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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    Senate Document No. 7

    Document Title
    Options for Implementing the Extension of Foster Care Maintenance and Adoption Assistance Payments for Individuals Up to 21 Years of Age (SJR 282, 2013)

    Department of Social Services

    Enabling Authority
    SJR 282 (Regular Session, 2013)

    Executive Summary
    This report was required by Senate Joint Resolution No. 282 (2013), in which the General Assembly requested the Department of Social Services (DSS) to develop and present options for implementing the extension of foster care maintenance and adoption assistance payments for individuals up to 21 years of age.

    In 2008 Congress passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (the Act). The Act addressed new provisions in a number of areas in Titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act (P.L. 110-351) including the option to access federal funding to extend foster care, adoption assistance and, if the state has one, guardianship programs, up to age 21. Virginia does not have a guardianship program at this time, so the provisions would only apply to Virginia’s foster care and adoption programs.

    While it is difficult for most states, including Virginia, to track youth leaving foster care, there are national studies which have focused on the topic and confirm what most people and organizations suspect – most youth are still in need of services and support after age 18. In their paper Cost Avoidance: The Business Case for Investing in Youth Aging Out of Foster Care, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative states that every year, nearly 26,000 young people age out of foster care without permanent families or support. The outcomes associated with this include homelessness, lack of education and criminal involvement. The paper states the estimated lifetime cost to taxpayers to be $8 billion. For each state, that is $300,000 per youth for each cohort year.

    Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have implemented the provisions of the Act to extend foster care and adoption assistance to age 21. There are three more state’s pending approval with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and two states have extended foster care services and adoption assistance agreements using state money.

    In 2012, the DSS contracted with the Finance Project, an organization that had been providing cost/benefit analysis for multiple states, to produce a report for DSS to be submitted to the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee. The Executive Summary for that report is included here and the entire report is posted on DSS’s public website. Appendix 1 has information on accessing this report. http://www.dss.virginia.gov/files/about/reports/children/foster_care/2012/studies/FINAL_Extending_FC_Adop_Assistance.pdf

    If the General Assembly determines that Virginia should extend foster care and adoption assistance to age 21, there are decisions that need to be made including:

    • What parameters to put around the educational or employment efforts needed to be eligible;

    • What range of supervised independent living arrangements will be acceptable;

    • Will youth be allowed to leave and opt back in to the program- how many times; and,

    • What is the role of legal counsel for youth over age 18 and what is the role of the court.

    What Virginia is learning from states that have already implemented is the importance of careful planning. Making sure that local departments of social services, the court system, providers and other state agencies are all on the same page with a clear understanding of how the provision of services to older youth will work is critical. If legislation is proposed for the 2014 General Assembly to implement the Act, DSS recommends a delayed implementation.

    Other considerations that support delaying the implementation for at least a year include upgrades that must be made to the child welfare information system as well as all reports that are produced from this system. In addition, Virginia may not draw down federal funds to support this program until an approvable plan has been presented to the Administration for Children and Families.