Continuum of Care Reform: Implementation Sandbox

California’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) took effect this year, restructuring our foster care system to reduce reliance on congregate care and prioritize placements in committed family homes.  Implementation of this ambitious reform is raising a number of questions as we charter new territory. Our Continuum of Care Reform: Implementation Sandbox is a new series that addresses these questions, including issues surrounding Resource Family Approval, to help ensure CCR’s intent is carried out in practice.

Benefits/Funding

A: A specialized care increment (SCI) provides supplemental financial support, in addition to the family home basic rate, to families caring for a child with additional or special needs. The amount of SCI support varies by county, as do the eligibility criteria for qualifying for an SCI. More information on SCI and the specific specialized care increment plans for each county are available here. Additional training, beyond the state minimum requirement of 12 hours of pre-approval training and 8 hours of annual training, may be required by the county in order to be able to receive an SCI payment.

A child’s needs, and the supports and services required to meet those needs, should always be discussed within the context of the Child and Family Team. Requests for an SCI assessment should be submitted to caseworker.

Note: Caregivers receiving emergency caregiver funding while completing Resource Family Approval (RFA) are not eligible to receive SCI. Caregivers can begin receiving supplemental payments and/or a specialized care increment if those supplemental payments are available in that county and the child qualifies for the additional support once the caregiver is approved as a Resource Family.

A: Yes, undocumented children are eligible for state-funded Kin-GAP if they meet the eligibility requirements established in Cal. Welf. & Insti. §11363. The eligibility requirements are the following:

  • Has been adjudged a dependent child of the juvenile court or ward of the juvenile court;
  • Has been residing for at least six consecutive months in the approved home of the prospective relative guardian while under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court or a voluntary placement agreement;
  • Has had a kinship guardianship established, and
  • Has had his or her dependency terminated.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11363.

Background: A Tribally Approved Home (TAH) is a home that has been licensed or approved by an Indian Tribe for foster care or adoptive placement of an Indian child using standards established by the Tribe pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act. TAHs are not required to be licensed by the Department of Social Services or a county, and is equivalent to a Department or county licensed home.

A: Yes. Although TAHs are not subject to state approval standards, TAHs receive the same foster care rates available to resource families.

Welfare & Institutions Code §10553.1.

A: There are two ways a child may be eligible for AAP payments until the age of 21:

  1. If child has a mental or physical disability that warrants the continuation of benefits to age 21 (NOTE: there is no official definition of “mental or physical disability.”) – or –
  2. The initial AAP agreement was signed on or after the child’s 16th birthday and one of the following eligibility requirements are met after the youth turns 18:
    1. Youth is completing high school or GED;
    2. Youth is enrolled in postsecondary education or a vocational program;
    3. Youth is participating in a program to remove barriers to employment;
    4. Youth is working at least 80 hours per months, or
    5. Youth is unable to complete the previous four requirements because of a medical condition.

Welfare and Institutions Code §16120; §11403.

Background: Emergency Caregiver (EC) funding is provided to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing Resource Family Approval (RFA).

A Tribally Approved Home (TAH) is a home that has been licensed or approved by an Indian Tribe for foster care or adoptive placement of an Indian child using standards established by the Tribe pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act. TAHs are not required to be licensed by the Department of Social Services or a County, and is equivalent to a Department or County licensed home.

A: Yes. On and after July 1, 2019, children placed in homes that are pending approval as a Tribally Approved Home are eligible for Emergency Caregiver funding if they meet the funding eligibility requirements.

Welfare and Institutions Code 11461.36

A: Yes, any child adopted out of foster care is eligible for AAP until age 18 as long as the prospective adoptive parents sign the AAP agreement before the adoption is finalized. In general, children only qualify for AAP if the child has a characteristic that is a barrier to adoption. However, the number of barriers to adoption is broad and includes “membership in a sibling group that should remain intact or by virtue of race, ethnicity, color, language, three years of age or older, or parental background of a medical or behavioral nature that can be determined to adversely affect the development of the child.” (Welf. & Inst. Code § 16120(b)). The statute also makes clear that any child who has a significant emotional tie with the prospective adoptive parent while in foster care is eligible for AAP.

If a family adopts a child that is not through foster care (i.e. an independent adoption), the child is only eligible for AAP benefits if the child meets Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility rules.

Families are eligible to receive AAP benefits beyond age 18 and up to age 21 if either of the following applies:

  1. the child has a mental or physical disability that warrants the continuation of benefits to age 21 or
  2. the initial AAP agreement was signed on or after the child’s 16th birthday, if other eligibility requirements are met.

Welfare and Institutions Code Section 16120.

A: Yes. The dual agency rate is available to any child who is a consumer of regional center services and also receiving AFDC-FC, Approved Relative Caregiver (ARC), Kin-GAP, or Adoption Assistance Program benefits. Children placed through an FFA receive either AFDC-FC or ARC benefits. Thus, when that child is also a consumer of the regional center, they are eligible for the dual agency rate.

A child is eligible to receive services through the regional center under two circumstances: (1) infants and toddlers (0 to 36 months) who are at risk of developmental disabilities are eligible for early intervention services; (2) a person who has one of five qualifying disabilities that is diagnosed before the youth’s 18th birthday are eligible to receive services through the regional indefinitely (into adulthood). The dual agency rate for children receiving early intervention services is currently $1,124 a month. A child who has an eligible diagnosis and is also receiving AFDC-FC, ARC, Kin-GAP, or AAP receives a minimum of $2,513 per month, and that amount can be supplemented in increments of $250 up to an additional $1,000 depending on the additional needs of the youth. The rates are increased every July 1st in accordance with the California Necessities Index. If a child is eligible for an amount of funding that is higher than dual agency rate (for example, if they are also eligible for Intensive Services Foster Care), then the child receives whichever rate is higher.

Welfare and Institutions Code Section 11464, All County Letter NO. 09-23, All County Letter NO. 18-89.

Background: One of the primary barriers for recruiting and retaining families willing to provide a home for a child in foster care is the lack of access to child care at the time of placement. California established the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program (Chapter 24, Statutes of 2017) to allocate funding for counties to provide emergency child care vouchers to families who would otherwise be unable to accept placement of a child in their home, childcare navigator services and trauma-informed care and coaching. This is a county opt-in program.

A: The following are eligible for the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program:

  • Resource families and families who take placement of a child on an emergency basis or compelling reason;
  • Prior to January 1, 2021, licensed foster family homes or certified family homes;
  • Prior to January 1, 2021, approved homes of relatives or non-related extended family members, and
  • Parenting foster youth and non-minor dependent parents.

Note: Participating counties may have additional eligibility criteria to prioritize certain eligible individuals for the Emergency Child Care Bridge program due to limited funding. Not every county has opted to participate in the program.

All County Letter 19-18.

Background: One of the primary barriers for recruiting and retaining families willing to provide a home for a child in foster care is the lack of access to child care at the time of placement. California established the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program (Chapter 24, Statutes of 2017) to allocate funding for counties to provide emergency child care vouchers to families who would otherwise be unable to accept placement of a child in their home, childcare navigator services and trauma-informed care and coaching. This is a county opt-in program.

A: Eligible families may receive child care vouchers or payments for foster children birth through age 12. Eligible families may also receive child care vouchers or payments for children with exceptional needs and severely disabled children up to age 21.

All County Letter NO. 19-18.

Background: Prior to Resource Family Approval (RFA) going into effect on January 1, 2017, relatives and non-related extended family members (NREFMs) were approved on a per-child basis pursuant to Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). Many of these families continued to care for a child for whom they were ASFA-approved and they have not yet converted to be Resource Family Approval and they have not had their ASFA-approval updated based on that approval status.

A: Yes. Caregivers who were ASFA-approved and had placement of a child or non-minor dependent (NMD) in 2017 remain eligible for foster care funding, however they must initiate the RFA conversion process by December 31, 2020, in order to care or continue to care for a child or NMD. In addition, in order to accept placement of a new child into their home, they need to convert to RFA.

Although ASFA requires that an annual visit be conducted to the caregiver’s home to ensure the quality of care, the law provides that “payment to the relative or non-related extended family member provider cannot be delayed or terminated solely due to late completion of the annual visit to ensure the quality of care provided.”

Welfare and Institutions Code Section 11402.4.

A: No. AB 1811 (Chapter 35, Statutes of 2018) clarified that the new level of care rate structure does not apply for AAP cases finalized on or before December 31, 2016. Those cases will continue to receive the rates that existed at the time permanency was established.

The maximum AAP a family can receive is limited by the date when the initial AAP was finalized. The age-based foster care rate structure that was in effect prior to January 1, 2017 is used to determine AAP benefits for adoptions finalized on or after May 27, 2011, through December 31, 2016. Every July 1, the California Necessities Index (CNI) increase applies to the AAP rate.

See ACL 18-93 for the current rates in effect for AAP Agreements finalized between May 27, 2011, through December 31, 2016.

All County Letter (ACL) NO. 18-93; Welfare and Institutions Code Section 16121.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: No. An individual can receive CalWORKs based on his or her own needs while also receiving another form of assistance, such as emergency caregiver funding, to support a child in their care. A relative caregiver is eligible to receive CalWORKs to cover his or her own needs when the child that the caregiver is providing for is receiving another form of assistance including emergency caregiver funding, foster care benefits, SSI benefits, or Kin-GAP. The child’s receipt of these other types of benefits does not impact the caregiver or other family members’ eligibility to receive CalWORKs. And, the foster care benefits, SSI, emergency caregiver or Kin-GAP funding is not counted as income to the caregiver or other household members when determining their eligibility for CalWORKs.

However, if you were receiving non-needy CalWORKs on behalf of a relative child, the non-needy CalWORKs for that child will be terminated once you begin to receive emergency caregiver funding or some other type of benefit on behalf of that same child. This is because the non-needy CalWORKs payment is the payment to cover the child’s needs. The child cannot receive CalWORKs and other supports of assistance (such as emergency caregiver funding) at the same time.

It is important to note that emergency caregiver funding is a higher amount of funding than non-needy CalWORKs. It is more advantageous to receive emergency caregiver funding if a child qualifies than it is to receive non-needy CalWORKs.

More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Sometimes. There are two ways a youth can be eligible for Kin-GAP payments until the age of 21.

