Act 91 FAQs: Placements for Youth Ages 18-21
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. For more information, please contact Jenny Pokempner at Juvenile Law Center at (215) 625-0551, ext. 111., or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
- 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:
- an apartment in the community that the youth lives in alone or with a roommate under the supervision of an SIL provider agency, or
- an apartment in a building owned or leased by an SIL provider where provider staff lives on site a portion of the time; or
- 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
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.