Category Archives: foster care benefits

Chafee Grant Application Deadline

Q: I submitted my FAFSA a few months ago and my college has already packaged my financial aid. I didn’t realize that I could qualify for a Chafee grant and so didn’t apply. Is it too late for me to apply since college has already started?

A: It is not too late. There is no deadline for submitting a Chafee grant application and the application can be submitted any time during the school year. Chafee funds of up to $5000 are available to students enrolled at least half time who were in foster care between the ages of 16 and 18. In order to qualify you must submit both a FAFSA (or California Dream Act Application) and a separate Chafee application. Although funds are distributed at the beginning of the school year, some students do not enroll and these funds are returned and continue to be distributed throughout the year as long as there are funds available.

Even if you do not get awarded funds this year, applying now will make it more likely that you will qualify next year, so the sooner you can submit your application the better.

Note that currently you must not have reached your 22nd birthday as of July 1st of the award year, however this age limit is in the process of being increased to age 26.

Foster Youth Reproductive and Sexual Health Rights-Storing Birth Control Pills

Q: I am with an Foster Family Agency. What guidance should I give Resource Families about a foster youth’s right to obtain and use contraception, specifically any requirements about storing birth control pills.

A: First, you should inform Resource Families that youth and young adults in foster care have the right to consent to or decline medical care (without need for consent from a parent, caregiver, guardian, social worker, probation officer, court, or authorized representative) for:

  1. The prevention or treatment of pregnancy, including contraception, at any age (except sterilization).
  2. An abortion, at any age.
  3. Diagnosis and treatment of sexual assault, at any age.
  4. The prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of STIs, at age 12 or older.

This is one of ten reproductive and sexual health rights of foster youth outlined in All County Letter 16-81  CDSS provides the following guidance about storing prescriptive contraception medicine, such as birth control pills:

“Resource families are not required to centrally store prescription medications. For youth under the age of 18, the resource family shall use the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard (RPPS) to determine whether it is appropriate for the youth to have access to medications for self-administration (FFA ILS, § 88487.3(c)(2); RFA Written Directives (WD), § 11-03(c)(2)). For youth who are 18 or older, the resource family shall permit the youth to access medications necessary for self-administration (FFA ILS, § 88487.3(d)(2); RFA WD, § 11-03(d)(2)).”

Source: All County Letter 16-81, CCL’s: “Healthy Sexual Development Resource Guide for Children’s Residential Facilities and Resource Families

Duration of the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program

Q: I understand that under the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program, eligible families can receive six months of child care vouchers which can be extended up to 12 months. Do counties have the discretion to limit the duration to under six months? 

A: No, counties do not have the discretion to limit the duration of the Bridge Program. This was addressed in the All County Letter 18-80E disseminated by the California Department of Social Services, stated below:

Do counties have the discretion to limit the duration of the Bridge Program’s child care voucher or payment to under six months?

Pursuant to WIC section 11461.6(f) counties do not have discretion to limit the duration of the Bridge Program’s child care voucher or payment to under six months. Every qualifying child receiving the voucher payment is eligible to continue receiving the voucher for up to six months as long as they qualify or until funds are no longer available. A Bridge Program voucher can be
less than six months if a long-term child care arrangement is made or the dependency is dismissed and the child exits from foster care.

Citation: California Department of Social Services. All County Letter No. I8-80E, Errata to the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children, Question 7 (August 24, 2018). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2018/18-80.pdf

Medi-Cal for Former Foster Youth in the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program

Q: I understand that foster youth who are part of the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program are eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal. What about once they exit their URM placement as non-minors? Are they eligible for Medi-Cal up to age 26 in the same way that former foster youth are in our county child welfare systems?

A: Yes, youth who meet Former Foster Youth (FFY) Program eligibility requirements are eligible to continue receiving full-scope Medi-Cal under the FFY Program. California’s FFY Program eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • In foster care in any state on 18th birthday
  • Currently reside in California
  • Younger than 26

According to recently issued guidance from the California Department of Social Services, “When the County Welfare Department learns that a FFY eligible Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) youth has exited their URM placement (at age 18 or older), the County Welfare Department shall seamlessly transition the youth into the Medi-Cal program for FFY and assign the 4M aid code even if the youth’s whereabouts are unknown.”

