California to spend extra $42 million to help foster youth during pandemic

Governor Newsom is making more than $27 million available to help families stay together, nearly $7 million to support social workers and $3 million to support Family Resource Centers.

These new investments, totaling $42 million ($40.6 million in state general fund and $1.4 million in federal funds) over the next three months will support foster youth and reduce child abuse. These investments include:

Supporting Families Struggling to Stay Together – $27,842,000
This funding will provide a $200 per month supplement to families in the Emergency Response and Family Maintenance programs and who need additional support to be able to stay together.

Additional Social Worker Outreach – $6,896,552
Support for social worker overtime and additional outreach by county social workers to foster family caregivers at higher risk of COVID-19 (e.g. caregivers who are over 60 years old). Social workers will engage these caregivers to identify specific needs or concerns.

Family Resource Centers – $3,000,000
Family Resource Centers play a critical role in preventing child abuse and neglect, strengthening children and families, and connecting families to an array of county support systems of care. This funding will provide direct support and services to foster families, including material items, assistance with isolation needs, parenting resources, and staff time to help link families to other state and federal supports (e.g. food, housing, etc.).

Expansion of Helplines – $250,000
Funds will assist 2-1-1 and Parents Anonymous to offer immediate assistance to families in crisis who are seeking assistance. Parents Anonymous will provide expanded hours of services, link parents to online support groups and will make referrals to county and local services and Family Resource Centers as needed.

Age Extension for Foster Youth – $1,846,165
Approximately 200 young adults age out of the foster care system every month. Too many of them are at risk of homelessness and food insecurity. During this crisis, foster care payments and eligibility will be extended to help them maintain their living arrangements and to provide food security.

Additional Support for Resource Families Impacted by COVID-19 – $1,728,655
Families impacted by COVID-19 can receive higher monthly reimbursement rates to cover the extra costs associated with supporting children with more complex needs. Flexibility for counties to use these reimbursement rates will make sure that foster children can stay in their homes and not be moved into shelters or other facilities.

Extended Timeframe for Caregiver Approvals – $166,000
Funding will allow caregivers to continue to be paid beyond 365 days while awaiting Resource Family Approval. The extension in funding is required due to delays in caregiver approvals and caseworker diversion to emergency work.

Access to Technology – $313,128
iFoster will give more foster youth access to cell phones and laptops so they can stay connected with their families and communities, and continue to participate in educational opportunities during this crisis. This will allow the purchase of 2,000 laptops and 500 cell phones and will provide for short-term staffing assistance to iFoster to help process the applications and get phones configured and shipped to foster youth quickly.

Announcement here.

Coronavirus adds new stressors on Alaska’s vulnerable youths and young adults

Benjamin Miller’s life was rocky but mostly on track. The 20-year-old University of Alaska Anchorage student is one of 3,144 Alaska youths in foster care.

Miller went to Washington for spring break. When he got back, the anthropology student said he scrambled to move out of his dorm in one day because of the coronavirus pandemic. The room held his every possession.

Link here

Many thanks to child welfare workers in these difficult times (Maryland)

Baltimore Sun

April 10, 2020

By Judith Schagrin, legislative chairperson for the Maryland Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers

We give a round of applause to child welfare caseworkers, those front line responders whose work frequently flies under the radar. These public servants serve our most vulnerable citizens, children at risk of maltreatment or in state custody. Despite the current crisis, child welfare caseworkers continue to be on the front lines. Child welfare never stops because child abuse never stops.

Child welfare caseworkers are in communities assessing children’s safety and offering support to families in this difficult time, some equipped only with coronavirus guidance, their phones and, most of all, their sense of mission. Despite risk to themselves and their own families, they continue working even without the recommended protective gear to be safe. Others scramble to maintain contact with children in foster care and their parents via videoconferencing — sometimes with outdated equipment. These caseworkers are also tasked with the myriad of responsibilities that didn’t end when the pandemic began.

Full opinion piece here.

 

Arkansas foster numbers rise as pandemic closes court hearings

Children in foster care have supervised and, when appropriate, unsupervised visitations with their biological families while living with their foster parents. DCFS has encouraged more teleconferenced visitations during the pandemic to reduce the chances of exposure to everyone concerned. However, there are cases where a home visit is more appropriate, such as one mother who needs to bond with her newborn.

The pandemic has added to the challenges of being a foster parent as some of the supports, including schools and child care facilities, are not available. DCFS provided a one-time $125 per-child increase in the April payment for foster parents to help with additional expenses and is exploring another increase. Foster parents would be paid an additional $500 per month if the federal government approves a requested Medicaid waiver by Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration

Full article here.

Children Seem to Be Less Vulnerable to the Coronavirus. The Pandemic May Still Put Them at Risk.

