homes and group care?

No. ACF has stated that SIL settings do not have to be licensed in the same manner as foster care and group care settings. Specifically, "a Title IV-E agency has the discretion to develop a range of supervised independent living settings which can be reasonably interpreted as consistent with the law, including whether or not such settings need to be licensed and any safety protocols that may be needed”  (Guidance on Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, Program Instruction, ACYF-CB-PI-10-11, at p. 9).

While the state must develop some process for approval of these settings, this process need not mirror the process for foster home and group home licensing for minors. Rather, the approval process should reflect basic safety standards and a consideration of the age-appropriate needs and skills of the youth. The setting should be considered in the context of a larger inquiry of how the youth may be supported in achieving his or her permanency and transition goals and the readiness for adult living.

Can an SIL setting be IV-E reimbursable if the county agency or provider pays the youth directly for the cost of the SIL setting?

ACF has made clear that “youth who are 18-21 may be paid directly if they are placed in a supervised setting” (Guidance on Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, Program Instruction, ACYF-CB-PI-10-11, at p. 9). 

In addition, this practice of direct payment is also permissible for youth 18-21 who are not IV-E eligible.

What are examples of situations where it makes sense to pay the cost of care directly to the youth?

Like all aspects of a disposition, how and what services are provided is an individualized determination.  The youth and the youth’s team should discuss this option and determine whether it makes sense given the youth’s living situation, skills, and proximity of discharge.  In addition, the resources and providers available to provide SIL settings in certain counties may make direct payments to a youth the most feasible way to provide SIL in certain situation.

The following are examples of cases where it may make sense to pay a youth directly:

Case Example 1: 19-year-old who has extended in care attends college out of state and lives in the dorms during the school year. The majority of his board and care is paid for by his financial aid package. The child welfare agency pays the youth a direct stipend of $350 each month to cover incidentals and costs that are not covered by financial aid. This amount was arrived out after developing a budget. During holidays and summer breaks when the youth cannot live in the dorms, the child welfare agency makes a direct payment of $650 to the youth.  The youth uses the funds to rent a room from a mentor and to pay for food and other living expenses. The mentor lives in the county in which the youth’s case is open with the child welfare agency. Prior to its implementation, the youth and his team discussed this plan and met with the mentor to determine living arrangements, house rules and responsibilities, and the accompanying costs. 

While the youth is in college, the youth’s county caseworker communicates with the youth at least two times a month by video/Skype and visits in person with the youth at her apartment quarterly. The county child welfare agency where the college is located agreed to provide courtesy monthly face-to-face meetings with the youth. On breaks, the county worker provides regular supervision and contact with the youth. The youth continues to participate in person at permanency and IL/transition planning meetings and at her court hearings.

The youth and his team felt that he had acquired a good level of independence and responsibility through his IL instruction and living on campus in college and that he could both handle and would benefit from the experience of “paying rent” and managing money with the supervision of the child welfare agency and guidance of the mentor. They came up with a shared living agreement to make house rules and other responsibilities clear. The child welfare agency determined this was appropriate given the youth’s individual strengths and the support provided by the setting. Further, the child welfare agency found the home of the mentor to be appropriate and compliant with all local safety standards. Because the mentor was not interested in being a foster parent, but was committed to supporting this youth and working with the agency, this arrangement fit the needs of the agency and the youth. 

Case Example 2: 20-year-old youth is completing her college program in a county several hours away from her home county. This county has no SIL providers. There is no dorm housing available for juniors and seniors, but apartments are relatively affordable in the community. The youth gets an apartment with a roommate from school and is paid a direct stipend to cover her portion of the rent and other living expenses that are not covered by her financial aid. She is able to live in this apartment for the year and thus will not face any gaps during holidays and breaks. The county caseworker visited the apartment, found it appropriate, and that it met all local safety standards. She also met with the youth and the roommate to talk about how expenses would be divided and helped them draft a shared living agreement.

The youth’s county caseworker communicates with the youth at least two times a month by video/Skype and visits in person with the youth at her apartment quarterly. The county child welfare agency where the college is located agreed to provide courtesy monthly face-to-face meetings with the youth. The youth continues to participate in person at permanency and IL/transition planning meetings and at her court hearings.

The youth and her team found that direct payment to the youth helped her further develop her independent living skills and that it was an age-appropriate decision, given the independence and maturity she had shown in the last several years. Because the youth was less than a year away from discharging from care, giving her this level of freedom and responsibility also made sense. Finally, directly paying the youth helped the agency, which had no provider to contract with in the county that the youth was attending college.

Are there any tools available to help child welfare agencies determine if an SIL setting that a youth selects is appropriate?

Yes. Counties are encouraged to develop their own tools, but some already exist that can be used or modified. There are two types of tools to consider: 1) Tools that assess the youth’s readiness to live in a more independent and less supervised setting and 2) Tools that evaluate whether the setting is safe and appropriate. 