Typically, Kin-GAP assistance ends at age 18 if the legal guardianship was established before the youth reached age 16. However, for youth who entered into a legal guardianship before the age of 16, he or she is eligible to receive Kin-GAP up to age 21 if he or she has a physical or mental disability that warrants the continuation of assistance.

Youth who reached age 16 before the Kin-GAP payments commenced are eligible to receive Kin-GAP until the youth turns 21.

Welfare & Institutions Code Section 11363(b)(2); 11386(g)(2).

Yes. Approved relative caregivers are eligible to receive any supplemental payment that an approved non-relative caregiver can receive on behalf of a child in foster care, regardless of the child’s federal eligibility. This includes the dual agency rate for children who are consumers of regional services.

Welfare & Institutions Code Section 11461.3, 11464, and 11465.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: Yes. In some cases, the county will be unable to make the emergency placement of a child with a relative or nonrelative extended family member prior to the detention hearing but will desire to do so at or after the detention hearing. In these cases, emergency caregiver funding is available to support the placement, assuming all eligibility conditions are met.

Additionally, courts have the authority to order an emergency placement even if the county objects to the placement. In these situations, the child will be eligible for emergency caregiver funding as long as the child is in the placement and care responsibility of the county child welfare or probation agency, the family has completed the WIC 361.4 assessment, an RFA 01A has been submitted, and all other eligibility conditions are met as described in ACL 18-75.

Families who meet the requirements outlined in ACL 18-75 are eligible for emergency caregiver funding. If the family is approved as a resource family, they will continue to receive funding in the form of regular foster care benefits. If RFA is denied, funding will stop immediately. If the family is denied but the child remains placed and the caregiver is a relative of the child, the caregiver should apply for CalWORKs.

More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: For placements made into the home of a caregiver who is not yet approved as a resource family on or after July 1, 2018, emergency caregiver funding is paid back to the date of placement. This is true even if the RFA-01 application is submitted several weeks after the placement is made. While the law requires the RFA-01 application to be submitted within five (5) days of an emergency placement, the ability to receive emergency caregiver funding back to the date of placement is not affected if the RFA-01 application is received later. However, emergency caregiver funding cannot be initiated until the RFA-01 application is received so it is important to submit the RFA-01 application quickly to ensure that emergency caregiver funding, which will accrue back to the date of placement, is not delayed. More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; 309(d)(2); 361.45(b); RFA Written Directives 6-02; All County Letter (ACL) NO. 18-75.

Background: “School of origin” means the school that the student attended prior to entering foster care or the school in which the student was last enrolled. If the school the student attended prior to entering foster care is different from the school in which she was last enrolled, or if there is some other school that the student attended within the last 15 months with which she is connected, that may also qualify as “school of origin.” The educational liaison, the student, and the student’s education rights holder together determine the student’s best interest and options regarding school of origin. For more, see Education Code §48853.5(g).

A: Public transportation may be an acceptable option to get the student to her school of origin, depending on the length of travel and her age. Public transportation may not be appropriate if the child is too young, or someone may be required to escort the student on public transportation.

Education travel rates may be paid for children taking public transportation to their school of origin. Counties may purchase transportation passes or reimburse the foster parents for purchasing passes.

Public transportation passes are reimbursed at the flat rates of $25, $50, or $75 dollars per month per child, as determined by the placement agency.

Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008; All County Letter NO. 11-51; Education Code §48853.5(g); WIC 11460(b)

Background: School of origin means the school that the foster child attended prior to entering foster care or the school in which the foster child was last enrolled. If the school the foster child attended prior to entering foster care is different from the school in which the foster child was last enrolled, or if there is some other school that the foster child attended with which the foster child is connected and that the foster child attended within the immediately preceding 15 months, the educational liaison, in consultation with, and with the agreement of, the foster child and the person holding the right to make educational decisions for the foster child, shall determine, in the best interests of the foster child, the school that shall be deemed the school of origin. (Education Code §48853.5(g)).

A: Yes. Resource families, approved relative caregivers, non-related extended family members, and foster family homes have a right to receive reimbursement for transportation of a child to their school of origin. The California Department of Social Services (DSS) issued All County Letter (ACL) 11-51 which includes the amount of funding to be provided on a monthly basis to caregivers transporting the child in their care to their school of origin if the travel is 4 or more miles one way in the amount of $58-$443 per month, depending on the number of miles traveled per month. In this instance, a caregiver transporting a child 15 miles one way to get to their school of origin is entitled to reimbursement in the amount of $250 per month for that child.

Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008; All County Letter NO. 11-51; Education Code §48853.5(g)

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: Yes. Families who are referred to an FFA to complete their resource family approval application can receive emergency caregiver funding if they meet the following criteria:

  • The child must be placed with the family on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason.
  • The family is not yet approved as a resource family.
  • The family has signed and submitted a RFA application (RFA-01).
  • The county child welfare agency or probation agency filed an Emergency Assistance (EA) form.

For placements after July 1, 2018, funding will be provided to the family back to the date of placement. However, the RFA applications must be submitted before funding can be initiated.

More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: Under AB 1811, all caregivers, relatives and non-relatives alike, who are caring for a child placed with them prior to completing RFA, through emergency placement or placement based on a compelling reason, should receive emergency caregiver funding. The child does not need to be deemed eligible for the Emergency Assistance Program in order for funding at the time of placement to begin.

More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: Yes. Families qualify for emergency caregiver funding regardless whether a child welfare department or probation department has placed the child so long as the family meets the criteria required for emergency caregiver funding. These criteria require the following:

  • The young person must be placed with the family as a foster care placement. This includes those who are placed in the home of a relative or extended family member. Sometimes delinquency courts may order that a young person on probation be released to a parent with permission to reside with a relative or non-relative friend of the family. This is not the same as a foster care placement. If the young person is released, as opposed to placed, by probation with the relative, then it is not a foster care placement);
  • The family is not yet approved as a resource family;
  • The family has signed and submitted a RFA application filed (Form RFA-01), and
  • The county child welfare agency or probation agency filed an Emergency Assistance (EA) form on behalf of the caregiver.

More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: It’s important to note that the paperwork requirements are different for AB 110 and AB 1811.

For AB 110 funding, caregivers were required to complete an RFA application. Relatives caring for a non-federally eligible child were also required to sign an Approved Relative Care (ARC) application to receive AB 110 funding. Once the child’s eligibility worker determined the child’s eligibility for federal funding, the caregiver was provided the ARC application, if necessary. If a child was eligible for Emergency Assistance (EA) and not ARC, the county worker would complete the EA application which needn’t be signed by the caregiver. Under AB 110, which applies to any emergency placement that occurred prior to July 1, 2018, funding cannot be initiated until an RFA application is submitted.

Under AB 1811, for a family that accepts placement prior to approval on or after July 1, 2018, the RFA application must still be completed. In addition, the county worker must also complete the Emergency Assistance (EA) application (emergency caregivers do not complete the EA application themselves). For placements that occur on or after July 1, 2018, AB 1811 funding is available back to the date of placement.

More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: AB 1811 extended emergency caregiver funding available under AB 110 beyond June 30, 2018 for families with an emergency placement not yet approved as a resource family. Emergency caregivers receiving funding should see no break in payment.

Families who were entitled to a payment under AB 110 and did not receive such payment as of July 1, 2018 still have a right to receive that funding for the period between March 30, 2018 and June 30, 2018 when they meet eligibility criteria.

More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: Yes, undocumented children and non-minor dependents are eligible for AB 110 and AB 1811 funding if they meet the funding eligibility requirements. More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: Yes, a caregiver can receive CalWORKs on behalf of the child in their care during the first month the caregiver is eligible for AB 110 funding, which is equal to the basic level foster care rate of $923. During that first month, the family will receive AB 110 funding without any offset due to the receipt of CalWORKs benefits. In other words, if the caregiver is currently receiving a CalWORKs payment, the caregiver will receive AB 110 interim funding without any reduction due to the receipt of CalWORKs and they will not be required to pay back any of the CalWORKs received in that first month. After the first month, the caregiver will receive only the AB 110 funding.

NOTE: Passage of AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive funding prior to RFA approval. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families. More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: No. AB 110 funding is limited to the basic foster care rate (currently $923 a month). Once a caregiver is fully approved as a resource family, then the caregiver can begin to receive supplemental payments and/or a specialized care increment if those supplemental payments are available in that county.

NOTE: Passage of AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive funding prior to RFA approval. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families. More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

The new tiered rates, which are determined by the LOC protocol, went into effect for placements through a Foster Family Agency (FFA) on March 1, 2018 and were to be implemented statewide on May 1, 2018. However, pursuant to All County Letter (ACL) 18-48, the statewide implementation of the tiered rates has been delayed. This means that the new tiered rates are not in effect for children who are placed into a county approved or licensed home outside of an FFA. This includes nearly all children placed with relatives or non-relative extended family members. Instead, these families will continue to receive the basic rate (currently $960 per month) and any applicable county specialized care increments (SCI). However, children placed through an FFA will continue to be assessed using the LOC protocol and receive the tiered rate commensurate with that assessment.

The delay in implementation allows the Department of Social Services (DSS) to continue to assess the reliability and accuracy of the LOC protocol prior to a statewide rollout and make any necessary changes to the protocol. In addition, the delay allows counties additional time to update their SCI plans. SCIs have historically been the rate available to provide for the additional needs of children placed outside of an FFA and counties will need to continue to operate their SCI programs after full implementation of the new tiered rates. Therefore, it is critical that counties have sufficient time to review and update their SCI plans to ensure that the specialized care rates conform to the new tiered foster care rates. County revisions to their SCI plans are due to DSS by June 30, 2018. The updated SCI plans will not take effect until the LOC protocol is implemented following additional guidance by DSS.

Watch the Department of Social Services update video for additional information.

All County Letter NO. 18-48All County Letter NO. 18-06All County Letter NO. 18-06E.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: AB 110 funding expires on June 30, 2018, at the end of the current fiscal year. Foster care funding should replace the AB 110 funding if a caregiver is approved as a resource family by June 30, 2018.

