When Does Turning 26 Disqualify a Student from a Chafee Grant?

Q: I’m working with a college student, formerly in foster care who will be 26 in October. I understand the upper age limit for the Chafee Grant was extended to 26. Will this student be eligible to receive a Chafee for the 2019-20 academic year, or will turning 26 in the fall disqualify her?

A: She will still be eligible as long as she does not turn 26 by July 1, 2019, given she meets all other eligibility criteria. To qualify for the Chafee Education and Training Voucher, a student must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a current or former foster youth who was a ward of the court, living in foster care, for at least one day between the ages of 16 and 18.*
  • Have not reached their 26th birthday as of July 1st of the award year.
  • Have not participated in the program for more than five years (whether or not consecutive)

* If the student is/was in Kin-GAP, a non-related legal guardianship, or were adopted, they are eligible only if they were a dependent or ward of the court, living in foster care, for at least day between the ages of 16 and 18.

If she has not already done so, the student should submit a Chafee application as soon as possible. Although there is no deadline, the earlier she applies, the higher she is prioritized for funds. (Note she must also submit a FAFSA if she has not already). If she already submitted a Chafee application for previous years, she does not need to resubmit it.

Citation:

Assembly Bill 1811 (Committee on Budget, Human Services Omnibus, 2018) http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB1811&search_keywords=chafee

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When adoptive parent or guardian stops supporting youth but still receives payments: what must the county do?

Q: If a youth tries to re-enter foster care because their adoptive parent or guardian no longer provides them support, but the parent or guardian is still receiving Kin-GAP or AAP payments on the youth’s behalf, is the county required to take any sort of action to address the lack of support?

A: Yes. In scenarios where a youth alleges that the adoptive parent or guardian is no longer providing support, but the adoptive parent or guardian is still receiving payments on the youth’s behalf, the county must initiate certain activities, which vary slightly depending on whether the youth is in a guardianship or an adoption.

As you’ve alluded to, existing law requires that youth participating in the extended Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (Kin-GAP) or Adoptions Assistance Program (AAP) can only re-enter extended foster care if their guardian or adoptive parent is no longer receiving aid payments on their behalf.

All County Letter 19-31 indicates that when a youth in guardianship alleges that the guardian is no longer providing support, but the guardian is still receiving payments, the social worker/probation officer must conduct a timely assessment. For adopted youth, if no safety issues are identified, the worker is required to make an effort to assist the young adult and adoptive parent to remain an intact family unit. In both scenarios, the ACL characterizes these efforts as consisting of speaking with the guardian or adoptive parent regarding the allegations of lack of support, and an in-depth conversation with the youth and guardian or adoptive parent to better understand the dynamics of the home.

For adopted youth, the county is also required to contact the responsible public agency (County Post-Adoption Services or the California Department of Social Services Regional Office for the administration of the AAP-eligible youth’s case), to report the youth’s allegations of lack of support.

Ultimately, the county can take measures to suspend or terminate payments, and to initiate re-entry proceedings, if certain conditions are met. For more information about these processes, and for details about how counties should proceed for youth in guardianships versus adopted youth, read the ACL.

Citation: California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 1931 (2019). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2019/19-31_ES.pdf?ver=2019-04-18-104859-023

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Former Foster Youth with Non-Related Legal Guardians Qualify for Medi-Cal to Age 26

Q: I’m working with a former foster youth who was in a Non-Related Legal Guardianship (NRLG). Is this youth eligible for extended Medi-Cal to age 26, given she was in a NRLG?

A: If this former foster youth moved into the Non-Related Legal Guardianship (NRLG) and remained under the care and placement of the state or tribe, he or she is eligible for extended Medi-Cal benefits.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, California passed a law in 2013 allowing youth who were in foster care on their 18th birthday or later to qualify for free Medi-Cal until age 26. All County Welfare Directors Letter (ACWDL) 19-08 explains that a youth moved into a NRLG who remains under the care and placement of the state or tribe is eligible for extended Medi-Cal benefits under the Former Foster Youth Program.

Citation: California Department of Health Care Service. All County Welfare Directors Letter 19-08 (2019). https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/medi-cal/eligibility/Documents/ACWDL/2019/19-08.pdf

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County Policies on Out-of-County Youth in THP-Plus

Q: I work with a non-minor dependent who is turning 21 soon and is interested in moving across the state. This young person has encountered some significant challenges over the last couple of years and is a new parent. She could really benefit from some extended support beyond 21. Would it be possible for her to access a THP-Plus program outside her county of jurisdiction?

A: Yes, nearly all 47 counties with THP-Plus programs accept out-of-county youth in their program, pending openings. John Burton Advocates for Youth maintains a webpage that lists which counties accept out-of-county youth in their THP-Plus program here: https://www.jbaforyouth.org/out-of-county-youth-thp-plus/. This webpage was just updated in March 2019 to reflect counties’ current policies.

Because waiting lists can be quite long, it would be best to reach out to the program sooner than later so that if there is a waiting list, she can get on it. She should also make sure and tell the program that she is a custodial parent so that they are aware of her housing needs.

Citation: https://www.jbaforyouth.org/out-of-county-youth-thp-plus/

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Independent Student Status on the FAFSA – Foster or Homeless Youth?

Q: I’m trying to help a 22-year-old young woman complete the FAFSA before the priority deadline of March 2. This young woman did spend time in foster care but is also currently homeless. In the dependency section, for the purposes of establishing independent student status, should she indicate her foster care history or her current homelessness status? I see you cannot indicate both. 

A: If the young woman was in foster care at any time since turning 13, she should check this box and be granted independent student status by way of her foster care history, instead of her homelessness status.