1. Tools that Assess a Youth’s Readiness

Counties should consult with their IL workers for the most up-to-date and useful life skills assessments available. Frequently used assessments include: the Ansell-Casey Life Skills Assessment and the Daniel Memorial Life Skills Assessments. There are many other assessments that may be useful in addition to these two.

California has developed a readiness tool that is used along with other more detailed life skills assessments like those mentioned directly above. California’s Supervised Independent Living Placement (SILP) Readiness Assessment Sample Tool can be found here.

2. Tools that Assess the Safety and Appropriateness of the Setting

Tools to assess the appropriateness and safety of an SIL setting should reflect the age-appropriate needs of the youth as well as their status as legal adults.  Measures of safety and appropriateness should be rigorous, but should look different than the standards for assessing foster care and other licensed settings for minors. 

California’s state child welfare agency has developed a form to assess SIL settings.  This form, SILP Inspection: Checklist of Facility Health and Safety Standards, focuses in on key elements of a setting that would make it appropriate or inappropriate for a young adult. 

If a youth who is between the ages of 18 and 21 finds a living arrangement that could be considered an SIL, can the county receive reimbursement from the state to fund this placement even if the location of the SIL is in a biological parents’ home?

Whether a disposition, including a placement, is appropriate is an individualized determination based on the youth’s needs. How it is funded or what reimbursement if available is not a factor in determining appropriateness. 

However, if the SIL setting provides the youth a safe living arrangement, is appropriate given the youth’s supervision and IL skill needs, and is consistent with the youth’s permanency and IL/transition goals, the fact that the location is in the parent’s home would not preclude it from being an SIL for which the county would pay 20% of the cost under state regulations. 55 Pa. Code § 3140.22 (e) (3).  As described by ACF, this setting would truly have to be an SIL setting and not take the form of a foster home or reunification. That is, the youth would need to demonstrate a level of skill that would make SIL appropriate with the proposed supports and the setting would have to one where supervised independence was allowed. While this situation should be rare, an individualized analysis should be done to determine if it is appropriate. The child welfare agency should examine each case individually and consider how the setting, rules/structure of the living arrangement, and proposed supervision match (1) the youth’s permanency and transition goals and (2) the youth’s level of IL skills and need for supervision. The county should also consider the availability of alternative, age-appropriate living arrangements in the county for youth between the ages of 18 and 21.

ACF provided the following examples of acceptable SIL setting that involve living on the premises of a parent:

For example, the title IV-E agency may consider a youth who normally resides in a dorm during college who then lives in a room in the home of his/her parent during breaks from college, or a youth who takes classes and rents a basement room from his/her guardian to be in allowable supervised independent living settings when paired with agency supervision. Ultimately, it is up to the title IV-E agency to consider the circumstances of the youth and the supervised independent living arrangement to determine whether it would be an appropriate and allowable independent living setting. (See Administration for Children and Families, Child Welfare Manual, 8.3A.8d  TITLE IV-E, Foster Care Maintenance Payments Program, Eligibility, Facilities requirements, supervised independent living, Question 1.)

In this example, the setting takes the form of a more traditional IL setting similar to a supervised apartment. It is consistent with the youth IL goals to complete college and be self-sufficient and meets her housing needs during breaks so that she does not become homeless.

If a youth who is between the ages of 18 and 21 finds a living arrangement that could be considered an SIL, can the county receive IV-E reimbursement for this placement even if the location of the SIL is in a biological parents’ home?

If the living arrangement is truly an SIL setting, consistent with ACF guidance, the county child welfare agency could receive IV-E reimbursement for the cost of the placement if the youth is also IV-E eligible. ACF has stated that “[i]t is within the title IV-E agency's discretion to determine that residing with a parent or guardian is an allowable supervised independent setting provided that the title IV-E agency is providing supervision.” (See Administration for Children and Families, Child Welfare Manual, 8.3A.8d TITLE IV-E, Foster Care Maintenance Payments Program, Eligibility, Facilities requirements, supervised independent living, Question 1.)

Can a child welfare agency consider a youth who is age 18 or older who is living in a substance abuse, mental health, or other adult residential treatment facility to be in a reimbursable SIL setting?

ACF received this question and provided the following answer:

A title IV-E agency may consider a substance abuse, mental health or other adult treatment facility to be a supervised independent living setting only if the youth is living in the facility voluntarily. In addition, this arrangement must be paired with title IV-E agency supervision. (See Administration for Children and Families, Child Welfare Manual, 8.3A.8d  TITLE IV-E, Foster Care Maintenance Payments Program, Eligibility, Facilities requirements, supervised independent living, Question 2.)

Can a youth who returns to the court’s jurisdiction be placed home with a parent as part of a plan for reunification?