NOTE: Passage of AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive funding prior to RFA approval. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families. More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: No. Funding is available as of March 30, 2018. No funding is available for the period between the date of placement and March 30, 2018, if the placement occurred prior to March 30, 2018. In other words, there is no retroactive payment back to the date of placement to cover the time that a child was placed in an emergency caregiver’s home before enactment of AB 110. For example, if a child was placed in the home of a caregiver in January 2017, there is no back payment for the period between January 2017 and March 30, 2018.

NOTE: Passage of AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive funding prior to RFA approval. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families. More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: In order to receive interim funding, which expires on June 30, 2018, for those who have a child placed with them on an emergency basis while RFA is pending, caregivers must have completed an RFA application.

Relatives caring for a non-federally eligible child must also sign the Approved Relative Care (ARC) application in order to receive AB 110 funding. The child’s eligibility worker will determine the child’s eligibility for federal funding and the caregiver will be provided the ARC application by the county worker, if necessary.

In addition, the Emergency Assistance (EA) application must be completed by the county worker if the child is with a non-related extended family member (NREFM), or if the child is federally eligible and placed with a relative.

AB 110 funding cannot be initiated until an RFA application is submitted. For example, for a caregiver who has not submitted an RFA application, with whom a child was placed prior to March 30, 2018, that caregiver may only receive funding from the day an RFA application is completed through June 30, 2018.

NOTE: Passage of AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive funding prior to RFA approval. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families. More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: AB 110 provides short-term funding for the period of March 30, 2018 through June 30, 2018, for families who accept placement of a child prior to approval as a resource family, if the family has completed and submitted a Resource Family Approval (RFA) application. AB 110 funding is not available prior to March 30, 2018, even if the placement occurred before that date. Families that accept emergency placements from March 30 on, and who are not yet approved, will receive funding beginning on the day they sign and submit the RFA application.

NOTE: Passage of AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive funding prior to RFA approval. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families. More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

To receive ISFC services and supports, a caregiver must meet three requirements:

  •  they must be approved as a resource family;
  • they must be caring for a child in their home who has intensive medical, therapeutic or behavioral needs; and
  •  the caregiver must complete additional training which includes 40 hours of special training to qualify for ISFC. Up to 12 hours of general Resource Family Approval training can count toward the 40-hour requirement. This means that caregivers must complete 28 additional training hours to qualify for the ISFC program.

In a two-parent household, placement of an eligible child can be made when one of the resource parents completes 40 hours of pre-placement training so long as the second parent completed 20 hours of the training.

It is possible to continue to care for an eligible child even if the caregiver has not completed the training under the following conditions:

  •  in a one-parent household, the 40 hours of training are completed within 120 days after the placement or identification of the child.
  • in a two-parent household, one of the caregivers must complete the 40 hours of training within 120 days after the placement or identification of the child. The other caregiver must complete 20 hours of pre-placement training within 180 days of placement, or identification of the child, and the remaining 20 hours within 12 months of placement.

The county agency must provide necessary services and supports to a child even if the caregiver has not completed the training described above including the monthly financial stipend to the caregiver. The services and supports a child receives should not be contingent on completion of the training hours if the county places a child prior to that caregiver completing the training requirements .

Ongoing training is also required. Caregivers must complete 24 hours of ongoing training within 12 months of the placement of an eligible child and 12 hours per year for each year thereafter. Eight hours of the annual RFA training can count toward the ongoing training required for the ISFC program.

Welfare & Institutions Code, § 18360.10All County Letter (ACL) No. 18-25.

The ISFC program was created to provide supports to children and youth who require intensive treatment, including treatment for behavioral and specialized health care needs. Specifically, the ISFC program is intended to stabilize young people in foster care with the services they need in family settings and reduce placement in congregate care and residential programs.

Foster Family Agencies (FFAs) and county agencies can deliver ISFC services if they meet program responsibilities delineated in All County Letter 18-25. Specifically, agencies must:

  • identify strategies to recruit and train caregivers to receive ISFC services,
  • provide thoughtful placement matching between ISFC-eligible youth and caregivers, and
  • ensure that social workers with master’s degrees coordinate care for the ISFC program.

CITATIONS: Welf. and Inst. Code sections 1836018360.0618360.10All County Letter (ACL) No. 18-25.

Yes. Recent state legislation, AB 110 and AB 1811, commonly referred to as emergency caregiver funding, provides foster care funding to families caring for a child while completing RFA. Once approved as a resource family, a caregiver will continue to receive foster care benefits for providing care to a dependent child or a nonminor dependent. The fact that a youth turns 18 while the RFA application is pending does not change anything about the approval process.

A nonminor dependent could be approved to live in the caregiver’s home as a supervised independent living placement (SILP) after turning 18. If the home is approved as a SILP, the nonminor dependent may receive foster care benefits for the SILP directly and the caregiver would not need separate approval as a resource family. SILP approvals are distinct from the RFA standards and a youth can be approved to be in a SILP in a caregiver’s home without that home first being approved as a Resource Family. However, it is important to note that the SILP funding would be set at the basic foster care rate and would not provide additional funding for any of the youth’s special needs. The funding for a SILP also goes back to the date of the SILP approval, not to the initial date of placement of the youth in the home.

CITATIONS: Welf. and Inst. Code section 11402(b) and (e)Written Directives v. 5 sections 3-01(a)(63); 11-18.

Lack of child care is a barrier to successful placements in foster care, as potential caregivers often must go to work or attend school.

Therefore, the State has allocated $31 million, to provide counties the option to create emergency child care bridge programs. It is important to note that each county that wishes to participate must opt into the program, and not every county will likely accept the state funding or create an emergency child care bridge program.

Caregivers and parenting youth who work, attend school, or have parenting activities beyond the scope of ordinary parental duties are eligible for the child care bridge program. The program consists of three components:

  • First: recipients of the bridge program will receive a child care voucher. This voucher is available for six months, but a county is allowed to extend the voucher for an additional six months if the family is unable to secure long-term, subsidized child care.
  • Second: a recipient of the bridge program will be assigned a child care navigator. The navigator is supposed to help the family secure long-term child care. The navigator will be available to assist with any necessary applications for child care resources and ensure that families are informed regarding the benefits of child care.
  • Third: all child care providers may receive trauma-informed training and coaching. This will help ensure that the child care providers understand the needs of children in foster care.Caregivers do not need to be approved as resource families to qualify for the child care bridge program, but which caregivers actually receive the voucher will be up the each individual county. A best practice would be for a county to provide an emergency child care bridge voucher to caregivers at the time of placement to ensure the child’s and family’s success, and to bridge the period of time between placement and when long-term child care becomes available.Counties that wish to opt in to the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program must submit a plan to the state by November 30, 2017 to receive their portion of the state funding for the purpose of creating a county program. The state’s All County Letter 17-109 and a recent webinar provide more information about how a county may opt into the program.

No, the law does not require successor guardians to be approved as resource families to receive Kin-GAP funding.

A successor guardian is named for the purpose of establishing someone who can take over as a child’s guardian in the event that the person originally appointed as the guardian for the child cannot continue in that role (usually due to death or disability). Children who enter guardianship from foster care are eligible to receive Kin-GAP payments if the child was living in the approved home of the relative for six consecutive months prior to the guardianship being established.  Kin-GAP payments begin once the dependency case has been dismissed.

For Kin-GAP payments to continue onto a successor guardian, the named successor guardian must have their home visited and assessed by a county social worker and must have a criminal background check and review of the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) to make sure that the successor guardian’s home is a safe place for the child. Beyond that, the successor guardian and child welfare agency must complete and sign a Kin-GAP agreement.

Kin-GAP payments to the successor guardian may begin right away once the above requirements are met. A new period of 6 months in the placement with the successor guardian is not required to receive Kin-GAP payments and the successor guardian does not have to be approved as a resource family.

CITATIONS: Welf. and Inst. Code sections 361.3, 361.411360 et seq11385 et seq.

No. CCR does not change the right of children in foster care to stay in their school of origin.

Students in foster care continue to demonstrate the poorest education outcomes in the state, compared to all other student demographics. This reality is deeply impacted by the fact that children in foster care in California move an average of eight times during school years, and one-third of all students in foster care change schools at least once each year—losing four to six months of learning with each transfer.

A child’s right to remain in their school of origin is intended to mitigate this issue. This right means that a child can continue to attend the same school, even if their home placement changes. They can also follow feeder patterns of their school of origin, and matriculate to the next level (elementary to middle, middle to high school) according to the pattern of their school of origin. A child may not transfer out of their school of origin following a home placement change unless the education rights holder (ERH) decides it is in the child’s best interest.

If a child’s dependency (foster care) case closes while they are in kindergarten through eighth grade, they may continue attending their school of origin for the remainder of the school year. If the case closes while they are in high school, they may continue attending their school of origin until they graduate.

The focus CCR places on communication between providers about the best interests of children in foster care complements the right to remain in school of origin. To protect this right and other education rights of children in foster care, the child’s Education Rights Holder should always be included in the child’s Child and Family Team (CFT). The CFT has the responsibility to make critical decisions about home placements and other issues that directly impact and are impacted by school of origin decisions.

Background: Assembly Bill (AB) 110 and AB 1811 provide emergency caregiver funding to California families who accept placement of a child in foster care on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to completing resource family approval (RFA). AB 110 went into effect on March 30, 2018 and was set to expire on June 30, 2018. AB 1811 extends the funding initiated under AB 110, so that families benefitting from AB 110 will continue to receive emergency caregiver funding. AB 1811 also provides funding for families who accept placement on or after July 1, 2018 and are not yet approved as resource families.

A: Until recently, NREFMs did not have a guaranteed source of financial support while they were caring for a foster child on an emergency basis and completing Resource Family Approval (RFA).

AB 110 and AB 1811, commonly referred to as emergency caregiver funding, now provides foster care funding to families caring for foster children while completing RFA. Both relatives and non-related caregivers are eligible to receive emergency caregiver funding equal to the resource family basic rate of $960 per month per child. More information about emergency caregiver funding may be found here.

Welfare and Institutions Code §11461.36; All County Letter (ACL) 18-75.

