In December 2020, Congress enacted into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which includes a provision called Supporting Foster Youth and Families through a Pandemic (known as “Division X”). Division X allows for increased, temporary funding and opportunities for extended foster care, return to care, or participation in the Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program. The purpose of this communique is to outline new but temporary support for youth and young adults through the COVID-19 pandemic who may be impacted by these changes.
EXTENDED FOSTER CARE
Extended Foster Care is a voluntary program that offers youth turning 18 years old who are in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) the opportunity to continue in their foster care placement and facilitate the transition to independence with DFPS supervision, if there is a placement available.
Which youth are impacted by the extended foster care provisions?
Under Division X, DFPS may not require a youth to leave foster care solely due to their age during the period of time from December 27, 2020 through September 30, 2021. This provision extends from youth aged 18 who did not sign an agreement to enter extended foster care to 21-year-old youth participating in extended foster care.
How does Division X impact foster care maintenance payments?
Youth who meet all other title IV-E foster care eligibility requirements (as determined by DFPS) from December 27, 2020 to September 30, 2021, are eligible for foster care maintenance payments despite their age, or education and employment conditions. Case planning, periodic reviews, and permanency hearings will be required for these youth.
RETURN TO CARE
Currently, young adults who turned 18 years old in DFPS conservatorship and who have left care may return to care to participate in the Extended Foster Care Program if they meet certain requirements including signing a Voluntary Extended Foster Care agreement; agreeing to participate in an extended foster care activity within 30 days of being placed; and being offered an available placement.
Which youth are impacted by the return to care provisions?
Under Division X, any youth who left foster care due to aging out between January 27, 2020 and April 20, 2021, must be permitted to voluntarily return to foster care. Regardless of any future extensions of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the return to care age expansion will expire on September 30, 2021.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING VOUCHERS (ETV)
The Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program provides help to current and former youth and young adults in foster care, and youth adopted at age 16 to make a successful transition to adulthood by providing funding and supports to help youth and young adults achieve their educational goals.
How was ETV funding impacted by Division X?
Division X also increased the amount of ETV funds in Texas. This increase of funds will permit DFPS to assist current or former youth in foster care who were on track to attend or are actively attending a post-secondary institution but had their education interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency.
ETV funds are expanded from $5,000 to up to $12,000 for youth until they reach age 27 through September 30, 2021 and for youth until they reach age 25 through September 30, 2022.* Youth must still meet the requirements for ETV to qualify for the increased funding. During the stated period, the additional ETV funding can be used to help support youth to remain enrolled in a post-secondary education or training program, including covering expenses that are not part of the cost of attendance.
Youth participating in the ETV program or youth who lost eligibility at age 23 can complete a supplemental budget for the fall 2020 semester and the spring 2021 semester or they can complete a new application for consideration of funds online.
Do youth have to be enrolled and/or making satisfactory progress to receive the increased funds?
From April 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021, Division X permits DFPS to waive the requirement that youth be enrolled in a post-secondary education or training program, or making satisfactory progress toward completing the program, if the youth is unable to do so due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Note that the law does not waive or modify the requirements of 477(i)(3) of the Act that a youth cannot participate in the program for more than five years, whether or not these years are consecutive.
Who are the critical points of contact for youth and young adults to assist them with Division X?
Attorneys, guardians ad litem, and caseworkers for a youth or young adult who will age out of care prior to September 30, 2021 should discuss these temporary relief options with them and assist the youth with contacting their PAL and ETV Coordinators.
The Children's Commission will continue to send out additional guidance as more becomes available. Please contact Aimee Corbin at email@example.com with any additional questions or concerns regarding the extended foster care, return to care, or ETV expansion.
*Notes a correction from the previously published version.