Youth who stay in care past age 18 or return to care under resumption of jurisdiction, have access to the same continuum of placements as youth under age 18.  In addition, the obligation to provide permanency remains.  If the permanency plan is reunification or a parent is now a permanency resource for the youth, a plan for reunification, including return home can occur in a resumption of jurisdiction case. What services and supports the youth and family would receive while the family is working towards reunification would be determined by the court’s disposition. As described above, the situation in which a youth may be in a supervised setting in which he or she lives independently that may be on the premises of a parent is a distinct situation from a plan for reunification, and may also be appropriate in certain situations. 


Resumption of Dependency Court Jurisdiction: Re-Entry

Can youth who age out of care really re-enter care? 

Yes. A youth is eligible to re-enter care if they are under age 21; discharged from the court's jurisdiction within 90 days of turning age 18 or any time after turning age 18; and engaged in at least one of the following activities:

  • Completing secondary education or an equivalent credential;
  • Enrolled in an institution that provides post-secondary or vocational education;
  • Participating in a program actively designed to promote or remove barriers to employment;
  • Employed for at least 80 hours per month; or  
  • If the youth has a medical or behavioral health condition that prevents them from engaging in any of the activities listed above, they remain eligible as long as their treatment provider provides documentation of the condition for inclusion in the permanency plan.

What is the legal mechanism for allowing a youth over age 18 to re-enter care? 

While many people refer to this provision of the law as “re-entry,” technically, a youth is asking the juvenile court to resume jurisdiction of the youth’s case. Once jurisdiction is resumed, the youth can get assistance from the child welfare agency. Assistance can include placement and/or an array of services in the same manner that it would if the youth had opted to remain in care past age 18.

Is a new finding of dependency required for the court to resume jurisdiction of the case?

No. This is not a new dependency case. The new law allows the juvenile court to resume jurisdiction over a youth who was previously adjudicated dependent before turning age 18. A new adjudication of dependency is not required.  When the youth meets the eligibility criteria under the law, the court resumes—or re-opens—the case of a previously dependent youth. In other words, it picks up the case where it left off as if the youth had decided to continue in care past age 18. This means that the court is not required to find new grounds for dependency or determine if the youth is currently being abused or neglected. If they meet the eligibility criteria, jurisdiction should be resumed.

Case Example: Youth was discharged from dependency jurisdiction at age 18. He is currently 19 years old and is working at least 80 hours a month. He is homeless, but the week he came to request that the court resume jurisdiction of his case, he was sleeping on the floor of his biological mother’s apartment. This youth is eligible for resumption of jurisdiction. While his mother is providing him temporary shelter, that is not relevant to his eligibility to resume jurisdiction. The child welfare agency should make attempts to engage the youth’s mother in planning and, with the youth’s input, explore permanency options with her and the youth after the court resumes jurisdiction. However, no new finding of dependency needs to be made for the youth to re-enter care. The fact that the youth is sleeping on his mother’s floor makes him no less eligible for resumption of dependency jurisdiction under Act 91.

Would a youth who discharged from the court’s jurisdiction at age 16 and who is now 19 and needs help be eligible to re-enter care under Act 91?

No. Act 91 limits resumption of jurisdiction to youth who “age out” of care; therefore not all youth who were once in the dependency system are eligible. One of the key components of eligibility for resumption of jurisdiction under Act 91 is that termination of dependency court jurisdiction must have occurred within 90 days of the youth turning age 18 or after age 18

However, while a youth who was discharged from dependency jurisdiction at age 16 would not be eligible for resumption of jurisdiction, he or she would still be eligible for Chafee IL aftercare services. For more information on eligibility for Independent Living Services see Youth Independent Living Services Guidelines Bulletin and Appendix, Office of Children, Youth, and Families, Bulletin 3130-11-04, July 8, 2011. 

Are youth who were under the court’s jurisdiction at age 18 or older, but placed in the home of a parent at that time eligible to ask the court to resume jurisdiction?

Yes. The law allows youth for whom court jurisdiction was closed within 90 days of turning age 18 or any time after turning age 18 to request resumption of jurisdiction if they meet the eligibility requirements. Jurisdiction, not placement, is required.  This means that some dependent youth who are placed in the home may be eligible for resumption of jurisdiction if they meet the requirements. 

Case Example:  Youth was adjudicated dependent at age 15. She was placed in foster care while family visits gradually increased, family counseling was provided and the youth’s mother was assisted in applying for rental assistance. The youth was returned home at age 17, but juvenile court jurisdiction remained open and the case was reviewed in court until the youth turned age 18, at which time court jurisdiction was terminated. Following the mother’s arrest and loss of housing, the youth requested resumption of court jurisdiction at age 19. Because this youth was attending community college and working part time, she met the activity requirement. In addition, this youth was still under age 21 and the court terminated jurisdiction of her case when she was age 18. This youth would be eligible for resumption of jurisdiction despite the fact that she was placed at home when jurisdiction was terminated.