Background:
I have been caring for my granddaughter since 2013, when she entered foster care. She has developmental disabilities and is a client of the regional center. The amount of financial support I receive for the care of my granddaughter keeps changing. Initially, I was told that she was not eligible for foster care benefits. Then, a couple of years ago, my social worker told me I could receive funding equal to the basic foster care rate. I know that most foster children served by the regional center receive funding that is substantially more than the basic foster care rate, but was told that because I was a relative, that funding was not available to me. Now I’ve heard the law has changed again. Can you clarify what financial support relatives caring for children in foster care are eligible to receive?

A: An approved relative caring for a foster child is eligible to receive all of the same financial support that is available to non-relatives. You are correct that children in foster care who are also regional center clients are eligible for a higher level of financial support, known as the “dual agency rate.” As an approved relative you are now eligible to receive the dual agency rate on behalf of your granddaughter (see more information below). The law has been evolving for the last several years, but as of July 2017, relatives are eligible to receive all of the same benefits as a non-relative foster parent.

Currently, the amount of monthly financial assistance received for each child is equal to $960 a month (the amount of the monthly financial support goes up July 1st of each year in accordance with the California Necessities Index). The new rate of $960 is the minimum amount that an approved family will receive.

You may be able to receive more than $960 a month. Children in need of additional support are eligible for supplements based on their needs. Every foster family, relative and non-relative foster parents, qualifies for these supports as long as the child meets relevant eligibility criteria. The supplements available include:

  • Infant Supplement: If you are caring for a young person in foster care that has a child, you may receive an infant supplement to cover the additional costs of providing food, clothing and shelter to the child of the foster youth. The infant supplement provides an additional $900 per month to support the baby or child of a foster youth who is also parenting.
  • Clothing Allowance: An annual supplement may be available at the county’s option to help defray the cost of purchasing clothing.
  • Specialized Care Increment: The Specialized Care Increment program provides additional financial support to families caring for a child with additional or special needs. Specialized care increments are available in most, but not all, counties. The specialized care increment that you may be eligible to receive is based on the specialized care system of the county in which you are residing. You can review the various specialized care plans for each county here: http://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/Foster-Care/Specialized-Care.
  • Dual Agency Rate: Children who are both in foster care and clients of the regional center receive what is known as the Dual Agency Rate instead of the basic foster care payment. Children who are under three years old and receiving Early Intervention Services from the regional center receive a dual agency rate of $1,124 per month. Children who have been diagnosed as meeting the criteria for being a lifelong client of the regional center receive a monthly rate of at least $2,513 per month. (There also are four supplemental payments of $250, $500, $750 and $1,000 that are available to support children with additional needs beyond these base dual agency rates).
  • Educational Travel Reimbursement: If you are transporting the child in your care to the school of origin and that school is more than 3 miles away from your home, you may be eligible for the Educational Travel Reimbursement.

All RFA-approved relatives are eligible to receive these supplemental supports. Both the clothing allowance and the Specialized Care Increments vary from county to county, so it is important to check with your social worker to see what is available in your county.

Resource Family Approval

A: Spouses or significant others are not required to apply for RFA or be approved as a Resource Parent. However, spouses or significant others must complete the RFA interview and background check, as these components of RFA are required of any adult residing or regularly present in the home of an RFA applicant. However, if a spouse or significant other has not been approved as a Resource Parent, they must be added to the approval if they wish to adopt the child.

Resource Family Approval Written Directives V6

Background: A Tribally Approved Home (TAH) is a home that has been licensed or approved by an Indian Tribe for foster care or adoptive placement of an Indian child using standards established by the Tribe pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act. TAHs are not required to be licensed by the Department of a County, and is equivalent to a Department or County licensed home. (Resource Family Approval Written Directives V6).

A: No. TAHs are exempt from the RFA process but must meet minimum federal standards for approval. These standards include the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) check and criminal record background check requirements. The Home Assessment may be approved under the tribe’s socially and culturally appropriate standards.

Resource Family Approval Written Directives V6

A: No. Foster care funding will not be impacted, even if the update to RFA is not completed within the 12 month timeframe. The resource family may continue to accept placement of children in foster care as well as continue to receive foster care funding for the foster children in their home. A resource family maintains their approval and foster care funding unless approval is either rescinded by a county or surrendered by the resource family.

Note: If an update to your approval was not done within a year, notify your county or foster family agency. Upon completion of the update to RFA, you should receive a new RFA certificate with a new anniversary date.

Resource Family Approval Written Directives V6

A: Yes. Resource Family Approval must be updated at least once every 12 months, even if there is no significant change in the home. RFA Written Directives V6 specify that the update may occur no sooner than 60 calendar days prior to the 12-month anniversary date of the previous approval and no later than 30 calendar days after the 12-month anniversary date. The county will, among other things, conduct a health and safety assessment of the home, review the resource families’ current annual and other training requirements and interview all individuals residing in the home.

Resource Family Approval Written Directives V6

A: No. The mandated reporter training is only for new applicants completing RFA. It is not a requirement for resource families who were already approved prior to this topic being a new mandated portion of the curriculum.

Note: All resource families are mandated reporters and are required to report known or suspected child abuse or neglect to the county child welfare agency and/or local law enforcement agency. As such, mandated reporter training is an important training topic for all resource families to be familiar with. If you did not receive this training as part of your pre-approval training, it is strongly encouraged that you speak to your county child welfare agency or provider for more information about your obligations as a mandated reporter. Additional information and online training is available here.

Resource Family Approval Written Directives V6

A: Resource families have several options for arranging temporary childcare help, depending on how long the resource parent(s) will require such assistance.

  1. If you anticipate being away from home for less than 24 hours, you are permitted to arrange for a short-term babysitter. The babysitter may be under 18 years of age as long as the babysitter has the appropriate maturity, experience and ability to provide care and supervision for the child. The babysitter may not care for the child for more than 24 hours at a time.
  2. If you anticipate being away from home for more than 24 hours, but no more than 72 hours, you are permitted to arrange for an alternative caregiver to provide care and supervision to the child unless prohibited by the child’s social worker, probation officer or a court order. An alternative caregiver must be at least 18 years of age. A criminal records clearance or exemption is not required to be an alternative caregiver. If the absence will exceed 72 hours, you must provide verbal or written notification and obtain approval from the child’s social worker or probation officer.
  3. You are also permitted to request respite care from your child welfare agency for up to 72 hours. Respite care may be extended up to 14 days in any one month in order to preserve the placement. A respite caregiver is approved by the child welfare agency and is not available for routine, ongoing childcare. Respite caregivers must be an approved relative or nonrelative extended family member (NREFM), a licensed foster family home, a certified family home, a Resource Family, or a certified respite care provider.

Resource Family Approval Written Directives V6

A: Portability means that a Resource Family may transfer their Resource Family Approval (RFA) to another approving entity. There are three available options regarding portability:

  1. A Resource Family approved by a foster family agency (FFA) may transfer their approval to a county;
  2. A Resource Family approved by a FFA may transfer their approval to another FFA, or
  3. A Resource Family approved by a county may transfer their approval to a FFA.
    A Resource Family must complete the RFA 10 form to initiate the process. Once the transfer process is completed, the new approving entity will issue a Resource Family Approval Certificate to the Resource Family.

Resource Family Approval Written Directives V6.

A: No, the placement order does not have to be terminated but the funding to the family may be suspended depending on how long the youth is in the inpatient program. A youth is considered “temporarily absent” from the placement after 14 days. The full month’s foster care maintenance payment to the resource family may be provided as long as the absence does not exceed 14 days within a calendar month and the child’s placement continues with the same resource family. If the child is absent from the placement for more than 14 days within the calendar month, then the foster care payment will be prorated to only provide payment for the days the child was actually in the home. For example, if the youth enters the treatment program beginning on January 18, the resource family would receive payment for the entire month of January because the absence would equal 14 days within that calendar month. Alternatively, if the youth enters the treatment program on January 2 and remains in the program for the remainder of the month, the resource family would not receive payment for the full month, but would receive a prorated payment for the days that the child was in the resource family home (in this example, the prorated payment would only cover one day).

Regardless of whether the funding is prorated or provided for the full month, the court does not need to terminate a placement order during the youth’s inpatient services and the youth is permitted to return to the resource family home following completion of the program.

California Department of Social Services Manual of Policies and Procedures Eligibility and Assistance Standards (EAS) 45-302.23.

A: No, a resource family applicant is allowed to reinstate their RFA application within 12 months of its withdrawal prior to approval or denial.

Note: A county or foster family agency may require the applicant to redo any part of the application that they deem necessary.

Welfare & Institutions Code Section 16519.5.

A: No, resource family approvals do not expire. The approval remains valid even when an annual update is not done timely. A resource family approval can only cease if the “approval is rescinded by a County or the Resource Family chooses to surrender the approval.”

Written Directives V. 5 Section 9-02(f).

Background: Prior to Resource Family Approval (RFA) going into effect on January 1, 2017, relatives and non-related extended family members (NREFMs) were approved on a per-child basis pursuant to Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). Many of these families continued to care for a child for whom they were ASFA-approved and they have not yet converted to be Resource Family Approval and they have not had their ASFA-approval updated based on that approval status.

A: Yes. Caregivers who were ASFA-approved and had placement of a child or non-minor dependent (NMD) in 2017 remain eligible for foster care funding, however they must initiate the RFA conversion process by December 31, 2020, in order to care or continue to care for a child or NMD. In addition, in order to accept placement of a new child into their home, they need to convert to RFA.

Although ASFA requires that an annual visit be conducted to the caregiver’s home to ensure the quality of care, the law provides that “payment to the relative or non-related extended family member provider cannot be delayed or terminated solely due to late completion of the annual visit to ensure the quality of care provided.”

Welfare and Institutions Code Section 11402.4.

A: Yes, relatives and non-related extended family members approved under ASFA who had a child placed in their home during the 2017 calendar year are eligible to convert to RFA. The RFA conversion process is a truncated version of the full RFA process.

Prior to RFA going into effect on January 1, 2017, relatives and non-related extended family members (NREFMs) were approved pursuant to Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). The most recent ASFA home approval remains in full force and effect regardless of how long it has been since that approval occurred, as long as the home was never denied after that approval. A family approved under ASFA who cared for a child placed in their home any time during the 2017 calendar year is eligible to convert to RFA.

