Caregiver’s right to access education records

The California Department of Social Services has provided information regarding caregiver’s access to education records.  Caregivers for youth in foster care now have access to education records, including an approved or licensed foster parents, resource parents, an approved relative or non-relative extended family member, relatives caring for the child, tribally approved homes, foster family agencies and Short-Term Residential Treatment Program staff, even if they are not the child’s education rights holder.

Education rights holders, including caregivers who are sometimes assigned education rights by the courts, a child’s biological parent who retains education rights after their child is placed in foster care, or a person other than the child’s caregiver or biological parent who is appointed by a court to hold education rights, have full access to student records.

Education records inclue records of attendance, discipline, online communication on platforms established by schools for students and parents, and any plan adopted pursuant to federal law.

Child welfare agencies, probation departments, or their designated foster family agency, are required to take all necessary steps to assist the caregiver in obtaining relevant health and education agencies.

Case plans for children in foster care now must include the health and education summary, contact information be redacted when disclosure is a threat to health and safety, an assurance that the placement agency provided the health and education summary to the current caregiver and helped the caregiver in getting needed information for the health and education summary.  (ACL 21-86, August 20, 2021.)


Foster Care new expectant parent payment

Beginning January 1, 2022, pregnant minors and nonminor dependents will be entitled to a payment made directly to them starting in the seventh month of pregnancy.  This payment is available to pregnant minors and nonminor dependents who receive AFDC-Foster Care or Adult Relative Caregiver benefits.

Prior to automation, this payment will be issued as a lump sum of $2,700.  When automation is finalized, an amount equal to the home-based foster care infant supplement will be paid monthly for the final three months of pregnancy.  Payments will not be automated until at least July 1, 2023.

The pregnant child or nonminor dependent cannot be required to submit any accounting or receipts to show how the funds are spent.  All items bought with these funds are property of the child or nonminor dependent and go with them when they change facility or age out.

Expectant parent payments are not available for children in the Adoption Assistance Program or the KinGAP program.

The expectant parent payment cannot be prorated and overpayments cannot be established or collected.  If the pregnancy is not identified before the seventh month, the child or nonminor dependent must still receive the entire three months of payment.

Counties should establish procedures for identifying and enrolling eligible children and nonminor dependents.  Counties should also identify opportunities in which case management workers can share information about this benefit.

Counties should request verification of pregnancy from a qualified medical professional.  (ACL 21-123, October 8, 2021.)

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.)