A person who is 18, 19 or 20 years of age and who attained 18 years of age while in the care and custody of the State may continue to receive care and support if the person is (A) enrolled in secondary school or its equivalent or is enrolled in postsecondary or career and technical school; (B) participating in a program or activity that promotes employment or removes barriers to employment; (C) employed for at least 80 hours per month; or (D) found to be in special circumstances, including but not limited to being incapable of qualifying under (A) – (C) due to a documented medical or behavioral health condition. Me. Rev. Stat. tit 22, § 4037-A(1)(a).
Pursuant to Department policy, youth may also remain in care if there is a “specialized placement need that cannot be met by an alternative plan.” Me. Dep’t of Health and Human Servs., Child and Family Services Policy § V.T (2012).
Youth in extended care may be placed in a supervised setting in which the person lives independently, in a foster home or in a group home. 22 Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 22, § 4037-A(2).
Voluntary Care Agreement Requirement
The youth and the Department must negotiate a Voluntary Extended Care (V9) Agreement. Me. Dep’t of Health and Human Servs., Child and Family Services Policy § V.T (2012).
Contents of Voluntary Care Agreement
Pursuant to the agreement, youth agrees to participate in enumerated services, follow an enumerated education plan and/or employment conditions, apply to MainCare for health coverage, and to abide by additional enumerated conditions. Me. Dept’ of Health and Human Servs., V9 Agreement.
Eligibility & Procedure
Youth who meet eligibility criteria may negotiate a Voluntary Extended Support (V9) Agreement with the Department in order to receive extended placement and other supports, including case management, until their 21st birthday. Me. Dep’t of Health and Human Servs., Child and Family Services Policy § V.T (2012).
Eligible youth include those who were legally adopted after the age of 18 whose adoption disrupts prior to the age of 21, and a “youth was in foster care and is now experiencing factors that place the youth at risk of homelessness.” Id. If the youth exits V9 status and later re-enters V9 status, the court must make an initial court determination that remaining in foster care is in the child’s best interest. Id.
Courts & Rights
Court Oversight of Extended Care
The court retains jurisdiction until age 21 over youth who are offered but decline a Voluntary Extended Care Agreement or whose agreement is suspended to allow the youth to enter or return to extended care. Me. Dep’t of Health and Human Servs., Child and Family Services Policy § V.T (2012).
The court must make an initial determination that remaining in foster care is in the child’s best interest and at each subsequent review the court must make a finding that the Department has made reasonable efforts to finalize a permanency plan. Id.
In a judicial review order, the court may order either the department or the person or both to comply with the agreement of extended care and support but may not order the department to pay for a specific placement. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 22, § 4037-A(3).
Procedure for Continuing Court Oversight
The District Court shall hold a judicial review for each person who qualifies for care and support under this section at least once every 12 months. The court shall hear evidence and shall consider the original reason for the extended care and support of the person and the agreement of extended care and support between the department and the person. The court shall, after hearing or by agreement, make written findings, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that determine: A. The safety of the person in the person's placement; B. The services needed to transition the person from extended care and support to independent living; and C. The compliance of the parties to the agreement of extended care and support. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 22, § 4037-A(3).
Right to Counsel
Youth in extended foster care are not entitled to a GAL. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 22, § 4037-A(5).
Termination of Extended Care
Pursuant to Department policy, extended care may be suspended when the youth has achieved independence to the extent that financial and support services are no longer needed; the youth has made a voluntary decision not to participate in the program; the youth has consistently demonstrated unwillingness, or inability to participate in program services, or follow the terms of the V9 Agreement; or the youth enters a branch of the military. Me. Dep’t of Health and Human Servs., Child and Family Services Policy § V.T.
Eligibility for Extended Adoption Assistance
Adoption assistance may extend between ages 18 and 21 if the child needs educational benefits or has a physical, mental or emotional handicap which warrants the continuation of adoption assistance. Code Me. R. tit. 10-148 Ch. 13, § 5(g); see also Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 18-A, § 9-404 (authorizing the Department to establish rules for adoption assistance program).
Eligibility for Extended Guardianship Assistance
Permanency guardianship assistance may extend between ages 18 and 21 if the child needs educational benefits or has a physical, mental or emotional handicap which warrants the continuation of assistance. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 22, § 4038-D.