COVID-19 financial support for at-risk families

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided information about financial support for eligible at-risk families with child welfare contact during the COVID-19 state of emergency.  Financial support is up to $600 per eligible household, or up to $1,200 for eligible households with three or more children at risk of entering foster care.

Households are eligible if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Households with a Family Maintenance service component without a subsequent entry into Foster Care.
  • Households with an Emergency Response service component without a subsequent entry into Foster Care.
  • Households with a substantiated ER referral, without an accompanying case opening or entry into FC.
  • Households with an inconclusive ER referral, without an accompanying case opening or entry into FC, where the Structured Decision Making Risk Assessment was considered “high” or “very high.”
  • Probation cases where a child was at “imminent” or “serious” risk of removal or was a candidate for FC.
  • Households where a child was returned for a Trial Home Visit (THV)

All categories include cases identified in May, 2021, and new eligible families identified in June through December, 2021 depending on availability of funds.

County child welfare services agencies will get a list of potentially eligible clients, with instructions for ensuring client eligibility.  County probation departments will give CDSS lists of eligible families.

Prepaid cards will be issued to eligible families.  Open Family Maintenance, Trial Home Visit, Emergency Response cases, probation candidates, and Substantiated Referrals will receive a one-time $600 payment ($1,200 if the family has three or more children at risk of entering Foster Care). Families determined to be at “High” or “Very High” risk with an inconclusive referral will receive a total one-time $300 payment ($600 if the family has three or more children at risk of entering Foster Care).

Families who receive a payment under one eligibility category will not receive a second payment if their case moves to another category.

These funds do not count as income for CalWORKs or CalFresh.

(ACL 21-83, July 21, 2021.)

Dispositional heaing after 18th birthday and extended foster care eligibility

An amendment to AB 748 now allows ​​for a child welfare dispositional hearing to occur for a youth who has turned 18 if the youth was a minor at a jurisdictional hearing prior to his or her 18th birthday and was continuously detained. The youth must provide informed consent for the dispositional hearing to take place. The dispositional hearing shall be held within 30 days of the jurisdictional hearing. 

If the 18 year old is adjudicated as a dependent, the youth shall be treated as if they attained 18 years of age while under an order of foster care placement, which will make them eligible for extended foster care.  If the youth chooses not to remain in extended foster care, the court shall set a hearing for termination of jurisdiction within 30 days.  If jurisdiction is terminated, the nonminor may petition the court to resume dependency jurisdiction at any time before turning age 21. (ACL 21-62, June 16, 2021).

Determination of alternative resources for foster children receiving IHSS

Minor children who are placed with approved resource families, or in a foster care setting which was required to become a resource family by December 31, 2020, are considered to be living in their own home and may receive In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) if they are otherwise eligible. Children in an SSI/SSP non-medical out of home living arrangement are not eligible for IHSS.

A foster care payment determined using the Level of Care Protocol is not an IHSS alternative resource that effects IHSS eligibility.  KinGAP and Approved Relative Caregiver benefits are also not alternative resources for IHSS.  In addition, the Dual Agency Rate and Supplement to the Dual Agency Rate for foster care and adoptive children eligible for regional center services are not an alternative resource for IHSS.  Finally, adoption assistance benefits are not an alternative resource for IHSS.

During the Level of Care Protocol determination, counties should ask oof the foster child is applying for IHSS.  If the caregiver has not applied for IHSS services for the foster child or IHSS has not yet been approved, counties cannot consider potential IHSS in the Level of Care Protocol determination.  If the foster child has been granted IHSS, the county considers all IHSS the child receives when making a Level of Care Protocol determination.

Counties should continue to review what additional services and supports foster children receive to determine whether those services and supports are alternative resources for purposes of IHSS.  (ACIN I-55-21, June 14, 2021.)

COVID-19 end of additional foster care and adoption flexibilities

The California Department of Social Services has issued guidance regarding the end of additional flexibilities in the foster care and adoption program because of COVID-19.

The flexibility to do caseworker visits by videoconference instead of in person will end on July 31, 2021.  After July 31, 2021, family maintenance visits, monthly caseworker visits, visits with foster youth, post-placement supervision of adoptive placements and periodic caseworker visits must now be done in person.

The flexibility for exceptions to in person signing of adoption documents, and face-to-face visits independent adoptions and witnesses for adoption signing document will also end on July 31, 2021 and those requirements are reinstated after July 31, 2021.  (ACL 21-80, July 8, 2021.)

Federal Chafee cash payment for current and former foster youth age 18-26

Current and former foster youth who are or were nonminor dependents (NMD) eligible for Extended Foster Care (EFC) and are between the ages of 18 and 26 are eligible for a supplemental prepaid card, not contingent on opting into EFC. This federal flexibility extends to September 30, 2021. As such, eligibility verifications must be submitted by Friday, September 3, 2021. Those who are eligible but live out of state may receive the supplemental prepaid card if their NMD jurisdiction originated in California. Young adults whose foster care jurisdiction originates in another state but are currently residing in California are eligible if adequate post-18 jurisdiction verification is provided from the originating state. Verification examples include a documented phone call, written statement, or verifiable electronic data match.

CDSS will work with counties on the verification of eligibility and distribution of cash cards for all eligible current and former foster youth. Counties must verify all adults ages 18-20, while the CDSS must reach out to local youth who may not be in contact with their case managers, verify all adults 21 and older, and distribute prepaid cards for all eligible young adults.

These funds are not considered income for purposes of the CalWORKs, CalFresh, Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI), CalWORKs Stage 1, and Emergency Child Care Bridge voucher programs, and will not count against the resource limits for 12 months from receipt of the payment.  (ACL 21-73, June 22, 2021).

Treatment of Golden State Grant payments received by foster care benefits recipients

The Golden State Grant Payment (GSGP) provides a $600 payment to individuals who received an SSI or SSP payment in March 2021. Payments are being issued via paper checks and were sent weekly from May 24, 2021 through the end of June 2021, based on zip code. For foster care recipients, the GSGP is not counted as income, or against the resource limit for 12 months, and shall not be used to offset the foster care maintenance payment.

When a GSGP for a foster youth is issued to a representative payee, funds should be given directly to the nonminor dependents (NMD) without restriction, unless the NMD has a conservator. For foster youth, funds will be given directly, depending on the age and development of the minor. They do not need to keep a receipt for their purchases, but if the funds go to the resource family, the family must keep an itemized receipt of what was spent.

When the county is the representative payee, funds should be deposited in a no cost, interest bearing account for the use and benefit of the child. The resource family will be informed of the funds. The county must keep an itemized record for the use of funds, and establish a method to disburse the funds upon release from foster care. The county may use these funds for the use and benefit of the child, as determined by the county. The funds may not be used for ordinary care and supervision or other foster-care related costs. (ACL 21-74, June 22, 2021.)