Juvenile Law Center

Pennsylvania Fostering Connections to Success: Law and Legal Resources

This section includes federal and Pennsylvania law related to the implementation of the Older Youth Provisions of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act and Planning for Older Youth.

Listservs

Child Advocacy Listserv: Juvenile Law Center operates a free listserv for lawyers who represent children in dependency matters in Pennsylvania. To be added to this listserv, please fill out this form and email it to mbruce@jlc.org.

Resumption of Jurisdiction Listserv: Juvenile Law Center operates this free listserv for child welfare professionals, lawyers, paralegals, and advocates to discuss how to implement the Resumption of Jurisdiction Provision of Act 91 in Pennsylvania. To be added to this listserv, please fill out this form.

Two new Pennsylvania laws will provide greater opportunities and support to older youth in foster care. Not only will these laws help provide support and guidance for youth who are not ready to be on their own at age 18, but they will also increase the number of youth who leave the system and achieve permanency by extending adoption and guardianship subsidies to age 21 for some youth.

Act 91, which amends various provisions of the Juvenile Act, expands the criteria for youth to stay in care past age 18 and also allows youth to re-enter care before turning 21 if they aged out at 18 or older. Download a PDF of the amendments to the Juvenile Act related to foster care extensions and re-entry here (or see below). 

Act 80, which amends provisions of the Public Welfare Code, extends guardianship and adoption subsidies to age 21 for eligible youth who enter those arrangements at age 13 or older. Download a PDF of the amended provisions of the Public Welfare Act related to the extension of guardianship and adoption subsidies to age 21 here (or see below). 


Federal Law

1. Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, 110 P.L. 351; 122 Stat. 3949; 2008 Enacted H.R. 6893; 110 Enacted H.R. 6893 (complete statute)

2. Older Youth Provisions of Fostering Connections

a. Option to Provide Extension of Care—Amendment of "Child" Definition 42 U.S.C.A. 675 (8)(A)

Subject to subparagraph (B), the term "child" means an individual who has not attained 18 years of age.

(B) At the option of a State, the term shall include an individual—

(i)(I) who is in foster care under the responsibility of the State;
(II) with respect to whom an adoption assistance agreement is in effect under section 673 of this title if the child had attained 16 years of age before the agreement became effective; or
(III) with respect to whom a kinship guardianship assistance agreement is in effect under section 673(d) of this title if the child has attained 16 years of age before the agreement became effective;
(ii) who has attained 18 years of age;
(iii) who has not attained 19, 20, or 21 years of age, as the State may elect; and
(iv) who is—

     (I) completing secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential;
     (II) enrolled in an institution which provides post-secondary or vocational education;
     (III) participating in a program or activity designed to promote, or remove barriers to, employment;
     (IV) employed for at least 80 hours per month; or
     (V) incapable of doing any of the activities described in subclauses (I) through (IV) due to a medical condition, which incapability is supported by regularly updated information in the case plan of the child.

b. Transition Plan Requirement—42 U.S.C.A. 675 (5)(H) & (I)

(H) during the 90-day period immediately prior to the date on which the child will attain 18 years of age, or such greater age as the State may elect under paragraph (8)(B)(iii), whether during that period foster care maintenance payments are being made on the child's behalf or the child is receiving benefits or services under section 677 [the Chafee Foster Care Independent Act] of this title, a caseworker on the staff of the State agency, and, as appropriate, other representatives of the child provide the child with assistance and support in developing a transition plan that is personalized at the direction of the child, includes specific options on housing, health insurance, education, local opportunities for mentors and continuing support services, and work force supports and employment services, includes information about the importance of designating another individual to make health care treatment decisions on behalf of the child if the child becomes unable to participate in such decisions and the child does not have, or does not want, a relative who would otherwise be authorized under State law to make such decisions, and provides the child with the option to execute a health care power of attorney, health care proxy, or other similar document recognized under State law,  and is as detailed as the child may elect.

(I) each child in foster care under the responsibility of the State who has attained 16 years of age receives without cost a copy of any consumer report (as defined in section 1681a(d) of Title 15) pertaining to the child each year until the child is discharged from care, and receives assistance (including, when feasible, from any court- appointed advocate for the child) in interpreting and resolving any inaccuracies in the report.

c. Creation of a New Title IV-E Reimbursable Setting for Youth 18-21—Supervised Setting in Which a Child Lives Independently—42 U.S.C.A. 672 (c)

“Foster family home” and “child-care institution” defined:

For the purposes of this part ... (2) the term “child-care institution” means a private child-care institution, or a public child-care institution which accommodates no more than twenty-five children, which is licensed by the State in which it is situated or has been approved, by the agency of such State responsible for licensing or approval of institutions of this type, as meeting the standards established for such licensing, except, in the case of a child who has attained 18 years of age, the term shall include a supervised setting in which the individual is living independently, in accordance with such conditions as the Secretary shall establish in regulations,  but the term shall not include detention facilities, forestry camps, training schools, or any other facility operated primarily for the detention of children who are determined to be delinquent.

