New Extension of Foster Care Program - For Courts

On Jan. 1, 2014, youth will have the choice to stay in foster care until age 21. The new "MY Future, MY Choice" program will give kids living options, and a support network in order to assist them with the transition to adulthood.  Young adults receiving Independent Living benefits under an existing program on December 31, 2013, may choose to remain in the current program through grandfathering.

There are some requirements for the new programs, such as school/work, case management and court reviews, but the youth can leave and re-enter the programs as many times as they need to.

Judicial Implications

  • Begins Jan. 1, 2014.
  • Legislation
  • Automatic extended court jurisdiction.
  • Regular judicial reviews every six months until the youth's 21st birthday.
  • Significant changes to judicial reviews at 17 years of age, as noted in the Legislation.
  • Any child who opts out of extended care, as well as any young adult who is over the age of 18 on January 1, 2014, has the right to opt in to extended care an unlimited number of times. However, the young adult will only be accepted back if he or she has not yet achieved permanency and meets the program requirements, e.g., enrollment, or working 80 hours monthly.  [See the program requirements in § 39.6251, F.S.]   Young adults with a documented disability are exempted from those requirements. Permanency for a young adult is adoption or marriage.
  • The case worker, group home/foster parent will work closely with each young adult to manage his or her living, education and allowance funds. Each case will be treated on an individual basis depending on the responsibility of the young adult.

Program overview:

  • Allows former foster care young adults between the ages of 18-21 to continue to reside, or return, to licensed foster care or approved supervised living environments.
  • Young adults with a diagnosed and documented disability may continue to reside in extended foster care up to their 22nd birthday.
  • This new law provides a supplemental life skills and normalcy board rate payment to foster parents caring for each youth aged 13-17.
  • Provides direct payment of foster care board rates to foster families and group home providers for young adults in foster care.
  • Provides continued case management services for all young adults in extended foster care.
  • Provides six-month Judicial Reviews for all young adults in extended foster care.
  • If a young adult is currently receiving Subsidized Independent Living Services or participating in the Road-to-Independence Program he or she will be "grandfathered in" as long as he or she meets the eligibility requirements for the program, and will continue to receive benefits through the existing programs.  The young adult continuing with RTI may opt in to  the new program, as well, which will forfeit any benefits under the existing program.
  • Youth can leave and re-enter the program at any time through their 21st birthday.

Requirements:

At the age of 18 have been residing in licensed foster care.

AND

  • Attending high school or working on GED; or
  • Enrolled in college or vocational education program; or
  • Employed at least 80 hours per month; or
  • Participating in a program designed to promote or eliminate barriers to employment.; or
  • Have a diagnosed and documented disability that would prevent the young adult from participating in any of the activities listed above.

In order to stay in the program, the young adult must:

  • Meet with a caseworker every month
  • Continue to participate in at least one of the activities listed above
  • Attend Court reviews every six months

If a young adult leaves the program and want to get reenter:

The young adult must submit an application to the community based care lead agency for eligibility determination. Rules governing this re-entry process are currently in development.

Living Arrangement Options

  • With a licensed foster parent: If it is agreed upon by both the young adult and foster family, the young adult may continue to reside with their current foster family.
  • In a licensed group home: If it is agreed upon by both the young adult and group home placement, the young adult may continue to reside in their current group home.
  • Supervised living arrangements (i.e.: college dormitory, rental home or apartment): All supervised living arrangements must be approved and supervised on a regular basis by the community based care service provider.

Postsecondary Education Services and Support (PESS)

A young adult who has completed high school or has an equivalent credential and who pursues postsecondary education, whether academic or vocational, may be eligible for additional financial support.  This support is called PESS and is available for a young adult who is in "MY Future, MY Choice" and is also available for a young adult who is not receiving any assistance from the CBC, provided the young adult meets the PESS eligibility requirements.

Eligibility for Postsecondary Education Services and Support payments is limited to:

Young adults who turned 18 while residing in licensed care and who have spent a total of six months in licensed out-of-home care.

OR

Young adults who were adopted after the age of 16 from foster care, or placed with a court-approved dependency guardian, after spending at least 6 months in licensed care within the 12 months immediately preceding such placement or adoption.

AND

Have earned a standard high school diploma, or its equivalent.

AND

Are enrolled in at least 9 credit hours and attending a Florida Bright Futures eligible educational institution.  If the young adult has a documented disability or is faced with another challenge or circumstance that would prevent full-time attendance and the educational institution approves, the young adult may attend fewer than 9 credit hours.

The law limits PESS to Florida Bright Futures eligible schools.  However, there is another, more limited financial support for a young adult who wishes to attend a post-secondary school that is not a Bright Futures school, e.g., an out-of-state school.   An annual federal Educational Training Voucher (ETV) educational stipend payment of up to $6,250 may be available, provided the chosen academic institution meets ETV eligibility requirements.  ETV may also be available for a young adult attending a post-secondary institution only part-time.

PESS STIPENDS – Method of Payment

  • Method of payment of PESS stipends.  PESS stipends are in the monthly amount of $1256.  They will NOT initially be made directly to the student. Instead, the community based care service provider will make all housing and utility payments for the student. Any remaining funds will be disbursed to the student. This arrangement shall continue until the student can demonstrate that she or he has acquired the capability to responsibly manage housing and utility payments.
  • Students receiving the PESS post-secondary educational stipend may also be in extended foster care.  The method of the payment depends upon whether the young adult is residing in a foster home or group home or is temporarily residing away from the home.

Aftercare Services

If a young adult decides not to be in "MY Future, MY Choice" or PESS, she or he may be eligible for temporary services, including financial services. These include rent payments, car repairs, employment assistance, and mental health or substance abuse services.

These services are only for young adults who are not receiving any other services

Current Independent Living Youth (Grand-fathered in)

Young adults enrolled in any Independent Living program as of Dec. 31, 2013, including Road to Independence or Transitional Support Services, or children in Subsidized Independent Living may choose to remain in their current program for so long as they retain eligibility for the duration of that specific program.  The chart in the link above explains duration of each program.

Any young adult enrolled in a pre-2014 Independent Living Program may choose to opt in to "MY Future, MY Choice".  If they do so, however, they forfeit their benefits under the grand-fathered programs. 

For more information, contact DCF at DCF.IndependentLivingRedesign@dcf.state.fl.us.