Are youth who were dependent, but whose last placement was through the delinquency system, eligible to re-enter care under Act 91?

Yes, as long as dependency court jurisdiction was terminated within 90 days of the youth turning age 18 or after the youth turned aged 18, the youth is still under age 21, and meets the activity requirement or its exception. 

Case Example: Youth was adjudicated dependent at age 13. He was adjudicated delinquent at age 16 while in a group home placement. The juvenile court placed the youth at treatment program for delinquent youth at age 16. The youth remained in that placement under dual jurisdiction until age 18 when he signed himself out of the dependency system and his probation was terminated. Due to significant mental health problems, the youth requested to re-enter care at age 18 and half after being homeless and without his medication for several months due to loss of insurance. In addition to being enrolled in an employment program for adults with mental illness, the child welfare agency had in its possession significant documentation of the youth’s mental illness and its impact on the youth’s ability to function. Because this youth was still under age 21 and dependency court jurisdiction terminated on his 18th birthday, this youth is eligible to re-enter care.  

Can eligible youth who have their own children request to re-enter?

Yes. If the youth meets the eligibility requirements, he or she is eligible to re-enter care regardless of whether they have a child. That the youth has children is relevant to the youth’s disposition (placement and services) once he or she re-enters care, but his or her status as a parent does not impact his or her ability to request that the court resume jurisdiction or eligibility. 

If a youth who has a child re-enters care does his/her child need to found dependent?

No. The law remains that for a child to be found dependent, grounds for dependency must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Being a young parent or a dependent child is not grounds for dependency of the youth’s child.  See In the Interest of Kyle Austin Hall, 703 A. 2d 717, 719 (Pa. Super. 1997). The cost of the placement and services for mother and child are paid for through the dependent child who is re-entering care. See 45 C.F.R. 1356.21 (j).[1] 

Can a youth who has a juvenile adjudication or a criminal conviction re-enter care?

Yes, if they are eligible. If a youth is under age 21, was previously adjudicated dependent, and had his or her dependency jurisdiction terminated by the court within the 90 days prior to turning 18, or on or after his or her 18th birthday, and meets the activity requirement, he or she is eligible. Having juvenile record or criminal conviction does not make a youth ineligible for resumption of jurisdiction.

That a youth has a juvenile adjudication or criminal conviction may be relevant to placement or disposition options, but does not have an impact on eligibility for re-entry.

Case Example: A youth had her dependency jurisdiction terminated when she was age 19. About six months after her discharge from care, she was arrested and charged with assault after getting in an altercation with a boyfriend. After being convicted of a lesser offense, she was placed on probation and required to pay court fees. At age 20, the youth requested that the court resume jurisdiction of her case. At that time, she was enrolled in a culinary arts program at the local community college, receiving counseling, and working part time for a catering company. Under Act 91 this youth is eligible to re-enter care.

Can a youth who has a driver’s license and a car re-enter care?

Yes. If the youth meets the eligibility requirements of the law they should be eligible to re-enter care. Getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage that all teens look forward to and work towards. Getting a license and owning a car have accompanying legal requirements of their own. In many areas of Pennsylvania, having a driver’s license is an essential independent living skill that allows youth to achieve educational and employment goals, especially when public transportation is not readily available. County children and youth agencies are encouraged to develop age-appropriate and common sense approaches to youth learning to drive, having driver’s licenses, and driving that promote age-appropriate responsibilities and opportunities for youth in care that mirror the opportunities provided to youth who are raised in their own families.  

What if the youth is not yet engaging in one of the required activities when he or she asks to re-enter care?

The intention of the re-entry provision is to provide a safety net for youth who aged out without a proper plan or whose plan fell through and have now come upon difficult times. The provision was intended to allow the court and child welfare system to respond to the youth and take advantage of this opportunity to re-engage the youth. The activity requirement should be interpreted broadly with the goal of promoting the development of independent living skills and the young adult’s well-being. For example, working closely with the IL program and caseworker may be the appropriate activity to reduce barriers to employment for some youth with significant barriers to self-sufficiency and stability. Individualized determinations should be made and the safety-net intent of the provision should always be kept in mind.  

Youth who inquire about re-entry and express a firm commitment to engage in one of the required activities should be assisted in identifying and taking steps to meet the activity requirement. For example, a youth who has become homeless may no longer have the identification documents needed for school enrollment or funds for transportation to seek employment. If the youth has a disability that prevents them from meeting the activity requirements, the child welfare agency should assist the youth in collecting the documentation needed to establish eligibility. As explained above, much of the youth’s treatment records will be in the children and youth case file.

Working with the youth to overcome the barriers to meeting the requirements should be done simultaneously with filing a motion to resume jurisdiction, or engaging the youth in a Voluntary Placement Agreement, to ensure that the process can respond to the situation of the youth while also taking steps toward meeting the requirements of the statute. The youth should actively meet the Juvenile Act’s definition of a child by the date of the court hearing and when the court order for resumption of jurisdiction is executed, the order should identify that the youth is fulfilling the definition of child.