3. Federal Guidance on the Implementation of Fostering Connections

The "Implementation of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 Working Document" contains links to all program instructions and policy guidance on Fostering Connections issued by the Administration on Children, Youth and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services.

To date, the following Program Instruction relates most directly to the older youth provisions of Fostering Connections: "Guidance on Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, Program Instruction, ACYF-CB-PI-10-11, July 9, 2010."


Pennsylvania Law

The Public Welfare Code as Amended by Act 80—Extension of Guardianship and Adoption Subsidies to Age 21

A. Extension of Adoption Subsidies

The following is the amended section of the public welfare code that now allows an extension of the adoption subsidy to age 21 for an eligible youth whose adoption was finalized when they were age 13 or older. The new sections of the law are bolded and underlined below. The amended provision is at 62 P.S. § 772. 62 P.S. § 771 et seq. is the Adoptions Opportunity Act.

Section 772. Definitions

As used in this subdivision:

"Adoption opportunity" is a subsidy which may include maintenance cost; medical, surgical, and psychological expenses; and other costs incident to the adoption.  

"Child" means an individual who:

1. is under the age of 18 years; or 
2. is under the age of 21 years and who attained thirteen years of age before the adoption assistance agreement became effective and who is; 

(i) Completing secondary education or an equivalent credential;
(ii) Enrolled in an institution that provides post-secondary or vocational education;
(iii) Participating in a program actively designed to promote or remove barriers to employment;
(iv) Employed for at least 80 hours per month;
(v) Incapable of doing any of the activities described in subparagraphs (i), (ii), (iii), or (iv) due to a medical or behavioral health condition, which is supported by regularly updated information in the permanency plan of the child.

"Eligible child" means a child in the legal custody of local authorities where parental rights have been terminated pursuant to the procedure set forth in Article III of the act of July 24, 1970 (P.L. 620, No. 208), known as the "Adoption Act," and such child has been in foster placement for a period of not less than six months and where the child has been shown to be a difficult adoption placement because of a physical and/or mental handicap, emotional disturbance, or by virtue of age, sibling relationship, or ethnicity. A child in the legal custody of an agency approved by the department shall be an eligible child if the child is certified as eligible by the local authorities. 

"Local authorities" means county institution districts or their successors. 

B. Extension of Guardianship Subsidy Until Age 21

The following is the amended section of the public welfare code that allows extension of the kinship guardianship subsidy to age 21 for an eligible youth who entered the guardianship arrangement when the youth was age 13 or older. The new sections of the law are bolded and underlined below. The amended provision is at 62 P.S. § 1302. 62 P.S. § 1301 et seq. is in the Kinship Care Act. 62 P.S. § 1303.1 and § 1303.2 create the Subsidized Permanent Legal Custodianship Program, which to date has only been established through Bulletin.

Section 1302. Definitions

The following words and phrases when used in this article shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. 

"Child." An individual who:

(1) is under 18 years of age; or

(2) is under 21 years of age and who attained 13 years of age before the subsidized permanent legal custodianship agreement became effective and who is:

(i) completing secondary education or an equivalent credential;
(ii) enrolled in an institution that provides post-secondary or vocational education;
(iii) participating in a program actively designed to promote or remove barriers to employment;
(iv) employed for at least 80 hours per month; or
(v) incapable of doing any of the activities described in subparagraph (i), (ii), (iii), or (iv) due to a medical or behavioral health condition, which is supported by regularly updated information in the permanency plan of the child. 

"County agency." The county children and youth social service agency exercising the power and duties provided for in section 405 of the act of June 24, 1937 (P.L. 2017, No. 396) known as the County Institution District Law, or its successor, and supervised by the department under Article IX. 

"Eligible child." A child who:

(1) has a court-ordered disposition of placement with a permanent legal custodian pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. § 6351(a)(2.1) (relating to the disposition of dependent child); 

(2) has lived with an eligible permanent legal custodian for at least six months, which need not be consecutive; and

(3) is a citizen or an alien lawfully residing in this Commonwealth. 

