Housing supplement to the Transitional Housing Placement for Non-minor Dependents program

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued about the new housing supplement for Transitional Housing Placement for Non-minor Dependents (THP-NMD).  The Housing Supplement will be implemented in CalWIN counties beginning July 1, 2021, and September 1, 2022 for counties using the CalSAWS computer system.

NMDs who are not custodial parents are eligible for the Housing Supplement if the difference between the fair market value for one-half of a two bedroom apartment in the county where the NMD resides is more than 21.45% of the statewide THP-NMD rate.  NMDs who are  custodial parents are eligible for the Housing Supplement if the difference between the fair market value for a one-bedroom apartment in the county where the NMD resides is more than 21.45% of the statewide THP-NMD rate.

When NMD are placed outside of the placing county, the host county rate is paid.  (ACL 20-121, October 30, 2020.)

COVID-19 civil rights obligations

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) provides guidance to counties regarding meeting their civil rights obligations in emergency situations.  Civil rights laws remain in effect when counties take emergency actions such as closing physical offices to the public, shortening office hours, or requiring staff to work from home.

Counties must provide services and administer programs free of discrimination.  During emergencies there can be heightened fear and anxiety leading to increased acts of xenophobia, racism, ableism, transphobia and many other forms of prejudice toward protected classes.  Counties should remind their staff to be mindful of the additional stress and anxiety of their clients.  CDSS recommends that counties make statements that reaffirm their commitment to civil rights protections both internally among their staff and externally to the public.  CDSS also recommends that counties provide refresher trainings to staff on how to provide service in an inclusive, culturally appropriate and sensitive manner.

Counties should remind staff to use the name provided by a person, even if it is different from the name on their record.  County staff should not make assumptions about a person’s sex, gender, gender identity and/or sexual orientation based on their name, their gender expression, their spouse or partner’s name, or their voice, and should use gender neutral language to foster an inclusive environment, until and unless the individual has identified their gender.

It is important to remind staff that COVID-19 is not linked to any race or nationality, and that stigmatizing people because of race or nationality is unlawful.

Counties must ensure that clients are notified of and can obtain information about programs or program changes, including changes in response to emergencies such as shortening office hours or increasing availability of phone interviews.  Counties must publicize this information in understandable and diverse formats in the threshold languages required by law.  Counties must also adopt communication methods that are understandable to people with intellectual, cognitive and psychosocial impairments.

When offices are closed or have shortened hours, office-related activities must continue to meet accessibility and non-discrimination standards.

Services and programs must remain accessible to people with disabilities as counties make changes during an emergency.  If a county designates a location for pick up/drop off of applications and forms, it must comply with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations for physical accessibility.

During medical emergencies such as COVID-19, if persons are advised to stay home, counties should ensure live or recorded messages are available in American Sign Language, Teletypewriter, and Telecommunications Device for the Deaf, and include captioning.  Counties can also consider designating office hours for people with disabilities or other vulnerable people.

Documents and postings on social media with images should have captions and images should be inclusive and not stigmatize disability.

Counties must continue to provide accommodations for people who have vision, hearing or speech disabilities.  Counties must provide auxiliary aids and services when necessary to communicate effectively.

Counties must continue to offer reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities.  This obligation does not end at intake.  If a county staff member have actual knowledge of an individual’s disability or an individual’s need for an accommodation is obvious, the staff member must offer to assist the individual in self-identifying the disability and/or appropriate accommodations.  County staff should check for disability indicators in the case file prior to contact with the client.  Reasonable accommodations must be offered regardless of the method of contact. There is no limit on the amount of reasonable accommodation requests a person may make, and each request must be analyzed individually.

Counties must make sure they have adequate qualified interpreters and qualified translation services to assist Limited English Proficient individuals.  Counties must continue to maintain up-to-date lists of bilingual staff and remind staff of how to access these individuals.  Counties must also ensure that staff are trained in accessing alternate interpreter resources, including telephonic or video interpretation.

Clients maintain the right to file a discrimination complaint during an emergency or disaster.  Counties are reminded of their duty to actively receive and process civil rights complaints. Complaints can be made verbally or in writing.  Counties cannot require complainants to complete a form as a condition of filing a complaint.  (ACIN I-69-20, November 9, 2020.)

COVID-19 extended foster care

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding flexibility in Extended Foster Care, waivers of age and time limits for Transitional Housing Program-Plus and remote approval of Supervised Independent Living Placements.

Counties must temporarily continue maintenance payments for otherwise eligible non-minor dependents who do not meet any one of five participation criteria: completing secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential, enrolled in an institution which provides post-secondary or vocational education, participating in a program designed to promote or remove barriers to employment, employed at least 80 hours per month, or incapable of doing any of these because of a medical condition.

