Eligibility

General Eligibility

A child, who is in foster care on their eighteenth birthday due to the filing of a miscellaneous petition or a petition alleging that the child is dependent, neglected, or abused . . . may voluntarily elect to continue responsibility for care and placement from DCYF and to remain under the legal supervision of the court as a young adult until age 21, provided: (1) The young adult was in the legal custody of the department at age 18; or (2) The young adult is participating in at least one of the following: (i) Completing the requirements to receive a high school diploma or GED; (ii) Completing a secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential; enrolled in an institution that provides post-secondary or vocational education; (iii) Participating in a job training program or an activity designed to promote or remove barriers to employment; (iv) Be employed for at least eighty (80) hours per month; or (v) Incapable of doing any of the foregoing due to a medical condition that is regularly updated and documented in the case plan. 14 R.I. Gen. Laws § 14-1-6(c).

A former foster child who was adopted or placed in guardianship with an adoption assistance agreement or a guardianship assistance agreement that was executed on or after his or her 16th birthday and prior to his or her 18th birthday may voluntarily agree to extended care and placement by the department and legal supervision by the court until age 21 if the young adult satisfies the eligibility requirements above. However, the department retains the right to review the request and first attempt to address the issues through the adoption assistance agreement by providing post adoptive or post guardianship support services to the young adult and his or her adoptive or guardianship family. 14 R.I. Gen. Laws § 14-1-6(d).

Extension Process

Voluntary Care Agreement Requirement

The young adult and DCYF shall execute a "voluntary placement agreement for the extension of care"--defined as a written agreement between the state agency and a young adult who meets the eligibility conditions, acting as their own legal guardian that is binding on the parties to the agreement, 14 R.I. Gen. Laws § 14-1-3(11)--upon or after the young adult's 18th birthday.  14 R.I. Gen. Laws §14-2-11.1 (c). 

Contents of Voluntary Care Agreement

At a minimum, the agreement recognizes the voluntary nature of the agreement, the legal status of the young adult and the rights and obligations of the young adult, as well as the services and supports the agency agrees to provide during the time that the young adult consents to giving the department legal responsibility for care and placement. R.I. Gen. Laws § 14-1-3(11).

Case Management Requirements

As part of the transition planning, the child shall be informed by the department of the opportunity to voluntarily agree to extended care and placement by the department and legal supervision by the court until age twenty-one (21). 14 R.I. Gen. Laws § 14-1-6(b); see also § 14-1-11.1(d) (requiring DCYF representative to discuss the terms of a voluntary agreement with the youth before the youth's 18th birthday).

A young adult's permanency plan shall document the reasonable efforts made by the department and the young adult to finalize a permanency plan that addresses the goal of preparing the young adult for independence and successful adulthood. This includes, but is not limited to, housing assistance to obtain supervised independent living arrangements, shared living arrangements or extended foster and kinship care: education, vocational assessment, job training and employment plan needed to transition the young adult to self-sufficiency: assisting the young adult in obtaining educational goals: a job, employment/vocational skills: any other services and supports that will assist the young adult in accessing available services; applying for public benefits; acquiring important documents, such as ID card, driver's license, birth certificate, social security card, health insurance cards, medical records; attending to physical and mental health needs; maintaining relationships with individuals who are important to them and acquiring information about siblings and other maternal and paternal relatives. 40 R.I. Gen. Laws § 40-11-12.5(a)

The young adult is expected to participate in case planning and periodic reviews. 40 R.I. Gen. Laws § 40-11-12.5(e).

Direct Payment to Youth

All or part of the financial assistance that secures an independent supervised setting for a young adult may be paid directly to the young adult if there is no provider or other child placing intermediary, or to a landlord, a college, or to a supervising agency, or to other third parties on behalf of the young adult in the discretion of the department. 14 R.I. Gen. Laws. § 14-1-3(12).

Re-Entry

A young adult may request reinstatement of responsibility and resumption of the court's legal supervision at any time prior to their 21st birthday if the young adult meets the requirements set forth in §14-l-6(c)(3). R.I. Gen. Laws § 14-1-6(c).

DCYF shall file a petition for legal supervision of the young adult, with a voluntary placement agreement for extension of care, executed by the young adult and an authorized representative of DCYF attached. 14 R.I. Gen. Laws § 14-1-11.1(d).

Courts & Rights

Court Oversight of Extended Care

The court retains jurisdiction over young adults who choose to receive extended care. 14 R.I. Gen. Law § 14-1-6(c), (d).

The court may also retain jurisdiction of any child who is seriously emotionally disturbed or developmentally delayed pursuant to § 42-72-5(b)(24)(v) until that child turns age 21, if the court obtained jurisdiction prior to the child's 18th birthday by the filing of a miscellaneous petition or a petition alleging that the child is dependent, neglected or abused. 14 R.I. Gen. Law § 14-1-6(f).

Procedure for Continuing Court Oversight

The department must petition the court to make a determination whether remaining in foster care is in the young adult's best interests. The court must make a determination within 180 days of the signing of the voluntary placement agreement whether remaining in foster care is in the young adult's best interest. 40 R.I. Gen. Laws § 40-11-12.5(b).

The court shall conduct a permanency hearing within one year after the young adult and the department execute a voluntary placement agreement and annually thereafter. At the permanency hearing, the department shall present a written case plan to the court for approval that details the necessary services, care and placement the young adult shall receive to assist the transition to independence and successful adulthood. The court must determine whether the department has made reasonable efforts to finalize a permanency goal of preparing the young adult for successful transition to independence. 40 R.I. Gen. Laws § 40-11-12.5(c).

Periodic formal reviews shall be held not less than once every 180 days to assess the progress and case plan of any young adult under the court's legal supervision. The permanency plan shall be reviewed by the court at least once every 12 months at a permanency hearing and by the department in an administrative review within 180 days after the permanency hearing. 40 R.I. Gen. Laws § 40-11-12.5(e).

Notice of the court hearings shall be served by the department upon all parties in interest in accordance with the rules of child welfare procedure of the family court. 40 R.I. Gen. Laws § 40-11-12.5(d).

Right to Counsel

Any young adult who is eligible for extended foster care  and who has executed a voluntary agreement for extension of care may request the appointment of a guardian ad litem or court-appointed counsel. An appointment shall be in the discretion of the court. The cost of counsel in those instances shall be paid by the state. 14 R.I. Gen. Laws § 14-1-14(a).

Termination of Extended Care

The court's legal supervision and the department's responsibility for care and placement may be terminated upon the request of the young adult. 14 R.I. Gen. Laws § 14-1-6(e).

If the department wishes to terminate the court's legal supervision and its responsibility for care and placement, it may file a motion for good cause. Id. The court may exercise its discretion to terminate legal supervision over the young adult at any time. Id.

Subsidies

Eligibility for Extended Adoption Assistance

Adoption assistance may continue between ages 18 and 21 if the child has a severe, pre-existing physical, mental or emotional disability or physical condition which is unlikely to change. R.I. Code R. 14-1-700.0090.  

Eligibility for Extended Guardianship Assistance

Guardianship assistance may continue between ages 18 and 21 if the child has a severe, pre-existing physical, mental or emotional disability or physical condition which is unlikely to change. R.I. Code R. 14-1-700.0245(D); see also R.I. Gen. Laws § 40-11-12.3 (authorizing Department to establish guidelines for guardianship subsidy).