Is there any time period or time limitation during which re-entry is allowed?

No. The law does not establish a limited time window, such as six months or one year, for re-entry. An eligible youth can re-enter any time before reaching age 21.  An eligible youth is one who:

  • Discharged from dependency court jurisdiction  90 days before turning 18 or any time after age 18;
  • Is engaged in at least one of the required activities or has a documented medical or behavioral health condition that prevents such activity on the date of his or her court hearing, and is under age 21. 

What about the concept of a "trial discharge"?

"Trial discharge" was a term and process described in the Independent Living Services Bulletin promulgated by DPW prior to the enactment of Act 91. It was an attempt to encourage counties to provide youth some flexibility when they discharged prematurely. In effect, it was an attempt to cover the gap in the law that Act 91 has now filled. 

While there may still be instances when it is appropriate for a youth to go on a trial discharge, with the passage of Act 91 trial discharge is no longer a necessary practice for those youth who have dependency jurisdiction terminated by the Court within 90 days prior to turning age 18 or on or after their 18th birthday. 


Which Youth Are Covered by Act 91

Is a youth who aged out of care prior to the enactment of the law—but who is still under age 21—eligible to re-enter?

Yes. If the youth meets the eligibility criteria, they are eligible even if they discharged before the law was enacted.

Does this include youth who were dependent and aged out in states other than Pennsylvania?

No.  One of the key components of eligibility for resumption of jurisdiction is that the youth was previously adjudicated dependent in Pennsylvania and had dependency jurisdiction under the Juvenile Act terminated within 90 days of turning age 18 or after turning age 18.


Procedures for Resumption of Jurisdiction

What is the procedure for resumption of jurisdiction? 

The Juvenile Act, amended by Act 91, provides the eligibility criteria for resumption of jurisdiction at 42 Pa. C.S.A. 6351 (j). Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Rules on Resumption of Jurisdiction were recently issued and became effective on December 1, 2013. These Rules provide specific guidance on how motions are filed and the procedures and processes that must be followed. Juvenile Law Center has also created a summary of the Rules.

The questions in the following section are information by the law and the Rules.

Who can file a resumption of jurisdiction motion?

Under Juvenile Court Rule 1634, a youth, the county child welfare agency, or the youth’s attorney can file a motion for resumption of jurisdiction.

Is the county children and youth agency required to file a motion for resumption of jurisdiction if a youth makes the request?

Yes. According to the Comments to Juvenile Court Rule 1634, if approached by the youth, the county agency or the attorney for the youth “is to assist the child in the filing of the motion.”  Because in many counties it will be the agency or agency representative, such as an IL worker, who the youth will have the most contact with, agencies should be prepared to facilitate filing to ensure that the youth has access to the court and an attorney can be appointed to assist him or her. To meet the requirements of the Rules, it is recommended that:

The county children and youth agency:

  • Develop a protocol for handling calls and inquiries from youth requesting re-entry, including a process for filing motions in court;
  • Develop procedures to meet immediate shelter and other basic needs on an emergency basis while processing a case to court; and
  • Make all procedures as youth friendly as possible to prevent barriers to access to services.

Children's attorneys should:

  • Inform their clients of the right to re-enter if and when they leave care before turning age 21, and
  • Be prepared to file motions for resumption of court jurisdiction.

What must be contained in the motion for resumption of jurisdiction?

Juvenile Court Rule 1634 (B) requires that the following be included in a motion:

  • That dependency jurisdiction was terminated within 90 days of the youth’s 18th birthday or on or after the youth’s 18th birthday, and 
  • The youth is under age 21, and
  • The youth was adjudicated dependent before turning age 18, and
  • The youth has requested that the court resume jurisdiction, and
  • The youth is doing at least one of the following:
    • Completing post-secondary education or an equivalent credential
    • Enrolled in an institution which provides postsecondary or vocational education,
    • Participating in a program actively designed to promote or prevent barriers to employment,
    • Employed at least 80 hours per month; or
    • Is incapable of doing any of activities listed above due to a medical or behavioral health condition supported by regularly updated information in the permanency plan for the child. 
  • Whether the youth would like his or her guardian or other interested adult involved in the court proceedings;
  • That a verification has been signed by the youth attesting the above requirements have been met; and
  • Whether an expedited hearing for placement and services is being requested due to the youth’s current living arrangement.

Does the child welfare agency need to notify the youth’s parent or guardian of the motion for resumption of jurisdiction?

While the court will make the final determination about notification, the Juvenile Court Rules require that the motion indicate the youth’s preference about whether a parent, guardian, or other interested adult should be notified. Juvenile Court Rule 1634 (B). Similarly, the Rules state that notice to a parent, guardian, or other interested adult will be given if requested by the youth. Juvenile Court Rule 1635 (B). If the youth wants a parent, guardian, or interested adult notified, the name and contact information should be provided in the motion. 

