Act 91 FAQs: Child Welfare Agency and Dependent Adult Youth
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.
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.