The transition from foster care to adulthood in Maryland.


Table of Contents

1. Age Limits
2. The Discharge Process
3. Available Programming
4. Juvenile Court
5. Legislation in Response to the Fostering Connections to Success Act
6. Contact Information



1. Age Limits

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Program
Age Limit
Legal Source
End of Court Jurisdiction
21
Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, §3-804 (2007)
Child Welfare Services
21

Foster Care Medicaid Eligibility
18; Maryland is planning to pursue Chafee Medicaid option in the near future.
American Public Human Services Association, "Medicaid Access for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care" online at http://www.aphsa.org/Home/Doc/Medicaid-Access-for-Youth-Aging-Out-of-Foster-Care-Rpt.pdf
Although jurisdiction continues until age 21, the local departments of social services are very aggressive, as a rule, in seeking rescission of the commitment and termination of the case if the youth is not completely compliant.



2. The Discharge Process

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Reasons for Discharge from Foster Care/Child Welfare System
Reasons for discharge include: reaching the age of discharge, no longer being enrolled in a school program, no longer being enrolled in a work related program, or being determined non-compliant with program requirements.
Baltimore City's Juvenile Court has discharged youth for the following reasons: Youth's request (in Baltimore a lot of youth want to get out because their caseworkers haven't given them any reason to feel that being in foster care has any benefits); Failure to work or attend school/GED program/training program; Commission of a crime; Running away; Living with boy/girlfriend.

Who is the primary decisionmaker who determines when a youth is discharged from foster care?
The Child Welfare Worker. Although officially the decisionmaker is the court, it traditionally has been DSS that has the real authority since the court seldom would keep the case open over DSS objection. At least in Baltimore City, the children's attorneys have begun to challenge this decision more actively, particularly where DSS has not been helping the youth meet the requirements or the youth is on runaway and DSS has not tried to find the youth.

Court Discharge Procedure? (What is done by the court at the time of discharge? Are there any conditions that must be satisfied before discharge is permitted?)
No official procedures.
  • If a youth was not in compliance with agency requirements, the agency would not hesitate in asking for discharge. For the court, it would often depend on whether the child was present in court, and what position the attorney was taking. If the child was opposing rescission and was present in court, the court would usually pay attention to the court.
  • Unfortunately, in Baltimore City, “nothing” is usually the answer. There are no statutory requirements for discharge and usually the court does nothing. There are courts in the state which do take the occasion more seriously.
  • Children's attorneys generally try ot convince their clients and the courts not to terminate the court's jurisdiction even if commitment to DSS is rescinded because there is case law which says that a youth between 18 and 21 can be "recommitted" to DSS if the court's jurisdiction was not terminated.



3. Available Programming

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Basic Services:
  • “Youth 14-21 years old committed to a local department shall receive independent living preparation services, regardless of the type of placement.” MD ADC 07.02.10.08
  • Youth 14-18: Youth 14-18 undergo assessment of their skill level using the Ansell/Casey or Daniel Memorial assessment. ILS training for this age group include time management, educational and vocational planning, home maintenance, hygiene, money management, etc. Source: MD ADC 07.02.10.08; Maryland Department of Human Resources, A Handbook for Youth 7-10.
  • Youth 18-21: Youth 18-21 may receive independent living services.

Youth 18-21 undergo assessment of financial resources, social and emotional supports, basic living skills, education, employment and personal goals. A service delivery plan is drafted based on the assessment. The youth enters into a service agreement, which states expectations for the youth, the local social services department, the youth’s birth family, the youth’s foster family, and other adults. The service plan is reviewed every 180 days.
Independent living services available include assistance in locating living arrangements (while in foster care and just prior to independence), assistance in gaining and securing employment, assistance in accessing training and employment programs, etc. Source: MD ADC 07.02.10.08; Maryland Department of Human Resources, A Handbook for Youth 7-10.
  • Independent Living Programs There are a few, but not enough, structured independent living programs that include supervised apartment living. Each jurisdiction, of course, is supposed to be working with all youth ages 14 and up to create independent living plans, etc. We have a semi-independent living program (SILA) where a youth aged 17-21 can get a monthly stipend of about $450 (not increased in 20 years) if the youth is living in a stable living setting and attending school and working.
  • Tuition Waiver Program We have a tuition waiver program which this year was expanded to cover all youth who are in any foster care placement when they graduate from high school or get their GED (if under 21) which provides free tuition at all Maryland public colleges (2 and 4 year). It can also be used by youth adopted after turning 13. The youth don’t have to stay in foster care to access the waiver, just have to have been in foster care when graduating high school or getting GED (except above exception for adoptions).
  • Educational Training Vouchers We actually have a very substantial ETV fund each year (almost a million dollars) because of the large number of youth in foster care at the time the formula was created. However it is terribly underutilized because of the failure of the state’s independent living coordinator to do real outreach. A lot of caseworkers and youth still aren’t aware of what it is or how broadly it can be used.
  • Maryland’s After-Care Program: Youth 18-21 who leave care, and feel they need services, may access after-care services. A short-term agreement is a condition of accessing these services. Youth who leave care before age 18 may not access services. After-care services include temporary medical coverage/care, temporary financial assistance, daycare, crisis counseling, educational/employment assistance, etc. (However, youth who leave care before 21 may not re-enter foster care.) Source: Maryland Department of Human Resources, A Handbook for Youth 31-32.

Eligibility Criteria:

(1) 14 years or older, committed to a local department, and likely to remain in foster care until age 18;
(2) Between 18 and 21 years old and in school, employed, or disabled; or
(3) Between 18 and 21 years old and discharged from out-of home placement as a result of attaining the age of 18.
Source: MD ADC 01.02.10.03.
  • IL services are supposed to start by regulation at 14. The statutory provisions require the judge to inquire from age 16 on. Generally, the private IL housing programs begin at age 17 although some will take teen mothers at 16. The SILA program (find your own housing and get an insufficient monthly stipend) generally begins at 18 but some few youth have started at 17. Theoretically, youth 18-21 can access services after leaving the system if they leave after the 18th birthday but practically it is extremely difficult to figure out who controls those services (supposed to be independent living coordinator in each jurisdiction) and to actually get them.

Number and % Eligible Enrolled:
  • The actual provision of ILS varies widely between jurisdictions and even caseworkers. Some few kids get excellent services. Many get little or none and what they get is really packaged (“independent living skills” classes) and not geared specifically for their needs.
  • Anecdotally, most youth who are eligible are not accessing services.

Promising Programs/Models:
  • Baltimore attorneys and youth have started a foster youth advocacy group: “In March of last year, a Legal Aid Bureau attorney and I began to work with youth at a local public high school to form a foster youth advocacy group. From an initial group of 7 youth who were in or had been in foster care, it has now grown to a group of about 25 with about 12-15 active members. We meet weekly and the youth have begun to do outreach to youth at other schools as well as meet with children’s attorneys to talk about what needs to change in the system. They’ve been awarded one grant and have applied for two others, including an application by a former foster youth for a fellowship that would allow her to work full-time organizing foster youth. It is our long-term goal to form a statewide organization, on the model of California Youth Connection, to take the leadership role in advocating for foster youth.”


4. Juvenile Court

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  • Anecdotally, court’s orders to the Department of Social Services (DSS) are frequently disregarded.
  • The court only can order other agencies to provide services or assistance if the child is “dually committed.” The child can be dually committed to the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene (for mental health or developmental disability services) or to the Department of Juvenile Services (if committed due to commission of a delinquent offense). There is specific case law prohibiting the court from ordering a local school system to do anything.



5. Legislation in Response to the Fostering Connections to Success Act

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6. Contact Information

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