"Eligible permanent legal custodian." A relative or kin:

(1) whose home is approved pursuant to applicable regulations for placement of foster children;

(2) with whom an eligible child has resided for at least six months, which need not be consecutive; and

(3) who meets the requirements for employment in child-care services pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S. § 6344 (relating to information relating to prospective child-care personnel). 

"Foster parent." An individual approved by a public or private foster family care agency to provide foster family care services to a child who is temporarily separated from the child's legal family and placed in the legal custody of an agency. 

"Kin." An individual 21 years of age or older who is one of the following:

(1) A godparent of the child as recognized by an organized church. 

(2) A member of the child's tribe, nation or tribal organization.

(3) An individual with a significant, positive relationship with the child or family. 

"Permanent legal custodian." A person to whom legal custody of the child has been given by order of a court pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. § 6351(a)(2.1) (relating to disposition of dependent child).  

"Relative." An individual who is:

(1) Related within the fifth degree of consanguinity or affinity to the parent or stepparent of a child. 

(2) At least 21 years of age. 

"Subsidized permanent legal custodianship." A court-ordered disposition of a dependent child pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. § 6351(a)(2.1) (relating to disposition of dependent child) for which the child's permanent legal custodian receives a monetary payment from the county agency pursuant to a subsidized permanent legal custodianship agreement. 

"Subsidized permanent legal custodianship agreement." A written agreement signed by the director of the county agency, or a designee, and a permanent legal custodian, that sets forth the terms and subsidy payments for a subsidized permanent legal custodianship. 

Section 1301.1. Subsidized Permanent Legal Custodianship Program

(a) Establishment of Program.—The Subsidized Permanent Legal Custodianship Program is established in the department.

(b) Implementation.—The department shall establish and develop criteria and promulgate necessary regulations for county agencies to implement the Subsidized Permanent Legal Custodianship Program in accordance with the provisions of this article. The criteria and regulations shall include, but not be limited to, identification of eligible children and eligible permanent legal custodians, procedures for implementing the program and reporting requirements by county agencies. 

Section 1303.2. Permanent Legal Custodianship Subsidy and Reimbursement

(a) Amount.—The amount of permanent legal custodianship subsidy for maintenance costs to a permanent legal custodian shall not exceed the monthly payment rate for foster family care in the county in which the child resides. 

(b) County reimbursement.—The department shall reimburse the county agency for at least 90% of the cost of a permanent legal custodianship subsidy payment provided by a county agency in accordance with the provisions of this article, provided that the county agency complies with the requirements established by the department. 

Juvenile Act Amended by Act 91—Foster Care Extensions and Re-Entry

A. Expanded Criteria for Remaining in Care Past Age 18

The following is the now-amended provision of the Juvenile Act that is the basis for youth remaining in care past age 18. The terms "treatment and instruction" have been removed and replaced with four categories of activities and an exception based on disability or impairment. The sections that have been added to the law are bolded and underlined below. 

42 Pa. C.S.A. § 6302. Definitions. The following words and phrases when used in this chapter shall have, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, the meanings given to them in this section: * * * 

"Child." An individual who: * * * 

(3) is under the age of 21 years and was adjudicated dependent before reaching the age of 18 years and who has requested the court to retain jurisdiction and who remains under the jurisdiction of the court as a dependent child because the court has determined that the child is:

(i) completing secondary education or an equivalent credential;
(ii) enrolled in an institution that provides post-secondary or vocational education;
(iii) participating in a program actively designed to promote or remove barriers to employment;
(iv) employed for at least 80 hours per month; or
(v) incapable of doing any of the activities described in subparagraphs (i), (ii), (iii), or (iv) due to a medical or behavioral health condition, which is supported by regularly updated information in the permanency plan of the child. 

B. Re-entry to Care and Transition Plans

The following is the now-amended provisions of the Juvenile Act that allow youth who aged out of care to re-enter before turning 21. The provisions below also place in the Juvenile Act the requirement from Fostering Connections that an acceptable transition plan be presented to the court before a youth who is between the ages of 18 and 21 can be discharged from care. For more detail on the transition plan requirement see Juvenile Court Rule 1613. The sections that have been added to the law are bolded and underlined below. 

42 Pa. C.S.A. § 6351. Disposition of dependent child. * * *

(e) Permanency hearings.— * * *

      (3) The court shall conduct permanency hearings as follows: * * *

  (iii) If the court resumes jurisdiction of the child pursuant to subsection (j), permanency hearings shall be scheduled in accordance with applicable law until court jurisdiction is terminated, but no later than when the child attains 21 years of age. 