What can county child welfare agencies do to implement this notification requirement in a way that promotes older youth permanency and respects youths’ wishes?

It is recommended that county agencies develop a process so that the discussion of notification can be had in a way that respects youths’ wishes, but also supports them in developing a network of caring adults who can play a positive role in their lives. Many agencies and staff have acquired great expertise in the area of older youth permanency that they can put to good use in developing these procedures.  Staff that have expertise in family finding and family group decision making in particular should be consulted in developing procedures. How older youth are engaged with parents and other supportive adults in a constructive and appropriate manner can make a big difference in improving permanency options for a youth who re-enters care. 

If a youth has moved between counties in Pennsylvania, where should the resumption of jurisdiction motion be filed?

Juvenile Court Rule 1634 (A) requires that the motion be filed in the county that had dependency jurisdiction of the youth. The Comments to the Rules also state that if the youth has moved to another county, the case may be transferred to another county at any time after the filing of the motion, including prior to hearing on the motion. 

It is recommended that child welfare agency develop policies on how cross-county cases will be handled that prioritize helping the youth maintain and benefit from any stability or ties that they have made in the community that they consider their own even if it is not the “home” county, 

Case Example: Youth was adjudicated dependent in County A, but was placed in a therapeutic foster home in County C, two hours away from County A. The youth signed herself out of care at age 18 despite the counseling of the child welfare agency and her foster parents. The youth remained in county C after her discharge, but did not have a viable discharge plan and “house hopped” for several months.  Without support and structure, she let her health insurance lapse and stopped going to treatment or taking her medication. At age 19 she told her former foster parents she would like to re-enter care and live with them or in a program where she could get some help.

The youth and her former foster parents called the agency worker in County A. As per the Court Rules, the agency worker assisted the youth and prepared the case for the county solicitor in County A and a resumption of jurisdiction motion was filed for the youth in County A. After consulting with the youth and the foster parents and the chain of command at County A and C, it was agreed that County C would provide supervision of the case, but that permanency reviews and casemanagement would occur in county A. Because County A would have responsibility for placement and care of the youth, it was financially responsible for the cost of care, which would be delivered by the youth’s former foster parents.  County A renewed its special contract with the foster care agency in County C that employed the foster parents. 

Are youth who were dependent in other states eligible to ask that the court resume jurisdiction of their case in Pennsylvania?

No. At this time, Act 91 only allows youth who were adjudicated dependent under Pennsylvania law to be eligible for resumption of jurisdiction. However, a youth who is under age 21 and was in the child welfare system of another state when they were age 16 or older, may be eligible for IL services if they are living in Pennsylvania. Therefore, youth between ages 18 and 21 should be assessed for Chafee IL eligibility if they are not eligible for re-entry under Act 91. 

Does the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts provide a sample Motion for Resumption of Jurisdiction?

Yes. The Comments to the Court Rules provide a link to a sample motion here.  Note that the motion references that the “child has signed a verification that the above requirements have been met.” Please make sure to have template verification forms available if the youth will be filing to facilitate the process. A sample verification template created by Juvenile Law Center can be found here.

How soon after a resumption of jurisdiction motion is filed should a hearing be held?

Juvenile Court Rule 1635 requires that a hearing be held within thirty days of a motion being filed. 

Are there any provisions for expedited hearings when a youth needs placement or services immediately?

Yes. Rule 1634 does permit requests for expedited hearings based on the circumstances of the youth such as a need for immediate assistance or placement. Advocates should ensure that motions for resumption of jurisdiction clearly signal that an expedited process is necessary when the circumstances require. See the section directly below for how Voluntary Placement Agreements can be used to address emergency situations in some resumption of jurisdiction cases.


Using Voluntary Placement Agreements in Resumption of Jurisdiction Cases

Can a youth re-enter care through entering a voluntary placement agreement (VPA) with the county children and youth agency?

Yes. Youth can re-enter care through a voluntary placement agreement (VPA).  A VPA may be an ideal way to handle at least two situations that may arise in resumption of jurisdiction cases:

  1. A situation where the youth has immediate and emergent needs that cannot wait 30 days.
  2. A situation where either the youth or the agency need more time to establish eligibility or gather documentation of eligibility for resumption of jurisdiction and the agency wants to provide placement and services in the interim.

See a sample VPA for a youth seeking resumption of jurisdiction here.      . 

Can VPAs be used to assist youth as they work to establish eligibility for resumption of jurisdiction?