It is important to note that caregivers who were ASFA-approved and had placement in 2017 must initiate the RFA conversion process by December 31, 2020. The complete process to convert to a resource family for approved relatives and NREFMs with placement of a child or NMD in 2017 can be found in All County Letter (ACL) No. 17-16E.

Welfare and Institutions Code Section 11402.4, ACL No. 17-16E.

A: No, a caregiver does not have to complete RFA to have a child placed with them through a VPA. A VPA allows a child to be temporarily placed into the home of a relative of extended family member upon agreement of the parent and the child welfare agency without a court ordered removal or petition for removal being filed. VPAs cannot exceed 180 days. A child is permitted to be placed with a family who is approved pursuant to Resource Family Approval (RFA) through a VPA. However, it is not required that the individual accepting placement through a VPA be approved as a resource family. In addition, the family is not required to initiate the resource family approval process even after the placement occurs; although, it is often a best practice to begin RFA in case the child is unable to return home within the 180-day period. Caregivers who accept placement through a VPA are entitled to receive foster care funding even if they are not approved as a resource family.

Welfare & Institutions Code Section 16507.5; 16507.6.

No, not necessarily. The agency in charge of the RFA application should consider a Documented Alternative Plan (DAP) for any family whose home is too small to meet approval standards. A DAP is a written alternative plan that allows the RFA applicant to meet the home environment standards in a different way. For example, a DAP might be appropriate if the RFA applicant’s home has smaller rooms or fewer bedrooms than required. The caseworker or probation officer must approve the alternative plan to ensure it will not be detrimental to the health and safety of any child in the home.

 

RFA Written Directives, Section 10-03.

A person is no longer considered a RFA applicant when they withdraw their RFA application. Withdraws are intended to be a voluntary decision by an applicant to discontinue the RFA application and assessment process when circumstances change, for example, in the event that a child returns to the home of a parent. No one else, including an applicant’s social worker, can decide to withdraw an applicant from the RFA process.

As a best practice, counties should only allow an applicant to withdraw from the RFA process if the withdraw request, including the reason for the withdraw, has been made in writing. In addition, the county should issue a Notice of Action to provide documentation that the RFA application has been withdrawn in response to the RFA applicant’s request.

Anyone who believes that their RFA application has been withdrawn inappropriately should contact the Alliance for Children’s Rights: 213-368-6010.

Note: There is pending legislation (SB 1083) that would allow someone who withdraws an RFA application to reinstate their RFA application within 12 months of withdrawing.

RFA Written Directives, Section 5-03A(e); Section 12-05(d)(2).

A: It depends. In some instances, the caregiver’s home could serve as a supervised independent living placement (SILP) for a non-minor dependent (NMD). A SILP is a living situation for youth ages 18 to 21 with open foster care cases (known as non-minor dependents). A living situation can be approved as a SILP if the county worker determines that a non-minor dependent is ready for independent living through a readiness assessment. The county worker would also complete an inspection of the home.

The SILP approval process is less rigorous than resource family approval – and if a caregiver’s home is approved as a SILP, they do not need to complete resource family approval. It is important to note that if a non-minor dependent pursues a SILP, there are implications regarding the support they receive. NMDs in a SILP receive the basic foster care rate (currently $923 and increasing to $960 on July 1, 2018), the applicable clothing allowance, and the infant supplement if eligible. In a SILP, NMDs cannot receive a county’s specialized care increment, the dual agency rate provided to regional center clients, and levels of care higher than the basic foster care rate.

Welfare & Institutions Code § 11400(w); ACL 11-77.

Yes. As of this year, counties and foster family agencies are allowed to place a resource family on inactive status. During this period of inactive status, a resource family is not eligible to care for a child in foster care. They are also not subject to the annual update required by Resource Family Approval (RFA).

A family must notify the county in writing regarding the reasons for inactive status, such as the birth of a child, a medical condition, or relocation. The written notification must also include the anticipated date the inactive status will end. When the family is ready to terminate its inactive status, they must provide the county with thirty (30) calendar days written notice. That family will then have to complete their annual update in order to care for a child in foster care. A period of inactive status is limited to two years.

A situation may arise where a child comes into foster care and the relative or non-related extended family member who would like to care for that child is on inactive status. If this is the case, a child can be placed with them on an emergency basis even if they are on inactive status. If this situation arises, the family will be expected to complete an annual update within thirty (30) calendar days of the placement, unless good cause exists.

CITATIONS: Health & Safety Code section 1517.4Welf. and Inst. Code section 16519.56RFA Written Directives, Version 5, Section 10-02.

Yes, the certificate includes the number of children the resource family is willing and able to care for. It is important to note that the capacity does not necessarily equate to the number of children currently in the family’s home. For example, a family could have two children in their home prior to being approved, but they might have room in their home and be willing to care for five children total. The certificate should, therefore, say the capacity is five. It is important for the certificate to reflect accurately the capacity so that there are not delays in funding if additional children are later placed in the caregiver’s home.

CITATIONS: RFA Written Directives, Section 6-08.

 In version 5.0 of the Written Directives, effective February 6, 2018, the “Psychosocial Assessment” will now be called a “Family Evaluation.”

The family evaluation is in lieu of an adoption home study, so caregivers that are approved as resource families do not have to complete an adoption home study. The family evaluation is also in lieu of a guardianship approval. This means that once a family is approved as a resource family they are considered eligible for adoption or guardianship. It is important to note that Resource Family Approval does not guarantee adoption or guardianship as a case plan.

CITATIONS: RFA Written Directives.

The caregiver should notify their worker right away. Resource families are required to notify their counties “within 30 calendar days prior to moving home locations or as soon as the information is available.” Once the caregiver notifies the county worker, the county must update the approval within 30 days with the caregiver’s new location information. The county that originally approved the caregiver as a resource family will coordinate the update after the caregiver moves, unless there is an alternative agreement between the two counties as outlined in the Out-of-County Approval Protocol.

An update may require verifying all the information in a caregiver’s original resource family approval application, a health and safety inspection of the new home, new background checks for any new adults in the home, revising parts of the family evaluation (formerly referred to as the “psychosocial assessment”) to incorporate new information, or interviewing people living in the home. A caregiver’s approval status remains in full force and effect while the county conducts any required steps in the update.

If the county updates the approval, the caregiver should not have to complete another update until the following year.

CITATIONS: Welf. & Inst. Code Section 16519.5(j)(1)Written Directives v. 4.1 Sections 9-02(b)(1)-(b)(9); 9-04; 11-06(d)

Scenario:  I am currently the approved relative caregiver for my granddaughter, who was placed in my home in February 2016. Her mother just had another baby that was born exposed to methamphetamines and, as a result, the child welfare agency is removing the baby from her mother and would like to place the baby in my home so that she can be with her sister. The county is telling me that they can place the infant with me on an emergency basis but that I must then complete the Resource Family Approval process and cannot receiving funding until that process is complete. Do I have to complete the entire RFA process?

A: No, the caregiver does not need to complete the entire RFA process. Instead, to receive foster care funding for the new child, a relative caregiver must complete the RFA conversion process. The reason that a relative must complete the RFA conversion process before getting funding for the new child is because under the old approval standards, relatives were only approved to care for the specific child in their care.

Conversion is a shortened process, in which an existing caregiver must complete the family evaluation (formerly referred to as the “psychosocial assessment”), but does not have to complete other components of RFA such as the pre-approval training hours. The caregiver must complete the conversion process to receive foster care funding for the new child. However, there should be no disruption in funding for the child or children for whom they are currently caring.

The answer to the question would be different for a licensed non-relative foster parent or certified foster parent. Because certified and licensed foster homes were licensed to care for any child in foster care, the county can place additional children in these homes without the RFA conversion process, and funding can initiate as of the day of placement. Certified and licensed foster families that have a child placed in their home at some point during calendar year 2017 have until December 31, 2019 to initiate the conversion process. However, if a certified or licensed foster home does not have a child placed with them at some point during 2017, their license or certification is forfeited as of January 1, 2018, and they will need to complete the full RFA approval process in order to be considered as a placement for a child in foster care.

Not necessarily.

Legal guardians DO need to go through a conversion process under the new Resource Family Approval process under certain circumstances. The conversion process entails a shortened process, where an existing caregiver must complete the family evaluation (formerly referred to as the “psychosocial assessment”), but they do not have to complete other components of RFA such as the pre-approval training hours. Conversion must happen by December 31, 2019.

A legal guardian must convert:

  • if the foster care case remains open after the guardianship is established, and the case is not closed by December 31, 2019; OR
  • the child has an open dependency case and the guardian wishes to accept placement of other children in their home; OR
  • prior to adopting the child over whom guardianship was approved, unless there was already a completed adoption home study.

A legal guardian does not need to convert if:

  • the guardianship is finalized and the dependency (foster care case) has already been closed, as long as there are no other children in foster care in the same home; OR
  • the guardianship is finalized and the dependency (foster care) case is current open, as long as the dependency care case is closed before December 31, 2019; OR
  • the guardian already completed an adoption home study.

All County Letter 17-16

No. The grandmother will have to “convert” from her current status as a previously approved relative to an approved resource family. This conversion process does not require the grandmother to complete all of the steps for Resource Family Approval. Instead, because she had a child in foster care (her granddaughter) living in her home during 2017, all she needs to do is to complete the family evaluation (formerly referred to as “psychosocial assessment”) under the new RFA standards. In the meantime, while she works with the county to complete the family evaluation, it is important to note that her grandson can (and should) be placed with her through the emergency placement procedures or based on a compelling reason even before she has fully converted.

Cal. Welfare & Institutions § 16519.5CDSS All County Letter 17-16

Until recently, caregivers who accept placement of a child under an emergency basis or compelling reason did not receive foster care funding until they completed RFA. Those caregivers would only receive funding through CalWORKs, and other county optional payments such as emergency stipends.

AB 110 and AB 1811, commonly referred to as emergency caregiver funding, now provides foster care funding to families caring for a foster child while completing RFA. You can read more about the emergency caregiver funding here.

An applicant must submit a completed Resource Family Application before anything else happens. If a child has already been placed on an emergency basis, prior to approval, it’s particularly important for the caregiver to submit the RFA Application within five days of the child being placed.

