Free birth certificates for youths in foster care

Effective July 1, 2019, eligible youth in foster care are entitled to a copy of their birth certificate at no cost.  The local registrar or county recorder in the county where the youth was born is required to provide a birth certificate at no cost upon presentation of verification that the youth is in foster care.  Verification that the youth is in foster care must be from the county child welfare agency or probation department that has jurisdiction over the child or youth.  The California Department of Social Services cannot verify foster care status for this purpose.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has developed an affidavit for certification of foster care status.  The county child welfare agency or probation department is required to provide verification of foster care status.  CDPH also has Frequently Asked Questions about no cost birth certificates for youth in foster care.  (ACL 19-103, December 2, 2019.)

Resource Family Approval Program portability

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued answers to frequently asked questions regarding portability, the process for an approved Resource Family to seek streamlined approval with a subsequent agency that will best serve the needs to families and children.  The portability process is initiated only by the Resource Family.

Responses to the frequently asked questions include: the subsequent agency does not have a time frame to complete subsequent approval; subsequent agencies must accept portability applications; if the subsequent agency denies a portability application it must inform the current agency of the denial and if the county denies a portability application, it must provide a notice of action.

A new foster family agency must do a new criminal background check for the resource family.  If there is a pending investigation, the subsequent agency can complete portability, but the best practice is to wait until the investigation or administrative action is completed before moving forward to complete the portability process.  The current agency cannot charge the subsequent agency a fee to release records.  (ACL 19-97, October 30, 2019.)

Placement responsibility for non-minor dependants in extended foster care

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding extended foster care and placement responsibilities for non-minor dependents.   Extended foster care must be offered to all persons in the foster care system who turn 18 in order to continue to receive supportive services.  Young adults who decline extended foster care may be able to enter between age 18 and 21.

A placing agency must offer the least-restrictive, safe and appropriate available placement to non-minor dependents.  Placement should also be based on the developmental needs of young adults.  Non-minor dependents must be included in placement decisions.  The placement agency must offer a safe and suitable placement that is immediately available.

Counties must have a documented process for young adults seeking to re-enter extended foster care.  There should be no delay when an agreement to re-enter is signed and the agency determines the requirements to reenter are met. If at the time the agreement is signed the youth does not have safe, appropriate housing, the placing agency must immediately offer a placement prior to a re-entry hearing.

If a non-minor dependant is at risk of losing or leaving their placement, the case worker should try to engage the non-minor dependant.  The placing agency should work toward preserving and strengthening the placement.  If the youth loses or leaves placement, the county pleacement agency remains responsible for offering a safe and appropriate placement which the youth remains under juvenile court jurisdiction or is a party to a reentry agreement.  (ACL 19-105, October 29, 2019.)

Presumptive transfer of children in STRTPs

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance on the presumptive transfer process for foster children and youth placed outside of the their counties of original jurisdiction in Short-Term Residential Therapeutic Programs (STRTPs).

Presumptive transfer is a prompt transfer of the responsibility for providing or arranging and paying for specialty mental health services from the county of original jurisdiction to the county in which the foster child or youth resides.  Presumptive transfer is intended to provide foster children and youth who are placed outside of their counties of original jurisdiction with timely access to specialty mental health services.

STRTP placements are intended to be short term.  Considering that placements are supposed to be short term and that there is an exception for placements of less than six months, it is often appropriate and in the best interest of the child to waive presumptive transfer.  For a waiver, the county mental health plan in the county of original jurisdiction must have an existing contract with a specialty mental health services provider, or the ability to enter into a contract within 30 days of the waiver decision and the ability to deliver timely specialty mental health services to the foster child or youth.

Counties should work together so that placement agencies have the information they need to make informed and appropriate waiver decisions.  County mental health plans should be able to enter into a contracts with an out-of-county STRTP when presumptive transfer is waived.  County mental health plans are required to ensure timely access to federally entitled EPSDT Specialty Mental Health Services for foster children and youth placed in STRTPs.   To facilitate this, county single points of contact are posted on the CDSS website.

Presumptive transfer can be waived if: 1) transfer would disrupt continuity of mental health care or delay access to services; 2) transfer would interfere with family reunification efforts; 3) placement in a county other than the county of original jurisdiction is expected to last more than 6 months or 4) the child or youth’s residence is within 30 minutes travel time to the established Specialty Mental Health Services provider in the county of original jurisdiction.

If presumptive transfer is waived, the placing county must work with the mental health plan in the placing county to address the child’s needs and the mental health plan in the placing county must ensure that the child receives Specialty Mental Health Services.