Yes. While the activity requirements, and the exception, are broad enough to encompass most of the situations that youth will face, entering into a VPA with the youth may be appropriate when they truly do not yet meet one of the activity requirements, but are otherwise eligible. Entering into a VPA with the youth would allow the children and youth agency to provide placement and services immediately as they work with the youth to establish eligibility. Because the youth must be fulfilling one of the activity requirements or the exception for the court to grant a motion to resume jurisdiction, the 30 days of the VPA should be used for activities such as: school enrollment, assistance with job searching, help with enrollment in training programs or other independent living skill building programs, and gathering records that document a disability. Because many youth who seek re-entry may be in difficult or crisis situations, such as homelessness or facing unmet health needs, it is likely that they will be willing to meet one of the activity requirements, but may need help doing so. 

The children and youth agency should be prepared for these situations and work with their IL program and other community resources to develop effective ways to assist the youth to reconnect with education, work or treatment, depending on the youth’s wishes and needs so that eligibility can be established as soon as possible.


Questions About the Requirements and Options for Youth Once the Court Resumes Jurisdiction Under Act 91

What does a youth need to do once he or she re-enters care?

A youth will need to be actively engaged in at least one of the activities listed in the new definition of "child" to re-enter and remain in care. This includes:

  • Completing secondary education or an equivalent credential;
  • Enrolled in an institution that provides post-secondary or vocational education;
  • Participating in a program actively designed to promote or remove barriers to employment; or
  • Employed for at least 80 hours per month; or 
  • If the youth cannot engage in one of the activities due to a documented medical or behavioral health condition that prevents them from meeting any of the activity requirements

Proof of meeting the requirements, including the exception, must be updated in the permanency plan.  The youth's attorney should help ensure that appropriate documentation is in the youth's file and included in the permanency plan to assure continued eligibility. At each permanency hearing, the court must make findings that the youth continues to meet the definition of “child” as amended by Act 91.  

What kinds of services can a youth get when the court resumes jurisdiction?

When the court resumes jurisdiction, the youth has access to all the services that the child welfare agency can provide and any services that the court orders. Permanency reviews, permanency planning, independent living, and transition planning requirements will continue to apply to the case. Youth will continue to receive placement, case management, health insurance, court reviews, and appointment of an attorney. The exact services and treatment the youth will get will depend on the youth’s individual situation and needs. For example, placement may be with kin, in a Supervised Independent Living Apartment, or a dorm at college. A youth for whom the court resumes jurisdiction may also receive in-home services rather than placement if that is appropriate. Like all dependency cases, the disposition will depend on the individual youth. Youth who resume dependency jurisdiction are legal adults and they play a key role and have great responsibility in guiding both the court and children and youth agencies in what they feel is in their own best interests.

Does the youth’s attorney represent the youth’s wishes and/or what the lawyer thinks is in their best interests in a resumption of jurisdiction case?

Under Juvenile Court Rule 1151, the attorney for the youth should be appointed as counsel. This means that the attorney must represents the youth’s expressed wishes.   


Questions About Placement for Youth Who Re-Enter Care Under Act 91

Where can youth who re-enter care be placed?

See the section above, Questions about Placements for Youth in Care Between Ages 18 and 21.  Youth who re-enter care under Act 91 have access to the same types of placements as youth who extend in care past age 18, including the more flexible SIL placement.    

However, because some youth who seek re-entry may be facing emergency situations where they need placement immediately, child welfare agencies are encouraged to develop temporary placements to meet these immediate needs. 

Case Example: County A did an analysis of the number of youth that had discharged from care around age 18 and were still under 21. It also examined how many placement options it had in the county that could accommodate youth 18-21. As County A worked on increasing the number of foster homes that could serve youth 18-21 and contracting with two new providers to develop SILs, it worked with a foster care provider that had a good reputation working with teens. It recruited four homes, each with the capacity to serve three youth, to serve as temporary placements for youth who were re-entering care so that their immediate needs could be met. These foster parents and the provider staff received specialized training in working with older youth and were connected with the behavioral health system so that they could easily access support if needed. The county IL staff also provided training and other support to the foster homes and provider. 

County A hopes to phase out these “temporary” placements as they develop their older youth placement continuum, but wanted to have resources in place to meet the immediate needs of youth and keep them engaged. 


Title IV-E Eligibility For Youth Who Re-Enter Care

How is IV-E financial (income) eligibility handled for youth who re-enter care under Act 91?

The child welfare agency has two options for determining a youth’s IV-E eligibility based on their income—or AFDC—eligibility. 

  1. Eligibility Based on the “Trial Home Visit” Model
  2. If the youth requests resumption of jurisdiction within 6 months of termination of jurisdiction or within a time prescribed by the court, there is no new foster care episode and the determination made prior to discharge can still be used if the county elects.

  3. Eligibility Based on a New IV-E Foster Care Episode
  4. Re-entry into care can be considered a new foster care episode. The child welfare agency may then consider only the youth’s income (not the income of the youth’s parent) in determining financial eligibility under the AFDC criteria.  Under this option, the majority of youth who re-enter care should be IV-E eligible even if they were not when they were formerly in care.