Beyond that, there is no general requirement that the remaining components of RFA be completed in any particular sequence. However, individual counties are permitted to develop their own process for completing RFA. That means that the county processing your approval may require you to complete the RFA process in a particular order or sequence.

In order to ensure applicants are approved quickly, it is likely necessary to pursue different components of RFA concurrently. For example, a county should not require an applicant to complete all of the required pre-approval training hours before beginning the family evaluation (psychosocial assessment), as that will simply delay the time for completing the approval process.

Applicants are encouraged to check in regularly with their social worker to see where they are in the approval process and see if the social worker needs anything further to move the process forward. The Resource Family Approval Guide includes suggested questions to ask your social worker on page 13.

Although applicants are approved to both foster and adopt by virtue of being approved through the RFA process, the applicant does not have to be willing to adopt in order to be approved. They may care for the child as a resource family (foster parent) without moving forward with adoption.

However, should the caregiver wish to adopt (and allowing for the fact that other requirements for adoption, such as termination of birth parent rights, must be resolved), RFA does streamline the process for adoption, because there is no longer a separate requirement for an adoption home study. In other words, if a caregiver ultimately decides to adopt a child after they have already been approved through the RFA process, they do not have to undergo an adoption home study. The family evaluation (formerly known as “psychosocial assessment”) that they completed as part of the RFA process takes the place of what used to be the adoption home study.

While the caregiver and the home are technically approved for adoption by virtue of being approved as a resource family, that in no way commits the family to adopt. Further, an individual’s expressed desire to provide a specific level of permanency (e.g. adoption, guardianship, or placement as a fit and willing relative) cannot be the basis to deny approval of the resource family applicant.

Welfare & Institutions Code § 16519.5(g)(5)A)(i)(II).

No. A child welfare agency cannot deny an applicant, specifically a relative or family friend, as a resource family for expressing a desire to care for only a specific child or specific children. Similarly, a child welfare agency cannot force a person to care for more children than a person is willing or able to provide for. If an applicant is only interested or able to care for a specific number of children, it should not be a basis for denial of that person under Resource Family Approval.

In addition, in some circumstances, a county may approve a caregiver to care for a specific child or non-minor dependent. More information about child-specific approval can be found on page 23 in our Resource Family Approval Guide here.

It is critical that families be supported throughout the approval process, particularly when a family has accepted placement of a child on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to being approved. These families are working to meet all the approval requirements while simultaneously meeting the needs of a traumatized child or children already in their care. Agencies working to approve resource families should consider the following:

  • Ensure caregivers who take in a child prior to approval receive financial support while they work to be approved. AB 110 and AB 1811, commonly referred to as emergency caregiver funding, provide foster care funding to families caring for foster children while completing RFA. Placing agency workers should familiarize themselves with the eligibility requirements for the funding, specifically with filing an Emergency Assistance form on the caregiver’s behalf. More information on the emergency caregiver funding can be found here.
  • Remember that the approval process requires a lot from families who are already stretching to care for a new child, and may be juggling the demands of work at the same time. You can alleviate the pressure on their time by offering childcare at trainings or allowing families to complete the pre-approval training in their home.
  • Provide families with the Resource Family Approval Guide, which the Alliance for Children’s Rights, the Step Up Coalition, and a wide range of partners developed to help caregivers through the approval process. The guide explains each element of Resource Family Approval and includes forms and other resources to support applicants. You can download the Resource Family Approval Guide here.

Not necessarily. Once a family is approved as a resource family, that family is approved to care for any foster child or non-minor dependent in foster care. But the fact that the family has already been approved through the RFA process does not guarantee placement of the child with that family. The placing agency is still required to make placement decisions based on the best interest of the child.

In some instances, a county may approve a resource family applicant to care for a specific child or non-minor dependent. This is a limited approval, which may be appropriate when there are concerns about the applicant, but the familial or tribal relationship the caregiver has with the child mitigates the concerns. Child-specific approval cannot be granted if the identified concerns impact the health, safety, or well-being of the specific child or non-minor dependent. It will only be granted in limited circumstances. Applicants approved to care for a specific child or non-minor dependent may not accept the placement of any other child or non-minor dependent unless the caregiver meets additional approval standards. At this time, only counties are able to grant child specific approval, but pending legislation would allow Foster Family Agencies (FFAs) to approve a resource family to care for a specific child.

Cal. Department of Social Services Resource Family Approval Written Directives § 6-07(d) (effective June 9, 2017).

All applicants must complete training to be approved as a Resource Family. The state requires a minimum of 12 hours prior to an applicant being approved as a resource family and allows counties to require more than the 12 hours minimum, at their discretion. It is important to check with your specific county to determine precisely what is required. The trainings cover many topics, including an overview of the child welfare and probation systems, effects of trauma, the well-being and education needs of children, and how to access support services.

Families who take in a child on an emergency basis or based on a compelling reason prior to being approved have to complete the “pre-approval” training required by the placing county prior to being approved.

An applicant must also complete a Resource Family Approval orientation. In some counties, the orientation is included in the 12 hours of pre-approval training. However, in Los Angeles County, the RFA orientation is separate from the pre-approval training. Applicants must also receive CPR and first aid certification no later than 90 days following a Resource Family approval.

Once approved, a family has to meet the annual training requirement of the placing county. At a minimum, each resource parent must complete at least 8 hours of training each year after being approved. Some counties may require additional training each year. Relevant specialized training may also be required to meet the needs of a particular child or nonminor dependent in an applicant’s care.

Welfare & Inst. Code § 16519.5Cal. Department of Social Services Resource Family Approval Written Directives § 5-03 (effective February 6, 2017)Resource Family Approval Guide (pp. 21-22).

NOTE: As of February 6, 2018, the “psychosocial assessment” will now be referred to as the “family evaluation.”

The term “psychosocial assessment” may sound daunting, but it is really just a series of conversations with a social worker. The social worker will be interested in how an applicant deals with setbacks, what lessons the applicant has learned, and how the applicant is currently living. It also includes a review of the applicant’s physical and mental health, substance use, and family background. As part of this process, a social worker will also meet with all the other individuals living in the home.

The goal of a psychosocial assessment is to get to know the applicant and evaluate their ability to provide a safe and loving home for a child in foster care. It is also an opportunity for the applicant to ask questions and gain an understanding of one’s role as a caregiver. These conversations allow for more thoughtful matches because the social worker will evaluate how an applicant responds to challenging situations and what support an applicant might need to care for a traumatized child while they recover.

Welfare & Inst. Code § 16519.5(d)(3)(B)Cal. Department of Social Services Resource Family Approval Written Directives § 6-05 (effective February 6, 2017)Resource Family Approval Guide (p. 17).

As a first step, you and your husband would submit a completed Resource Family Application, also known as the RFA-01(A) form, to your county’s child welfare agency.  The RFA assessment process will not begin until a full application is submitted so it is important to complete it as soon as possible.  If you already have a child placed in your home, you must submit a completed RFA-01(A) form within 5 business days of the child being placed in the home.

The 4-page form asks for identifying information about you, your husband, and others living in the home.  It also asks applicants to disclose information that one may feel apprehensive to share, including an applicant’s marital history.  It is important to answer the questions as honestly and completely as possible—and discuss any concerns you have with the social worker.  It is also possible that you may not have exact information for every field.  If that is the case, give your most complete answer and note if the information is not exact.

You should check in with your social worker regularly after submitting the 4-page form to see where the agency is in the approval process and whether they need anything further from you to move forward.

Welfare & Inst. Code § 16519.5Cal. Department of Social Services Resource Family Approval Written Directives § 5-03 (effective February 6, 2017)Resource Family Approval Guide (p. 12).

Yes. State and federal law provide an explicit preference for placement of foster children into the home of a relative. In addition, state law is clear that, when a child is removed from his or her home, if the child cannot be released back to the parent, the county’s first obligation is to attempt to find a relative. Nothing about Resource Family Approval (RFA) has changed this preference for relative placement or the obligation to find and place with relatives immediately following removal.

In order to promote placement with a relative or non-related extended family member (e.g. a close family friend), the law allows for an “emergency placement” of the child prior to resource family approval.  The word “emergency” is a bit of a misnomer, as the placement prior to approval can occur at any point in the case if a relative or NREFM is identified.  A relative or non-related extended family member who has a child placed prior to approval must submit a Resource Family Application (RFA-01(A)) within five business days of a child being placed in their home in order to start the Resource Family Approval process.

In addition to the emergency placement option, a child can also be placed prior to Resource Family Approval if there is a “compelling reason” even if the caregiver is not a relative or non-related extended family member. The compelling reason option is distinguishable from an emergency placement because a child can be placed only once the Home Environment Assessment is completed, meaning their home has been determined to meet health and safety standards. Additionally, the permanency assessment must completed within 90 days of placement.

NOTE: Until recently, caregivers who accepted placement of a child under emergency placement or compelling reason did not receive foster care funding until they successfully completed RFA. AB 110 and AB 1811, commonly referred to as emergency caregiver funding, provides these caregivers caring for foster youth with funding while they complete RFA. You can read more about the emergency caregiver funding here.

Welfare & Inst. Code §§ 309361.4516519.5(e)(2)(B)16519.5(e)(3)Cal. Department of Social Services Resource Family Approval Written Directives § 7-01 (effective February 6, 2017).

Prior to Resource Family Approval (RFA), approval standards varied depending on the applicant.  For relatives/non-related extended family members (NREFMs) (e.g. a close family friend), a criminal records/child abuse review was required in addition to a home and ground safety check and an annual review.  Nonrelative applicants had to undergo extensive training in addition to the criminal records/child abuse review and home and ground safety check.  If an applicant wanted to adopt, a criminal records/child abuse review, home and ground safety check, adoption home study, and submission of applicant references were required. And, if the applicant was applying to be a foster parent through a Foster Family Agency, the FFA had their own set of standards that often differed from the process a family going through the approval process with the county child welfare agency.

Resource Family Approval (RFA), which took effect statewide January 1, 2017, streamlined the approval process. Now, all caregivers, including relatives, NREFMs, foster parents (whether approved by a county or an FFA), and adoptive parents, must meet the same requirements and undergo the same process to be approved as Resource Families.  The intent of RFA is to be a unified, family friendly and child-centered approval process for all potential caregivers.

