Q: I am working with a youth who is in foster care under a Voluntary Placement Agreement and will turn 18 in April 2014. Will she be eligible for extended foster care?
A: In order to be eligible to participate in extended foster care, there must be court order for foster care placement on the youth’s 18th birthday. A Voluntary Placement Agreement is not a court order for foster care placement. Instead, it is an agreement between the county agency (either child welfare or probation) and the parent or guardian of a child that specifies that the child can voluntarily be placed into foster care for a period of time not to exceed 180 days. Prior to the expiration of the 180 days, the agency must take an additional action including returning the child home, releasing the child for adoption, filing a petition to formally remove the child from the home and place the child into foster care, or formally extend the Voluntary Placement Agreement.
In the case of a youth who is nearing 18, the agency must take one of these actions at least 90 days before the youth turns 18. For the youth you are working with, this deadline would occur sometime in January, depending on the exact date that she will turn age 18 in April.
If the agency chooses to file a removal petition, the petition shall be filed and the juvenile court shall issue a dispositional order, if appropriate, in the case prior to the minor attaining 18 years of age.
These provisions help to ensure that a youth who is voluntarily placed has his/her case assessed and, if appropriate, a petition is filed and acted upon in order to ensure that there is a court order for foster care placement on the youth’s 18th birthday.
Source: Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 11400(p), 16507.6