See Guidance on Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, Program Instruction, ACYF-CB-PI-10-11, at p. 6-7; Administration for Children and Families, Child Welfare Manual, 8.3A.2 TITLE IV-E, Foster Care Maintenance Payments Program, Eligibility, Age, Question 2.


Notifying Youth About the Right to Request Resumption of Jurisdiction

Is the county agency required to notify the youth about the right to request to re-enter care?

Yes. The Children in Foster Care Act requires that youth be notified of their rights by virtue of their current or former foster care status. In addition, Juvenile Court Rule 1631 (E) requires that the transition plan contain a notice that the youth has been informed of his or her right to request that the court resume jurisdiction of the case and the criteria for eligibility.


Tools and Templates That Are Available for Resumption of Jurisdiction

What tools has Juvenile Law Center developed to assist with the resumption of jurisdiction/re-entry process?

The following revised tools are available on Juvenile Law Center’s website:

Note that Juvenile Law Center will continue to revise and update these tools. Please check our Fostering Connections - Implementation Tools webpage for any updates and the most recent versions of these materials.

What templates has the Administrative Office for the Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) developed?

The AOPC has developed this sample Motion for Resumption of Jurisdiction


Extension of Adoption and Permanent Legal Custodianship Subsidies Past Age 18

Do the changes in the law impact adoption and permanent legal custodianship? 

Yes. Act 80 sought to correct disincentives to permanency that existed in the law. Because adoption and guardianship subsidies ended at age 18, some families would opt to have the child remain in foster care because benefits and services could extend until age 21. Act 80 now allows adoption and guardianship subsidies to extend until age 21 for youth who turned age 13 before the adoption or guardianship subsidy became effective, so long as the youth meets the definition of child.

Do children whose Permanent Legal Custodian (PLC) subsidies or adoption subsidies are extended past age 18 have to engage in any particular activities to be eligible?

Yes. Youth in extended subsidy arrangements must meet the same activity criteria as youth in extended foster care. They must engage in at least one of the following activities, or the exception:

  • Completing secondary education or an equivalent credential;
  • Enrolled in an institution that provides post-secondary or vocational education;
  • Participating in a program actively designed to promote or remove barriers to employment;
  • Employed for at least 80 hours per month; OR
  • If the youth has a medical or behavioral health condition that prevents them from meeting any of the listed criteria, they remain eligible as long as documentation of the condition is maintained.  

Until more direction is provided, families should be encouraged to create a file and update their records at least every six months with proof of the condition and any related treatment. 

How will a youth's compliance with the activity requirements be monitored?

Case management, permanency planning, and court supervision is not provided by the child welfare agency to youth in adoption or guardianship arrangements. County agencies do have the obligation to verify or obtain assurances that all criteria for extension of permanent legal custodianship and adoption subsidies for youth 18 years of age to 21 have been met, and continue to be met, every six months at a minimum

How each county agency will meet this obligation may vary. It is likely that compliance monitoring will be detailed in the subsidy agreement. The attorney for the youth should review this document with the caregiver and youth so they understand any requirements to send documents or other proof of continued eligibility. This might include proof of enrollment, work schedules, as well as proof of a medical or behavioral health condition that prevents a child from meeting any of the activity requirements. It is also recommended that if the caregiver has an attorney he or she review the agreement as well.

If the process for assuring compliance is not clear, families should maintain a file where proof of a child's activities can be updated at least every six months to assure a continued eligibility.

Which children and families are eligible for extended subsidies?

In addition to the existing eligibility requirements for adoption and guardianship subsidies, to be eligible for a subsidy past age 18, the child must be age 13 or older when the adoption or guardianship subsidy agreement becomes effective and the youth must continue to meet the definition of child under the Juvenile Act by satisfying the activity requirement or its exception. 

What about children who are still under 21, but had their adoption or guardianship arrangement finalized when they were age 13 or older, but before the date of the enactment of Act 80? 

These youth may be eligible for an extended subsidy. If you think a youth may be eligible, contact the children and youth agency with which you entered into the original subsidy agreement and make a formal request to renegotiate the terms of your current subsidy agreement—if it is set to end when the youth turns 18—or to reinstate the subsidy and change the terms so that it will extend until age 21 if the subsidy has already been terminated. Use this form to make the request. 

It is important to note that OCYF has adopted a more narrow interpretation of the application of Act 80 to subsidy arrangements that became effective prior to the enactment of Act 80. 

 

For more information, please contact Jenny Pokempner at Juvenile Law Center at (215) 625-0551, ext. 111., or [email protected]

 


 

[1] See Also Administration for Children and Families, Child Welfare Manual8.3A.5  TITLE IV-E, Foster Care Maintenance Payments Program, Eligibility, Child of a minor parent, available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/cwpm/programs/cb/laws_policies/laws/cwpm/policy_dsp.jsp?citID=53.

 

Last updated July 28, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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