Homelessness determinations only last that upcoming school year, then require annual verification that the student was “an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or is self-supporting and at risk of being homeless” any time on or after July 1 of the year prior to the award year. However, youth who were in foster care or were dependents or wards of the court any time since turning 13 are considered independent students in subsequent years by way of their foster care history without having to re-verify.

The homeless youth determination process is also more cumbersome than the foster care verification process, which is now automated.

For help with assisting foster youth with completing the FAFSA, refer to JBAY’s Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth, which includes a Visual Guide.

For help with assisting homeless youth with completing the FAFSA, refer to JBAY’s Visual Guide to Assist Homeless Youth with Completing the FAFSA.

Citation: 2018-19 Federal Student Aid Handbook, Application and Verification Guide (https://ifap.ed.gov/fsahandbook/attachments/1819FSAHbkAVG.pdf)

 

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IRS Verification of Nonfiling

Q: Last year, students who submitted a FAFSA but hadn’t filed a tax return were required to submit a “verification of nonfiling letter” from the IRS. This was a very onerous requirement and students struggled to obtain the documentation. Have there been any changes to this requirement to make it easier?

A: The Department of Education issued a notice recently outlining some changes to these requirements. According to the notice, institutions now have greater flexibility when verifying a student’s nonfiling status. The notice states that if the individual is unable to obtain verification from the IRS or other tax authorities and, based upon the institution’s determination, it has no reason to question the student’s good-faith effort to obtain the required documentation, the institution may accept a signed statement certifying that the individual attempted to obtain the verification and was unable to obtain the documentation along with W-2 forms from any source of employment income.

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List of Counties that Have Opted into the THP-Plus Extension

Q: I’m currently nearing the end of my 24 months in the THP-Plus program. I’m working on getting my AA degree, and would really like to stay in the program until I finish. I’ve heard that some counties allow youth to remain in THP-Plus for an additional 12 months if they are in school. How do I find out whether my county offers this?

A: You are correct. Senate Bill 1252 (Torres) established the option for counties to extend their THP-Plus programs for youth enrolled in school for an additional 12 months and up to the age of 25. This law went into effect January 1, 2015.

Currently, 27 counties have opted into the THP-Plus extension. These counties are listed, along with additional information about the THP-Plus extension on the JBAY website at the following URL: https://www.jbaforyouth.org/thp-plus-extension/

Citation:

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CalGrant Extension

Q: I heard that foster youth can now receive a CalGrant for eight years instead of four years under a bill passed this year by the legislature. If a foster youth is already receiving a CalGrant, can they still get the full eight years or is it only for students who get new awards moving forward?

A: All foster youth who otherwise qualify can receive the grant for the full eight years, regardless of whether they are already receiving a CalGrant or not. Representatives from the California Student Aid Commission shared this on a webinar last week. To view the entire webinar, CLICK HERE.

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Statewide List of Comprehensive Sexual Education Providers

Q: I understand that Senate Bill 89 requires county child welfare agencies to ensure that foster youth receive comprehensive sexual education once in middle school and once in high school. I’m working with a youth who missed this class in her high school.

The child welfare agency has attempted to work with the school so that she can take it out of sequence, but it doesn’t appear to be an option. Who can the county worker refer her to in order to receive the required education?

A: You are correct. The California Foster Youth Sexual Health Education Act (Senate Bill 89), which went into effect on July 1, 2017 requires the county child welfare caseworker to ensure that every youth age 10 and older, including non-minor dependents if still in high school, receive comprehensive sexual education (CSE) once in middle school and once in high school. For youth who do not receive CSE, child welfare workers must document in the case plan how that requirement will be met.

The California Healthy Youth Act (CHYA) requires that schools provide CSE to students, however some foster youth miss this course as a result of school changes or absences. For a youth who misses CSE, the child welfare worker should first try to coordinate with the student’s school/district to provide the course out of sequence, over the summer, or if a multi-school district, at another school. If this is not possible, the child welfare worker must refer that student to a community-based provider to receive CSE.

To find a provider in your area, first check this roster to see if there is an organization funded to provide CSE through the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) or the Information & Education (I&E) Program. If there is not a PREP or I&E provider in your area, refer to this statewide roster of Planned Parenthood affiliates, which notes whether they provide CHYA-compliant CSE for interested parties.

For more information about SB 89, visit a page on the JBAY website: http://www.jbaforyouth.org/california-foster-youth-sexual-health-education-act-sb89/.

Citation:

Statewide Planned Parenthood Roster maintained by JBAY: http://www.jbaforyouth.org/plannedparenthoodlist/

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Non-Minor Dependents in the Military

Q: I’m working with a youth who is interested in joining the military. Can he still participate in extended foster care if he enlists?

A: He can participate in extended foster care as long as he is not on active duty in the military. A person who is on active duty is a full-time member of the military, and this includes the period of basic training (also known as boot camp).

Persons in the military reserves or National Guard are considered part-time military personnel, and so they are not on active duty and are eligible for extended foster care benefits (if all other extended foster care eligibility requirements are met) until called upon to serve in active duty.

Youth who are enlisted in the military but not on active duty (including those participating in a ROTC program), are eligible for extended foster care except during extended training if the military program does not allow a social worker/probation officer to conduct monthly visitation and supervision during this time. The youth would be eligible to re-enter foster care as soon as caseworker visitation can resume.

Citation: California Department of Social Services. All County Letter No. 18-101, Eligibility for Extended Foster Care (EFC) For Married Youth and Youth Performing Non-Active Duty Military Service, (September 12, 2018). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2018/18-101.pdf

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