(f) Matters to be determined at permanency hearing.—At each permanency hearing, a court shall determine all of the following: * * *

  (8.1) Whether the child continues to meet the definition of "child" and has requested that the court continue jurisdiction pursuant to section 6302 if the child is between 18 and 21 years of age.

      (8.2) That a transition plan has been presented in accordance with section 475 of the Social Security Act (49 Stat. 620, 42 U.S.C. § 675 (5)(H)). 

(j) Resumption of jurisdiction.At any time prior to a child reaching 21 years of age, a child may request the court to resume dependency jurisdiction if:

      (1) the child continues to meet the definition of "child" pursuant to section 6302; and

      (2) dependency jurisdiction was terminated: 

(i) within 90 days prior to the child's 18th birthday; or
(ii) on or after the child's 18th birthday, but before the child turns 21 years of age.  

 

b. Case Law on Remaining in Care Past Age 18

In re S.J., 906 A.2d 547 (Pa. Super. 2006)

In this case, argued by attorneys from KidsVoice, the court held that "instruction" under the Juvenile Act included attendance in post-secondary education. S.J. was therefore entitled to request to remain in case past age 18 because she was in a form of instruction: attendance in college.

Related resource: Scott Hollander, Jonathan Budd, William A. Petulla, Jennifer A. Staley, "Helping Clients Transition to Independent Living," Family Court Review, July 2007. This article details In re S.J. and the work of KidsVoice to advocate on behalf of older youth in foster care.

c. Independent Living Planning Requirements—42 Pa. C.S.A. 6351 (f)

Matters to be determined at permanency hearing: At each permanency hearing, a court shall determine all of the following: ... (8) The services needed to assist a child who is 16 years of age or older to make the transition to independent living.

 

Juvenile Court Rules on Independent Living and Transition Planning:

Juvenile Court Rule 1608--Independent Living Planning

Court's findings.

1. Findings at all six-month hearings. At the permanency hearing, the court shall enter its findings and conclusions of law into the record and enter an order pursuant to Rule 1609. On the record in open court, the court shall state: ...

j) the services needed to assist a child who is sixteen years of age or older to make the transition to independent living, including:

i. the specific independent living services or instructions that are currently being provided by the county agency or private provider;
ii. the areas of need in independent living instruction that have been identified by the independent living assesment completed pursuant to the Chafee Act, 42 U.S.C. § 671 et seq.;
iii. the independent living services that the child will receive prior to the next permanency review hearing;
iv. whether the child is in the least restrictive, most family-like setting that will enable him to develop independent living skills;
v.    the efforts that have been made to develop and maintain connections with supportive adults regardless of placement type;
vi.    whether the child is making adequate educational progress to graduate from high school or whether the child is enrolled in another specified educational program that will assist the child in achieving self-sufficiency;
vii. the job readiness services that have been provided to the child and the employment/career goals that have been established;
viii. whether the child has physical health or behavioral health needs that will require continued services into adulthood; and
ix. the steps being taken to ensure that the youth will have stable housing or living arrangements when discharged from care.

 

Juvenile Court Rule 1631: Termination of Court Supervision

 A.  Concluding Supervision. Any party, or the court on its own motion, may move for the termination of supervision when court-ordered services from the county agency are no longer needed and:

  10)  the child is eighteen years of age or older and a hearing has been held pursuant to paragraph (E);

 E.  Children eighteen years of age or older.

   1)  Before the court can terminate its supervision of a child who is eighteen years of age or older, a hearing shall be held at least ninety days prior to the child turning eighteen years of age.

   2)  Prior to the hearing, the child shall have the opportunity to make decisions about the transition plan and confer with the county agency about the details of the plan. The county agency shall provide the transition plan to the court and the plan shall, at a minimum, include:

     a)   the specific plans for housing;

     b)   a description of the child’s source of income;

     c)   the specific plans for pursuing educational or vocational training goals;

     d)   the child’s employment goals and whether the child is employed;

     e)   a description of the health insurance plan that the child is expected to obtain and any continued health or behavioral health needs of the child;

     f)   a description of any available programs that would provide mentors or assistance in establishing positive adult connections;

     g)   verification that all vital identification documents and records have been provided to the child;

     h)   a description of any other needed support services; and

     i)   notice to the child that the child can request resumption of juvenile court jurisdiction until the child turns twenty-one years of age if specific conditions are met.

   3)  At the hearing, the court shall review the transition plan for the child. If the court is not satisfied that the requirements of paragraph (E)(2) have been met, a subsequent hearing shall be scheduled.