Citation: California Department of Social Services. All County Welfare Directors Letter 18-14. All County Information Notice I-38-18 (July 3, 2018). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACIN/2018/I-38_18.pdf

For previous guidance issued by the state to counties regarding FFY eligibility for Medi-Cal, visit Children Now’s webpage: http://coveredtil26.childrennow.org/resources

Resources for Students with Disabilities

Q: I am helping a student with learning disabilities who will be attending community college in the fall. Are there any resources available for her as a student with a disability?

A: Yes, every community college campus has a Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) office. She will need to provide evidence that she has a disability in order to qualify for their services. The DSPS program provides support services, specialized instruction, and educational accommodations to students with disabilities so that they can participate as fully and benefit as equitably from the college experience as their non-disabled peers. Examples of services available through DSPS that are over and above those regularly offered by the college would be test-taking facilitation, assessment for learning disabilities, specialized counseling, interpreter services for hearing-impaired or deaf students, mobility assistance, note taker services, reader services, transcription services, specialized tutoring, access to adaptive equipment, job development/placement, registration assistance, special parking and specialized instruction.

You can find a list of DSPS for each campus here.

Applying to Participate in the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program

Q: I am from one of the 16 counties that did not participate in the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children for Fiscal Year 2017-18. I’d like my county to participate for FY 2018-19. What is the process and how much could my county receive if it does?

A: Counties that intend to participate in the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program (Bridge Program) starting July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019 must complete and submit a plan to the Child Care Programs Bureau by July 20, 2018. The plan template is included as an attachment to recently issued All County Letter 18-73.

The minimum funding allocations for counties that opt into the program are also included as an attachment to ACL 18-73. The child care navigator and training allocations were calculated by determining each county’s percentage of eligible caseload to the statewide total eligible caseload. The voucher allocation was calculated utilizing the eligible caseload multiplied by the Regional Market Rate for the appropriate category to develop each county’s percentage of the total statewide allocation.

After approval of submitted plans, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) will distribute any unallocated Bridge Program funds among participating counties. According to CDSS, final allocations for FY 2018-19 will be included in forthcoming County Fiscal Letters along with claiming instructions.

What is the Bridge Program?

The goals of the Bridge Program are to increase the number of foster children successfully placed in home-based family care settings, increase placement stability, increase the capacity of child care programs to meet the needs of foster children, and maximize funding to support the child care needs of eligible families.

Families eligible for the Bridge Program are resource families and families that have a child placed with them in an emergency or for a compelling reason; licensed foster family homes or certified family homes; approved homes of relatives or non-relative extended family members; and parents under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, including but not limited to non-minor dependent parents.

In counties that opt into the Bridge Program, it provides eligible families with a time-limited child care voucher or payment to help pay for child care costs for children birth through age 12, children with exceptional needs, and severely disabled children up to age 21. It also provides a child care navigator to assist with finding a child care provider, securing a subsidized child care placement if eligible, completing child care program applications, and developing a plan for long-term child care appropriate to the child’s age and needs.

Citation:

California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 18-73 (June 14, 2018). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2018/18-73.pdf?ver=2018-06-20-143808-703

California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 17-109 (October 27, 2017). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2017/17-109.pdf?ver=2017-10-30-132310-620

Getting Chafee if You Have an Overpayment

Q: Can a student still receive a Chafee grant if they have an outstanding Pell grant overpayment or a loan in default?

A: Yes, a student can receive a Chafee grant even if they have an outstanding Pell grant overpayment or a loan in default. The requirements for the Chafee grant vary somewhat from the Pell grant requirements, and Chafee grants are not held as a result of an outstanding federal Pell grant overpayment or loan default. Eligibility for a Chafee grant differs in a couple other ways from that of a Pell grant as well – students are not required to meet selective service requirements (i.e. draft registration) in order to qualify for a Chafee grant and do not need a high school diploma to be eligible.