County caseworkers must continue to work with youth to help them to meet one of these participation criteria.

Caseworkers should continue to assist non-minor dependents by review of a previous Transitional Independent Living Plan and helping them to establish goals that meet their needs.

Counties must serve nonminors between age 18 and 21 requesting entry or reentry into extended foster care.  A nonminor’s inability to satisfy participation conditions because of COVID-19 is not a basis to deny entry or reentry into extended foster care because only nonminor’s intent to satisfy at least one participation condition is required.

A placing agency must offer the least-restrictive safe and appropriate available housing for a nonminor upon their entry or reentry into care.

Effective July 1, 2020, counties can complete Supervised Independent Living Placement inspections for non-minor dependents through methods other than in-person visit.

Any county decision to grant, deny, change or terminate payments to a non-minor dependent must be communicated by adequate written notice to the provider and/or non-minor dependent. (ACL 20-112, October 12, 2020.)

COVID-19 continued extended foster care assistance upon turning age 21

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding continued assistance payments and case management for persons who were in extended foster care upon turning age 21 between April 17, 2020 and June 30, 2021.  The California Budget extends assistance payments and case management to all persons in extended foster care upon turning age 21 on or after April 17, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

If a county discontinued assistance payments for persons who were in extended foster care upon turning age 21 between April 17, 2020 and June 30, 2021, the county must make diligent efforts to contact those persons immediately, and no later than 10 days after October 23, 2020. The county must arrange to resume and make retroactive assistance payments if the person was eligible.  These payments must be provided unless the person affirmatively opts out to have the payments discontinued.  If the person did not remain in a provider-based setting after discontinuance, the young adult is ineligible for payment equivalent to the rate for a supervised independent living placement, even if a housing location was not approved.

Persons who were in extended foster care upon turning age 21 and are not receiving extended assistance and support are not in extended foster care and are not nonminor dependents, and therefore do not have participation, housing or placement approval requirements.  Payments may not be terminated because these persons are not participating in employment or education activities, or for living in unapproved housing.

Because these persons are no longer in extended foster care or court dependents, monthly contact visits can occur remotely.  Caseworkers should try to make in-person contact with these persons at least quarterly.

A person receiving assistance after turning age 21 may continue to reside in any type of eligible foster care placement as a client, or the person can receive payment equivalent to the Supervised Independent Placement Living rate.  If a parenting young adult was receiving an infant supplement, the infant supplement must continue to be paid as long as the nondependent child continues to live with the parent.  After a young adult turns 21, a new infant supplement may be approved based on a change in circumstances.  No other types of rate supplements may be newly granted after the young adult turns age 21, but rate supplements granted and in effect when the young adult turns age 21 may continue to the same provider. If a person transitions to other independent housing, they are responsible locating their new housing.  However, caseworkers should provide assistance and support upon request.

Recipients of extended foster care assistance after turning age 21 must be given adequate notice before any county action denying, changing or terminating benefits.  (ACL 20-117, October 23, 2020 and ACL 20-117E, November 2, 2020.)

Family Urgent Response System for foster caregivers and children or youth

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued information regarding Family Urgent Response System for foster caregivers and children or youth (FURS).

FURS is a coordinate statewide, regional and county-level system to provide state-level phone-based response and county-level in-home in-person mobile response during situations of instability for the purpose of preserving the relationship between the caregiver and the child or youth, provide conflict management, and connect the caregiver to local services.

CDSS must establish a state-wide toll free hotline that is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week.  Hotline still will provide de-escalation and conflict management and warm handoff to the County Mobile Response Team where services are needed.

The County Mobile Response Team must be available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, to provide immediate face-to-face in-home response to address instability and preserve the relationship between the caregiver and the child or youth.  Counties must submit a plan to CDSS by November 15, 2020 describing how they will meet the County Mobile Response Team County Mobile Response Team requirements.  (ACL 20-89, August 6, 2020.)

COVID-19 resuming in-person requirements for RFA complaint investigations

In ACL 20-43, summarized here, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) provided guidance regarding waiver of in-person various requirements for Resource Family Approval (RFA).  In ACL 20-71, summarized here, extended this waiver for investigation of complaints that do not allege serious health and safety risk. In addition, ACL 20-71 authorized other investigation to continue remotely on a case-by-case basis, if the state, county, or local public health department provides direction and/or shifts back to Stage 1, the resource family refuses entry because of their COVID-19 related concerns, or the resource family, child, or someone else in the household is experiencing symptoms of or has tested positive for COVID-19.

CDSS has now extended the waiver in ACL 20-43, as modified in ACL 20-71, for the duration of the Governor’s Declared State of Emergency due to COVID-19, unless further guidance is issued from the Department.  (ACL 20-91, August 7, 2020.)