In addition to subjecting all applicants to the same requirements, the psychosocial assessment requirement replaced the adoption home study.  Now, if a caregiver wants to adopt, there is no additional home study required at the time of adoption.  Resource Family Approval was authorized under AB 340 (2007), reauthorized under SB 1013 (2013) and modified under AB 403 (2015) & AB 1997 (2016).

Welfare & Inst. Code § 16519.5All County Letter (ACL) No. 16-58All County Letter (ACL) No. 16-10.

Child and Family Teams

Background: Children and youth must have an education rights holder from birth until their 18th birthday, at which time they hold their own education rights. The education rights holder may be the child’s parent or legal guardian, foster parent, relative caregiver, CASA, or community member with a relationship to the child or youth. The education rights holder may not be group home staff, case-carrying social workers, probation officers or other professionals involved with the child or youth.

A: If a school district surrogate is holding education rights for a student, and is not also appointed through the court, the student would need a new surrogate or education rights holder if the child changes schools and the school is in a new school district (note: if the child changes schools but remains within the same school district, then the surrogate holding education rights could remain the same). A school district surrogate is an adult appointed by a school district/regional center to represent a youth’s special education/early intervention needs when the parent’s educational rights are limited by the court and there is no responsible adult who is a relative, nonrelative extended family member, or other adult known to the child who is available and willing to serve as the child’s educational rights holder. The school district surrogate is appointed while the student is attending a school in that school district.

Note: As a best practice, courts and all those working with youth should work to ensure that all youth have an education rights holder in place at all times, so that a district does not need to appoint a surrogate. A school district surrogate should be the last option to serve as the youth’s educational rights holder because of the high mobility in placement that students in foster care often experience, and the fact that the surrogate will, in most cases, not have an existing connection to that student, their history, or their needs. If a school district does appoint a surrogate, they should inform the court. If at any point the court does appoint an education rights holder other than the surrogate (usually through a JV-535 form or minute order), that person immediately takes over all education rights responsibilities from the surrogate.

Welfare and Institutions Code §319

Background: Children and youth must have an education rights holder from birth until their 18th birthday, at which time they hold their own education rights. The education rights holder may be the child’s parent or legal guardian, foster parent, relative caregiver, CASA or community member with a relationship to the child or youth. The education rights holder may not be group home staff, case-carrying social workers, probation officers or other professionals involved with the child or youth.

A: Unless you are appointed as the educational rights holder (ERH), you do not have the ability to make educational decisions on behalf of the child in your care. As the caregiver, you do have a right to receive current education records and you play an important role in the child’s education, including ensuring that the child is getting to and from school, monitoring and supporting homework, and identifying day-to-day struggles a child may be having in school. However, you only have the right to make meaningful educational decisions for the child in your care (for example, which school to attend, whether to get assessed for special education services, and how to settle school discipline matters) if you were appointed by a judge as the educational rights holder or as a co-ERH.

It is vital that you make the school aware of who holds the education rights, and communicate with the ERH around school related issues, provided the court has not barred that contact. If you are unable to contact the ERH, you should alert the social worker and minor’s attorney immediately as to any school related issues so that they can support you in figuring out a solution. If it is determined by the court that the biological parent is able and willing, but unavailable, to make education decisions for their child, it may be appropriate for you to be appointed as the co-educational rights holder. This allows the biological parent to retain education rights while at the same time allowing a second person to hold education rights enabling them to assist in educational decision making.

Welfare and Institutions Code §319, and §361.

Background: A Tribally Approved Home (TAH) is a home that has been licensed or approved by an Indian tribe for foster care or adoptive placement of an Indian child using standards established by the tribe pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act. TAHs are not required to go through Resource Family Approval or be otherwise licensed by the Department of Social Services or a County.

A: Yes. Every child, youth, and non-minor dependent in foster care is required to have a child and family team (CFT) meeting. A CFT meeting must be convened by the placing agency within the first 60 days of a child, youth, or non-minor dependent coming into foster care and then, at minimum, at least once every six months while the child continues in foster care.

Although Tribally Approved Homes are exempt from the Resource Family Approval process, they are still a foster care placement for Indian children. As such, children placed in Tribally Approved Homes are not exempt from the CFT requirements.

For Indian children, a representative of the child or youth’s tribe or Indian custodian are required members of the child and family team.

Welfare and Institutions Code 16501; Resource Family Approval Written Directives V6; All County Letter NO. 16-84.

Background: California’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) requires every child, youth, and non-minor dependent (NMD) in foster care to have a Child and Family Team (CFT). The purpose of CFTs is to engage the young person and their family with child welfare agencies, health care agencies, and other professionals to better develop the individual case plans and identify supports and services to meet the needs of the foster youth and their family.


A: A CFT meeting must be convened by the placing agency within the first 60 days of a child, youth or non-minor dependent coming into foster care and then, at minimum, at least once every six months while the child continues in foster care regardless of whether a specific goal is attained. The purpose of the CFT is to ensure that a child and family have sufficient support and resources to resolve problems that arise, and thus it is important that the team meet on a regular basis to give family members the chance to discuss new challenges they are facing and to share successes.

All County Letter NO. 16-84.

Background: California’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) requires every child, youth, and non-minor dependent (NMD) in foster care to have a Child and Family Team (CFT). The purpose of CFTs is to engage the young person and their family with child welfare agencies, health care agencies, and other professionals to better develop the individual case plans and identify supports and services to meet the needs of the foster youth and their family.

A: Yes. An IEP meeting and a CFT meeting are two separate processes and cannot be substituted for one another. As best practice, child welfare services should collaborate with school districts to ensure members of the CFT are made aware of the child or youth’s IEP.

All County Letter 18-23.

Background: California’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) requires every child, youth, and non-minor dependent (NMD) in foster care to have a Child and Family Team (CFT). The purpose of CFTs is to engage the young person and their family with child welfare agencies, health care agencies, and other professionals to better develop the individual case plans and identify supports and services to meet the needs of the foster youth and their family.

A: A child and family team meeting should be located at places that are convenient and comfortable for family members. A location for the child and family team should be selected that will maximize attendance and participation of family members. Locations may include the family home, local community centers, child welfare services office or other locations identified by the family.

All County Letter 18-23.

Background: Children and youth must have an education rights holder from birth until their 18th birthday, at which time they hold their own education rights. Sometimes a youth has co-education rights holders. For example, when a biological parent wants to retain education rights but is not currently available to make decisions or attend meetings, the court may appoint a second person to hold education rights together with the biological parent. The education rights holder may be the child’s parent or legal guardian, foster parent, relative caregiver, CASA or community member with a relationship to the child or youth. The education rights holder may not be group home staff, case-carrying social workers, probation officers or other professionals involved with the child or youth.

A: The judge is the arbiter when there is disagreement about the education decisions surrounding a child or youth in foster care. If there is a difference of opinion between co-ERHs, the protective services social worker, probation officer and minor’s attorney should be alerted to this disagreement and a date should be set for everyone to go into court to present their positions to the judge.

Note: In situations where there is disagreement between co-ERHs, it is not uncommon for the judge to revoke education rights from one person and have education rights held by only one person.

Welfare and Institutions Code Section 361, Education Code Section 49069.3.

Background: A parent or legal guardian retains educational rights even after a child has been removed from their home and placed in foster care unless someone files a successful petition to limit these rights.

A: The person who holds education rights for the child can access school records, including information in the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan. When the child is eligible for an IEP based on Emotional Disturbance (ED), or a 504 plan based on mental health issues, decisions about what services are needed may depend in part on information provided by the child’s therapist (the therapist may not be well versed in the privacy rights of children in foster care). The law limits the rights of a parent or legal guardian to confidential mental health information about their child in at least four ways:

  • If the child has been removed from the home of a parent or guardian and placed in foster care, then the child’s therapist cannot release confidential mental health information to the parent or guardian absent a court order that includes a finding that it would not be detrimental to the child. Similarly, a parent or guardian cannot sign a Release of Information (ROI) to release the child’s confidential mental health information absent a court order finding no detriment to the child.

In addition, regardless of whether the child remains in the home of the parent or has been placed in foster care:

  • If the child is age 12 or over, is the alleged victim of child abuse or neglect, and is able to participate intelligently in therapy, only the child has the right to allow release of their confidential mental health information.
  • If the therapist believes that release of confidential mental health information would harm the child or the therapeutic relationship, the therapist can refuse to release such information to the parent or guardian. This is true regardless of the existence of a valid ROI.
  • Disclosure of confidential therapist patient communications to a party in a court case is subject to privilege and controlled by the privilege holder. In a foster care case (dependency court), the child’s attorney controls such privilege if the child is under the age of 12. If the child if age 12 or older, the child controls such privilege in most cases. The child’s attorney and the therapist must assert privilege unless the holder of privilege has waived it.

It’s very important for everyone involved in the care and education of a child who is overcoming abuse or neglect to understand that privacy laws exist to protect the child so the child can tell a therapist about their thoughts and feelings in confidence without worrying that those communications would trigger further conflict with their parents.

Further, effective school therapy may be essential for the child to be able to learn at school, and some children may not engage in therapy without confidentiality. Privacy laws are also essential to ensure that parents cannot use a child’s confidential mental health information to litigate court disputes, risking further trauma to the child.

Here’s the problem: if the parent or legal guardian holds education rights for the child and cannot receive information about how school therapy is or is not meeting the child’s emotional needs, the parent or guardian may not be able to advocate effectively for their child. If the child is placed in foster care and it is appropriate for the parent or guardian to receive confidential mental health information – taking into account the child’s wishes – then the child’s attorney should get a declaration from the therapist that explains why sharing such information is not detrimental to the child and seek a court order to allow that. For a child age 12 or older, a ROI also would need to be executed.

If a child age 12 or older objects to having their confidential information shared with their parent or education rights holder, that person cannot obtain the child’s confidential mental health information – even if the child is placed at home. There may be other reasons why sharing a foster child’s confidential mental health information with their parent or guardian is not appropriate. If so, the parent or guardian’s educational rights should be transferred to someone else, or alternatively a court order (if placed in foster care) and a ROI should authorize release of only non-sensitive parts of the child’s confidential mental health information. If the latter approach is not practical, transfer of educational rights may be the only option.