Waiving Court Attendance

Q: Recently I heard a co-worker state that a dependency attorney can waive the child having to appear in court for their hearing. I thought if a child over 10 wanted to attend their court hearing, the attorney could not waive their appearance.

Please let me know if the attorney can waive the child’s appearance, especially when the child knows they have the right to be at their court hearing and they want to attend.

A:  All minors and nonminors in foster care have the right to attend their court hearing and speak to the judge. The important right is included in the foster care bill of rights. To waiver their appearance in court, an attorney must secure their consent prior to the court hearing.

If a child is age 10 or older and does not attend their court hearing, the court is required to determine whether the minor or nonminor was properly notified of his or her right to attend the hearing and inquire whether the minor was given an opportunity to attend. If the court finds that was not the case, the court hearing is continued for the period of time, “necessary to provide notice and secure the presence of the child.”

Source: WIC 16001.9. & WIC 349(d)

Housing Resources for Youth who Exited Foster Care at Age 16

Q: I exited foster care to guardianship at age 16. I am now 22 and am homeless. I understand that because I was not in care on my 18th birthday that I am not eligible for the THP-Plus program. Are there any housing resources that I might be eligible for?

A: Yes, you might be able to access a Family Unification Program (FUP) voucher to assist with the cost of housing, if there are vouchers available in your area. FUP is a program under which Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs), also commonly known as Section 8 vouchers, are provided to:

  • Families for whom the lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in either the imminent placement of the family’s children in out-of-home care or delay in the discharge of the children to the family from out-of-home care.
  • Youth at least 18 years old and not more than 24 years old who left foster care at age 16 or older or will leave foster care within 90 days and are homeless or at risk of homelessness.* FUP vouchers used by youth are limited to 36 months of housing assistance.

*For information about the definition of “at risk of homelessness,” see a FUP factsheet by HUD.

Currently, 33 housing authorities in California administer 3,159 FUP vouchers in partnership with their county child welfare agencies. In addition to rental assistance provided through the voucher, the child welfare agency provides supportive services to the youth for the first 18 months.

For transition-age former foster youth, the child welfare agency initially determines if the youth meets the FUP eligibility requirements, certifies that the youth is eligible, and refers those youth to the housing authority. Once child welfare makes the referral, the housing authority places the FUP applicant on its HCV waiting list and determines whether the youth meets HCV program eligibility requirements.

Income eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by the housing authority based on the total annual gross income and family size compared with the HUD-established income limits for the area. In general, the youth’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income (very low-income limit) for the county or metropolitan area in which the family or youth chooses to live. Median income levels are published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For example, for the State of California, the Very Low-Income Limit for a household of one is $27,150/year, however when calculated by county it will vary.

To find out whether FUP vouchers are available in your area, contact the Independent Living Program (ILP) at your county’s child welfare agency, or your local housing authorities. Click HERE for a list of ILP coordinators by county, or HERE for a list of city and county housing authorities in California. For more information about the process after a youth receives a FUP voucher, read the FUP factsheet by HUD.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) has introduced legislation to permanently reauthorize $200 million annually for FUP vouchers. For more information about the bill, read a recent press release.

Citation:  

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Office of Housing Voucher Programs. Fact Sheet, Housing Choice Voucher Program, Family Unification Program. https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/FUP_FACT_SHEET.PDF

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. Income Limits. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/il.html

Reporting Household Size on the FAFSA

Q: I am working with a high school senior to complete the FAFSA and I’m not sure what number she should to answer the question “Your number of family members in 2018-2019 (household size).” Does she include her foster parents? Her siblings? Her biological parents?

A: If she was in foster care at any point after the age of 13, is currently in legal guardianship, or was in guardianship upon turning 18, she qualifies as an “independent student,” which means she does not have to report her parental income. This also means that her household size would include only her, and if applicable, a spouse and any children that she supports. For a single student with no children, the household size reported would be “1.” It does NOT include birth parents, foster parents, siblings, other relatives or others who she lives with.