Time Magazine

ANGELINA JOLIE

APRIL 9, 2020

Of the many ways that the pandemic is making us rethink our humanity, none is more important, or urgent, than the overall protection of children. They may not be as susceptible to the virus as other groups, but they are especially vulnerable to so many of the secondary impacts of the pandemic on society.

Here here for full article.

APHSA Letter to Congress on COVID

April 10, 2020

Based on feedback from our members across the nation, this letter identifies the most urgent legislative tools needed to support human services agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic and its immediate aftermath including investment in the infrastructure needed to create economic opportunity, keeping children safe and mitigating the trauma families are experiencing, ensuring access to basic nutritional supports, and reinforcing the ability of our child care system to provide quality care to families impacted by the pandemic.

Letter here

Letter to Ohio Governor DeWine from Older Youth Advocacy Organizations

April 11, 2020

Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board

Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now Ohio

…We would also like to propose, and offer our assistance in implementing; three proactive measures that we believe will vastly improve current and long-term outcomes for young people in and from foster care. Especially now, in the midst of crisis, our state has the opportunity and responsibility to:

  1. Expedite the timeline for establishing a statewide Foster Youth Ombudsman’s Office.
  2. Extend Chafee supports to age 23, as authorized by the federal Family First Act.
  3. Suspend emancipation proceedings for all youth facing release from foster care for six months, allow re-entry for foster youth younger than 21, and allow youth who reach the age of 21 in extended foster care (Bridges) to remain in care through October 30, 2020. …

Letter here

Pandemic hits young adults who left foster care without families hard

April 13, 2020

Knoxville News

By Timothy Dennis

Although everyone is feeling vulnerable during this COVID-19 pandemic, young people like me who have transitioned out of foster care without permanent family are even more vulnerable. Even in the best of times, leaving foster care to become an adult all on your own is terrifying. And we often don’t have anybody we can turn to for support.

As an older alumnus of care at 25 years old, I’m proud to say I’m doing pretty well by typical life benchmarks. I work as an emergency medical technician and am planning to go back to college in the fall to advance my career as an EMT.

But even with all that, this crisis has me worried about how I’m going to pay bills, about my physical and mental health and about my future. Across America, personal protective equipment is a scarcity in the health care system right now, which could lead to COVID-19 exposures for health care workers. I fear I’ve already been infected. I am actually on quarantine right now because I have a cough. I don’t know if my employer will pay me for the time they are requiring that I take off. Also, because fewer people are calling for emergency medical services, my work hours are being cut, so my income is dropping.

Timothy Dennis is a resident of Maynardville who works in emergency medical services as well as an advocate for current and former foster youth.

Link here

More than 570 National, State, & Local Organizations Ask for Emergency Child Welfare COVID19 Support

April 10, 2020

Today more than 570 national, state and local organizations released a letter to Congress asking for emergency child welfare support to address the COVID-19 crisis. 128 National organizations, and 445 state and local organizations signed on to a national letter outlining a series of supports needed to support vulnerable children and families during this difficult time.

Read letter here.

Illinois Executive Order in Response to COVID-19

COVID-19 Executive Order No. 20 was issued by Governor Pritzker on April 7, 2020 and includes Section 4:

During the duration of and for sixty days following the termination of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamations, the definition of “child” under Section 2.01 of the Child Care Act of 1969, 225 ILCS 10/2.01, is suspended for the limited purpose of ensuring that persons in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services who are 18 years of age or older and are in a placement identified in the Child Care Act of 1969, are permitted to remain in their placement.

Executive Order here.

Federal Legislative Advocacy for Older Youth

Policy 1: Increase Chafee Funding by 500 Million

Policy 2: Extend the Age of Eligibility for Chafee Aftercare Services to Age 23 for All Youth

Policy 3: Suspend Participation Requirements for Young People in Extended Foster Care

Policy 4: Place a Moratorium on Discharges from the Foster Care System for Youth Ages 18-21

Policy 5: Allow States to Draw Down Title IV-E funds until a Young Person Reaches age 22

See here for a PDF on federal legislative advocacy with supporting information.

See here for a new messaging tool: “Five Reasons Why Congress Should Increase Chafee Act Funds to Provide Immediate Support to Older Youth In & Leaving Foster Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Federal Administrative Advocacy for Older Youth

Examples Administrative Requests for the HHS/Administration for Children and Families

  • Keep young people connected to services and housed during and after this health crisis
  • Help meet the immediate needs of young people for housing, food, and other material support
  • Ensure that youth are connected to vital resources, people, and assistance in this time of crisis
  • Direct states to develop a plan for increased supports and financial resources for expectant and parenting youth to ensure appropriate health care for the parent and child (including prenatal care) and support for the adolescent’s and child’s healthy development and well-being
  • Ensure former foster youth are insured
  • Direct and support states to develop targeted approaches to support youth in family-based settings and reduce/eliminate the use of congregate care and placement in emergency shelters to protect the health and safety of youth

See document with detailed examples here.