A: There are some statutory limitations that prevent a therapist from sharing confidential mental health information. For a child who is removed from a parent or legal guardian, the therapist cannot share confidential information with anybody – other than in some very specific circumstances – unless a legally valid ROI has been signed. The child’s therapist cannot share confidential information with the parent or guardian from whom the child is removed unless the juvenile court authorized the release of that information through a court order that specifically includes a finding that it is not detrimental to the child. Regardless of a child’s placement, the therapist can decide not to share confidential information with the parents or guardian if that would be detrimental to the therapist-patient relationship or to the patient’s safety or well-being.

The ROI might have some limitations on disclosure. For example, the therapist might only be authorized to comment generally on progress and participation in treatment.

ROIs apply to protected confidential information to be provided to persons outside of court. If the intended recipient is the court, in most circumstances privilege protects confidential communications between the therapist and patient from disclosure to the court, unless the holder of the privilege has waived it. Disclosure of privileged information to a Child and Family Team does not waive privilege. For children under age 12, their attorney holds the privilege. A youth age 12 or older is presumed to hold the privilege, subject to review of their sufficient maturity by the court. Either the youth or counsel for the youth may invoke the privilege, but only the youth can waive it. Because of the significant potential consequences of waiving privilege, such as a party calling the therapist to testify in court, the youth’s attorney should be included in the decision. Anyone seeking to provide confidential mental health information to the court should first ensure that privilege has been addressed.

A: Authorization for the release of confidential information varies depending on the age and placement of the child. If a child is under the age of 12 and living at home, normally the parents or legal guardian would sign the Release of Information (ROI). If a child has been removed from a parent or legal guardian, the parent or legal guardian is prohibited by law from signing the ROI, unless the juvenile court authorized this with an order that includes a finding that it would not be detrimental to the child. Unless there has been such an order, only the child’s “legal representative” can sign the ROI. Although the term legal representative is not otherwise defined by law, if the child is in foster care, the attorney for the child usually assumes that role.

If the child is age 12 or older and mature enough to participate intelligently in therapy, in the opinion of the therapist, the child is then legally able to consent to treatment. Thus, by law, the child has the right to sign an ROI concerning confidential information about their therapy. This is true even when the child is in foster care. Before signing an ROI, the child should be given an opportunity to consult with their attorney. If in the opinion of the therapist, the child is not able to participate intelligently in therapy, the rules for children under the age of 12 apply.

Those who are over the age of 18, including youth in extended foster care, may sign ROIs for release of their own confidential mental health information, unless a court has found they lack the capacity to do so.

A child and family team (CFT) includes a young person in foster care and a select group of family members, current caregivers, professionals, community supports, and others who are invested in the family’s well-being. CFT facilitators should prepare all participants for the CFT meetings, offer reassurance and encouragement, demonstrate respect and cultural humility, listen to the individual CFT participants, and empathize with their needs.

CFTs are intended to identify the strengths and needs of the young person in foster care and their family, and achieve positive outcomes in terms of safety, permanency, and well-being. For that reason, it is critical that facilitators adopt best practices so that the goal of a CFT is realized. Learn more about CFT requirements and best practices by viewing the recent webinar here.

All County Letter (ACL) No. 16-84.

California Department of Social Services guidance notes: The CFT composition always includes the child or youth, family members, the current caregiver, a representative from the placing agency, and other individuals identified by the family as being important. A CFT shall also include a representative of the child or youth’s tribe or Indian custodian, behavioral health staff, foster family agency social worker, or short-term residential therapeutic program (STRTP) representative, when applicable. Other professionals that may be included are: youth or parent partners, public health providers, Court Appointed Special Advocates, school personnel, or others.

Senate Bill 925 (Chapter 151, Statutes of 2018) was recently signed by the governor and requires the inclusion of the child or youth’s CASA, if one has been appointed, to the CFT unless the child or youth objects. The provisions of SB 925 become effective January 1, 2019.

Welfare and Institutions Code §16501; All County Letter 16-84; Senate Bill 925.

Background: California’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) requires every child, youth, and non-minor dependent (NMD) in foster care to have a Child and Family Team (CFT). The purpose of CFTs is to engage the young person and their family with child welfare agencies, health care agencies, and other professionals to better develop the individual case plans and identify supports and services to meet the needs of the foster youth and their family.

A: In short, the child welfare agency (or the probation department, if the young person is involved in the juvenile justice system) has responsibility and authority to develop the case plan. However, any inconsistencies between the case plan and the recommendations from the members of the CFT must be documented and presented to the court of jurisdiction.

§16051.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code states that a case plan “ensures that the [foster] child receives protection and safe and proper care and case management, and that the services are provided to the child and parents or other caretakers, as appropriate, in order to improve conditions in the parent’s home, to facilitate the safe return of the child to a safe home or the permanent placement of the child, and to address the needs of the child while in foster care.”

Disagreements may arise among the participants in the Child and Family Team. For example, two relatives might both request placement of the child. A trained facilitator should allow all members to express their opinions before making a decision. Ultimately, the child welfare agency makes the final decision, and the inconsistencies between the case plan and the recommendations from other members in the CFT must be reported to the court.

Welfare and Institutions Code §16501.1, All County Letter (ACL) 18-23.

Background: California’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) requires every child, youth, and non-minor dependent (NMD) in foster care to have a Child and Family Team (CFT). The purpose of CFTs is to engage the young person and their family with child welfare agencies, health care agencies, and other professionals to better develop the individual case plans and identify supports and services to meet the needs of the foster youth and their family.

A: No. Along with the case carrying social worker, counties may contract with providers or train non-case carrying social workers to facilitate CFT meetings.

Some youth and families have expressed concern that the primary social worker may not be sufficiently neutral, in their opinion, to provide constructive facilitation. They report feeling dissuaded from participating due to feeling that case plan has already been decided. Therefore, a neutral facilitator may be key in eliciting the full participation of everyone involved.

Although not required, CDSS strongly recommends that counties have a neutral third party to provide skilled CFT facilitation. If the county decides to use the case carrying social worker or another social worker to facilitate the CFT meeting, the worker must act as a neutral party throughout the CFT process.

All County Letter (ACL) NO. 18-23

Background: California’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) requires every child, youth, and non-minor dependent (NMD) in foster care to have a Child and Family Team (CFT). The purpose of CFTs is to engage the young person and their family with child welfare agencies, health care agencies, and other professionals to better develop the individual case plans and identify supports and services to meet the needs of the foster youth and their family.

A: Some teenagers or young adults in foster care rely on their attorney as their advocate. There are important instances where a child’s attorney should attend CFT meetings.

For example, the child’s attorney should attend CFT meetings if the attorney is identified as a natural support to the young person in foster care and/or their family. In such instances, the attorney should participate in the CFT meetings as a supportive adult, rather than as a legal representative with intentions related to the court process or any legal proceedings.

Note: Preferences of the young person in foster care and his or her family should be closely considered with regard to the composition of the Child and Family Team.

Welfare and Institutions Code §16501; All County Letter (ACL) NO. 18-23.

It depends. The child’s caregiver and biological parents are required participants, and in many cases, one of those two parties is the child’s education rights holder. If the education rights holder is someone other than the caregiver or a biological parent, the education rights holder is not a required participant in the CFT. However, the CFT may not make any education decisions with regard to the child unless the education rights holder is present.For this reason, the education rights holder should always be included in a CFT meeting where education issues are discussed.
As a best practice, education rights holders should be invited to participate in all CFT meetings as many of the issues discussed in a CFT can substantially impact a youth’s ability to succeed in school. For example, if a placement change is being discussed, the education rights holder is essential and can speak to issues of school stability.

CFT participants should always discuss whether the child (regardless of age, from birth to age 18) has an appropriate and engaged education rights holder. A child’s social worker has a legal duty to ensure that a child has an appropriate education rights holder at every court hearing. The CFT is a place to raise this issue and hear the youth and others about whether the current education rights is sufficiently engaged, or whether a new education rights holder should be appointed at the next court hearing.

Yes, a CFT must include the child’s current caregiver.
ACL 16-84

Short Term Residential Therapeutic Programs

 No. STRTPs, unlike group homes, are limited to serving youth who have high-level mental health needs that cannot be met in a family setting. Although group homes were never intended to be long-term placements, in fact, children and young adults in foster care often experienced extended stays due to lack of other placement options. CCR places increased emphasis on moving young people into family settings whenever possible. STRTPs will focus on stabilizing high-needs youth to allow an expedient and successful transition to a family setting. STRTPs must meet higher licensing standards than group homes did in the past, and staff must complete enhanced training.

Youth must be assessed to determine whether a STRTP placement is appropriate. That assessment can be done in one of three ways: (1) an Interagency Placement Committee, with the recommendation of the child and family team; (2) a licensed mental health professional; (3) the youth’s IEP recommends a STRTP placement due to serious emotional disturbance.

Welfare &Institutions Code § 11462.01 .

Family First Prevention Services Act

Background: On February 9, 2018, President Trump signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 which included the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). The FFPSA opens the Title IV-E funding stream for states to provide optional prevention services, which can be provided to eligible recipients for up to 12 months. In order to be eligible for federal funding, the service provided must be within one of the following categories: 1) mental health prevention or treatment program, 2) substance abuse prevention or treatment program, or 3) in-home parent skills-based programs that include parenting skills training, parent education and individual and family counseling. In addition, the prevention services must meet an “evidence-based” standard (promising, supported or well-supported) and be included in the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse that is being created by the Children’s Bureau under the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

A: As of July 2019, 12 programs have been reviewed by the Children’s Bureau for inclusion in the Title IV-E Prevention Clearinghouse. Of the 12 programs, nine were determined to be an evidence-based practice and are now part of the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse. The rating assigned to each program can be found here.

Three of the programs reviewed were assessed as “does not currently meet criteria”, which means that the program does not meet an evidence-standard for inclusion in the Clearinghouse and states cannot claim federal funds for those programs.

The programs that are rated as “promising” or “supported” are eligible for federal funding, but only if the state has also implemented a “well supported” program. States must spend at least 50% of all prevention dollars claimed for federal financial participation on “well-supported” programs.

Watch our latest webinar for more information on FFPSA here.

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