States Starting to Move on Federal Guardianship, Foster Care-to-21 Programs

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More than a year after passage of  a law intended to give more support to youths aging out of foster care, the federal government is now pushing states to participate in two programs that promote guardianship placements and extension of foster care until age 21.

The two programs were included in the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which was signed into law in October of 2009 and allows for two new uses of federal IV-E funds, a large federal entitlement that matches state expenditures for child welfare services. One allows states to use federal IV-E funds to help pay for a guardianship assistance program (GAP); the other enables states to use IV-E money on young adults up to the age of 21.

The Administration for Children and Families, which oversees IV-E funds, must review and approve a state plan for either program before the federal funds start to flow. The agency provided Youth Today with updated information on the progress of the two programs.

Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP) 

A guardianship program typically provides a payment to kin or other adults who agree to serve as the legal guardian of a youth who has been removed from his parents and is in foster care.

In the summer of 2009, only six GAP plans had been submitted and none had been approved. One reason for the holdup was that ACF had not published the rules for GAP eligibility and inclusion.

The next summer, ACF issued the long-awaited rules. By September of 2010, 17 plans were in to ACF and eight had received approval.

Now, close to half of the states have begun the work of officially opting in for a federal match on GAP. There are 23 states which have submitted IV-E GAP plans.

To date, 11 systems have been given final approval of those GAP amendments:

Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee.  

Amendments from 12 states are under review or are being revised: Alabama, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Washington.

Older Youth

An approved state could have begun to match federal funds for a foster care extension in October of 2010. But until this month, only one state –Texas – had submitted a plan amendment to increase the age limit to 21.

December brought five more proposals to ACF: Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Illinois and Minnesota.

California has yet to submit a plan for older youth. Outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed a law in September that will extend foster care services to age 21 starting in 2012.