Tools for State Advocacy on Older Youth

Summary of federal guidance on action states can take to support the needs of youth in and leaving foster care during the pandemic. This information comes from the series of guidance documents that have been issued by ACF since March 2020.  Document here.

Summary of federal guidance on serving older youth in (and aging out of) foster care issued by the Administration on Children and Families and suggestions for leveraging guidance in state advocacy.  Document here.

Examples of State-Based Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Requests to Respond to COVID-19 Crisis. Document here.

Template Letter to State Leaders to Advocate for Policy Reforms for Older Youth In Response to COVID-19. Letter here.

Letter to National Governors Association regarding youth aging out of foster care

Foster Care Alumni of America and National Center for Housing and Child Welfare write to Governor Hogan, Chair of the National Governors Association, to encourage his leadership in urging NGA members to take action to address the needs of young adults aging out of foster care this year. They encourage the following actions:

  • SUSPEND EMANCIPATION PROCEEDINGS FOR ALL YOUTH FACING RELEASE FROM STATE CARE FOR SIX MONTHS
  • ALLOW STREAMLINED RE-ENTRY FOR FORMER FOSTER YOUTH YOUNGER THAN 21
  • EXTEND CHAFEE SERVICES AND HOUSING THROUGH THE AGE OF 23
  • ACCESS “ON DEMAND” HOUSING CHOICE VOUCHERS FOR OLDER FOSTER YOUTH THROUGH HUD’S FUP AND FYI INITIATIVE
  • CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR CONNECTEDNESS IN THIS TIME OF SOCIAL DISTANCING & ISOLATION
  • EASE ACCESS TO WORK SUPPORTS FOR ALL YOUTH IN NEED OF RE-EMPLOYMENT

Letter here.

State Examples of Older Youth Advocacy

States that issued Executive Orders relating to transition age youth: Alaska, California, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, and Rhode Island.  Additional states have issued administrative policy relating to older youth. Descriptions below.  

Alaska 

  • Executive Order (here) suspends age requirements for foster care placement to allow 21-year-olds to choose not to age out. The suspension is retroactive to April 8, 2020, and remains in effect until 11:59 pm May 11, 2020, unless otherwise noted.
  • Facing Foster Care in Alaska requests the Governor to grant a moratorium on youth aging out of extended care. Letter here.

California

  • Executive Order here.  Provisions include:
    • The Department may verify foster youth status for the purpose of facilitating foster youth access to programs providing cellular telephones or other communication technology to foster youth.
    • Waiver of State extended foster care eligibility for all youth entering or reentering extended foster care requiring any physical, in-person, face-to-face application, meetings, visits, and signature requirements.
    • Suspension of the maximum age criteria for nonminor dependents who turn 21 on or after the date of this Order.
  • A letter to the Governor and legislative leaders from a coalition of organizations urges action by the Administration and the California State Legislature on a set of policy recommendations to address the most urgent needs facing children and youth in foster care related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Letter here
  • A letter to the Governor from a coalition of advocacy organizations urges the Governor to issue an Executive Order to ensure that youth in foster care can access placements, have stability in their placements, are able to continue reunification efforts with their families, and can access and maintain eligibility for extended foster care. Letter here
  • Draft Executive Order here.
  • All-County Letter provides guidance to agencies regarding the Extended Foster Care program for nonminor dependents (NMDs) during the current state of emergency related to COVID-19 and pursuant to the authority in the Governor’s April 17, 2020 Executive Order N-53-20 (EO N-53-20). Letter here
  • Additional California administrative guidance here.

Connecticut

  • The DCF Commissioner issued administrative policy on April 21, 2020 that services to all youth in care will continue, including youth who would normally be aging out. The policy is effective until at least 9/1/2020. See agency memo here.  See related agency information here.

District of Columbia

  • Advocates in DC were successful in advancing legislation to enable youth who turn 21 during the COVID-19 emergency to remain voluntarily in extended foster care. Legislation here.

Georgia

  • Executive order suspends definition of “child” (related to age) for the purposes of receiving services for 90 days after the termination of the Public Health State of Emergency. See page 21 of Executive Order here

Illinois

  • Executive Order here.
  • DCFS agreed to expand services until June for young people who aged out of care recently and those who will be aging out of care during the COVID crisis. More here.