If a presumptive transfer waiver is denied, the placing county must notify the mental health plan in the receiving county and work to ensure coordination of care for Specialty Mental Health Services by immediately sending required paperwork to the mental health plan in the receiving county.  The mental health plan in the receiving county must ensure access to Specialty Mental Health Services.

In making a waiver decision, the placing county should consider: 1) The child’s service needs including family friends and close relationship, the Specialty Mental Health Services needs, Regional Center services, educational issues, physical health needs and transition or permanent planning and goals; 2) the provider’s STRTP profile.

When there is a discharge from STRTP who a child who has a presumptive transfer waiver, there must be a child and family team meeting, the placing county must identify a placement in which to step the child down, the placing county must provide transition services and the placing county notifies the mental health plan in the placing county if the child returns to the county of jurisdiction or moves to another county.  The discharge process is the same if a waiver is denied except that the mental health plan in the receiving county must work the with the mental health plan in the placing county for a smooth transition of Specialty Mental Health Services.  (ACL 19-94, September 18, 2019.)

Tribally Approved Homes

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued information regarding approval, payment and placement preservation of Tribally Approved Homes.  A Tribally Approved Home is a home licensed or approved by an Indian child’s tribe or organization designated by the tribe, for foster or adoptive placement of an Indian child. Tribally Approved Homes are not subject to state approval standards.  Tribes have independent authority to approved homes according to their own standards and are not subject to Resource Family Approval Standards.

The county social worker or probation officer should request confirmation from the tribe that the tribe has approved a home.  The tribe must provide written documentation that the home has been approved.  Indian children placed in a Tribally Approved Home qualify for foster care if the Tribally Approved Home meets minimum federal standards prior to placement.  Those requirements are a home health and safety assessment meeting the tribe’s standards, and a criminal records check meeting specified conditions.  Federally recognized tribes now have the ability to receive state and federal criminal histories and can be approved to conduct their own background checks.  If a federally recognized tribe does not have authority to conduct their own background checks, the tribe must ask either the county or CDSS to conduct the background check.

If there are multiple children being placed and one child is not a member of the tribe approving the Tribally Approved Home, the home must meet Resource Family Approval standards.  The Resource Family Approval program allows for placement prior to approval, and allows a county to approve care of a specific child when the placement may be the only appropriate placement because of family or tribal relationship.

Tribes are encouraged to establish a complaint process.  If there is a complaint filed against a Tribally Approved Home, the county and tribal agency must work together to address the concerns.  If there is abuse or neglect where there is a potential risk to the health or safety of a child, a report to child welfare services must be made.  County probation and child welfare services can investigate, but cannot terminate the tribe’s approval of a home.  If the tribe terminates approval of a home, the tribe must notify the county within 24-48 hours and give written notification to the county.  If the tribe terminates a home, the county must evaluate whether the home will be approved under Resource Family Approval.

If a change in placement is being considered, a placement preservation strategy is required prior to issuance of a 14 day notice of placement change.  Any placement change must comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Counties may place a child in a home pending tribal approval upon completion of a health and safety inspection, a criminal background check and a check of allegations of prior abuse or neglect.

Children placed in a Tribally Approved Home, or a home pending tribal approval, are eligible for foster care payments.  If a child is place on an emergency basis, the county should determine if the child is eligible for emergency caregiver funding.  (ACL 19-71, July 29, 2019.)

Requirements and guidelines for participation in the ASIST program

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance to counties participating in the Active Supportive Intervention Services for Transition (ASIST) program.  The ASIST program is a short-term resource to aid the transition of children, youth and Non-Minor Dependants currently residing residential placements, with priority for children who are not transitioning to a Short-Term Residential Therapeutic Program (STRTP).  ASIST will provide additional funding to counties to support extensive family finding, engagement, specialized permanency services, youth and caregiver coaching, and in-home support services.  ASIST program funding does not change existing county case planning and services obligations.

ASIST program funding is limited to the 2019/2020 fiscal year.  ASIST program funding will augment existing Wraparound services or other intensive support transition programs.  Counties must ensure that their contracted providers deliver services which meet the California Wraparound Standards.  Counties must also ensure that specialized permanency services are provided for youth whose case plan indicates permanent planning or supportive transition.

For ASIST program funding, counties must prioritize youth residing in residential placements with priority for youth not transitioning to a STRTP, youth who have been identified in the Child Specific Transition Plan, and youth who are in need of permanency.

All youth being served through the ASIST program must receive Wraparound services or other intensive support transition services, even if they do not meet the local criteria for eligibility.  This includes development of a short-term intensive transition plan.  In-home, individualized youth and caregiver services must available 24/7 as needed.

Participating counties must ensure that 21 requirements are met in partnership with contract providers or community partners.  (ACL 19-53, June 28, 2019.)