  • Advocacy letter to the Governor and DCFS Director from Foster Care Alumni Association-IL Chapter requests the Executive Order to provide assistance to youth who are in or aging out of foster care. Letter here.

  • Letter from DCFS Director to Foster Care Alumni Association-IL to express thanks for efforts to ensure that youth in transition are provided services and resources necessary to maintain their safety and health during this difficult time. The letter outlines the steps that DCFS is taking  to address the elevated needs of youth in transition.  Letter here

Ohio

  • Governor announces that Ohio will continue to cover the costs for youth in foster care who are turning 18 during the COVID-19 pandemic.See article here

  • Executive Order suspending participation and age requirements for extended foster care. 

  • Letter to Ohio Governor DeWine from Older Youth Advocacy Organizations from the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board and Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now Ohio organization. Letter here.

Pennsylvania

  • A letter to the Governor from Foster Care Alumni Association-PA Chapter requests action to meet the health and safety needs of older youth in the foster care system and youth who are aging out. Letter here.

Rhode Island

  • Executive Order, dated April 14, 2020, suspends age requirements for youth in extended care and aftercare programs to allow provision of services after a youth turns age 21.  Executive Order here

Letter to National Governors Association

  • Foster Care Alumni of America and National Center for Housing and Child Welfare write to Governor Hogan, Chair of the National Governors Association, to encourage his leadership in urging NGA members to take action to address the needs of young adults aging out of foster care this year. They encourage the following actions. Letter here.

#UpChafee Campaign

Child welfare advocates, policy partners, and young people have come together to launch a campaign to highlight the urgent needs of youth in and aging out of foster care during the COVID-19 crisis. Advocates and young people urge Congress to ensure young people transitioning to adulthood in foster care are able to survive the hardships caused by the crisis by increasing funding for transition-age youth programs and services in the next stimulus bill and providing flexibility in the supports available to these youth such as extended foster care.

The federal funding for programs and services provided to states for older youth in foster care comes through the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood. Although expenses for young adults across the nation have skyrocketed, funding for Chafee remained at $140 million since its enactment in 1999 and only increased to $143 million this year. Additionally, eligibility for supports such as extended foster care that prevent homelessness and support educational completion must be flexible to respond to current systemic barriers to youth seeking employment and education.

The #UpChafee Campaign asks for immediate help immediate to youth for housing, food and critical supportive programs and services in the states and creates a crucial safety net.

Advocates urge Congress to take action to meet the needs of these young people during this crisis by:

  • Increasing the investment in youth by providing Chafee funds by $500 million. Chafee funds can be used to support youth in and aging out of foster care until age 23 to address immediate needs such as housing and food. They can also be used to help youth plan their future and connect with vital community resources. The current allocation of funds does not meet the needs of youth. An increase by $500 million would allow states to provide assistance to youth immediately.
  • Providing flexibility to key programs that aid transition aged youth so that more youth can be served for longer periods of time. Congress should waive the work and education requirements for transition age youth in Title IV-E extended foster care. The help they need shouldn’t be contingent on work and education during this crisis. Congress should also extend IV-E reimbursement until a youth turns 22, so that states can provide needed services and not discharge youth during the crisis.

How The Coronavirus Is Affecting The Foster Care System And Its Children (North Carolina)

April 4, 2020

WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR News Source

Visitations with their birth parents have been suspended and permanent placements are being delayed. Kim Ford is the foster care supervisor for Bethany Christian Services which provides adoption and foster care services. She and others predict that more children will have a need for foster care as parents struggle to cope with lost jobs and stress because of COVID-19.

Ford, “The number is expected to grow as the stress level rises for families that are trying to stay intact. And so we’re going to see more children coming into care, especially with mental health issues, job situations, unemployment. So that is definitely a need that we’re going to see spiking.”

Story here.

‘We need heroes right now’: Pleas for foster families amid coronavirus (Ohio)

April 4, 2020

Columbus Dispatch

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Ohio had more than 16,600 children in out-of-home care earlier this week. Of the state’s 7,880 licensed foster homes, about 4,440 had children placed in them.

To keep foster-parent recruiting efforts moving, the organization is conducting training classes online and in video format. “These individuals are natural helpers,” Jones said. “I don’t see them going away. But we have to do everything we can to support them.”

Read the full article here.

Oklahoma Human Services Issues Emergency Relief Payments to Foster Families

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) will begin issuing emergency relief payments to foster parents in early April. These payments, which will be paid monthly, per child, are meant to support foster families as they navigate the impact of unexpected expenses of caring for children full-time due to school closures.

“During this incredibly difficult and historic time, we are intentionally focusing on the families and children we serve and how to best support them,” said Director of Child Welfare Services, Dr. Deborah Shropshire.

Media release here.