   4)  The court shall not terminate its supervision of the child without approving an appropriate transition plan, unless the child, after an appropriate transition plan has been offered, is unwilling to consent to the supervision and the court determines termination is warranted.

 

Rule 1634. Motion for Resumption of Jurisdiction

 A.  Venue. A motion to resume jurisdiction shall be filed with the court that terminated court supervision of the child pursuant to Rule 1631.

 B.  Contents. The motion for resumption of jurisdiction shall aver:

   1)  dependency jurisdiction was previously terminated:

     a)   within ninety days prior to the child’s eighteenth birthday; or

     b)   on or after the child’s eighteenth birthday; and

   2)  the child:

     a)   is under twenty-one years of age;

     b)   was adjudicated dependent prior to turning eighteen years of age;

     c)   has requested the court to resume jurisdiction; and

     d)   is:

       i)   completing secondary education or an equivalent credential;

       ii)   enrolled in an institution which provides postsecondary or vocational education;

       iii)   participating in a program actively designed to promote or prevent barriers to employment;

       iv)   employed for at least eighty hours per month; or

       v)   incapable of doing any of the activities as prescribed in paragraphs (B)(2)(d)(i)—(iv) due to a medical or behavioral health condition, which is supported by regularly updated information in the permanency plan for the child;

   3)  whether the child would like his or her guardian or other interested adult involved in the court proceedings;

   4)  that a verification has been signed by the child attesting the above requirements have been met; and

   5)  whether an expedited hearing for placement and services is being requested due to the child’s current living arrangement.

 C.  Service. A copy of the motion shall be served upon:

   1)  the county agency;

   2)  the attorney for the county agency;

   3)  the child;

   4)  the child’s attorney; and

   5)  the guardian or other interested adult if the child requesting resumption of jurisdiction would like the guardian or other interested adult involved in the case as averred in paragraph (B)(3).

 

Rule 1635. Hearing on Motion for Resumption of Jurisdiction

 A.  Time for hearing. Within thirty days of receiving a motion for resumption of jurisdiction, the court shall conduct a hearing to determine whether it will resume juvenile court jurisdiction.

 B.  Notice. Notice of the date, time, place, and purpose of the hearing shall be given to:

   1)  the county agency;

   2)  the attorney for the county agency;

   3)  the child;

   4)  the child’s attorney;

   5)  any other persons, including the guardian or other interested adult, as directed by the court.

 C.  Hearing. At the hearing, the court shall state its findings and conclusions of law on the record in open court as to whether:

   1)  dependency jurisdiction was previously terminated:

     a)   within ninety days prior to the child’s eighteenth birthday; or

     b)   on or after the child’s eighteenth birthday but before the child turns twenty-one years of age; and

   2)  the child continues to meet the definition of child pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. §  6302 because the child:

     a)   is under twenty-one years of age;

     b)   was adjudicated dependent prior to turning eighteen years of age;

     c)   has requested the court to resume jurisdiction; and

     d)   is:

       i)   completing secondary education or an equivalent credential;

       ii)   enrolled in an institution which provides postsecondary or vocational education;

       iii)   participating in a program actively designed to promote or prevent barriers to employment;

       iv)   employed for at least eighty hours per month; or

       v)   incapable of doing any of the activities as prescribed in paragraphs (C)(2)(d)(i)—(iv) due to a medical or behavioral health condition, which is supported by regularly updated information in the permanency plan for the child;

   3)  reasonable efforts were made by the county agency to prevent the return of the child to juvenile court jurisdiction unless, due to the child’s immediate need for assistance, such lack of efforts was reasonable;

   4)  it will exercise jurisdiction pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. §  6351(j) because it is best suited to the protection and physical, mental, and moral welfare of the child;

   5)  a guardian or other interested adult should be involved in the child’s case;

   6)  there are any health or educational needs of the child; and

   7)  the county agency has developed an appropriate transition plan.

 D.  Orders.

   1)  After a hearing, the court shall enter an order granting or denying the motion to resume juvenile court jurisdiction.

   2)  If the court resumes jurisdiction, the court shall order:

     a)   that resumption of jurisdiction is best suited to the protection and physical, mental, and moral welfare of the child;

     b)   any findings as to the transition plan for the child;

     c)   regular scheduling of permanency hearings pursuant to Rule 1608;

     d)   any designations of custody and/or placement of the child; and

     e)   any evaluations, tests, or treatments for the health and educational needs of the child.

 E.  Termination of court supervision in resumption cases.

   1)  Once the goals in the transition plan have been accomplished for a child which, at a minimum, includes the requirements pursuant to Rule 1631(E)(2), or the child has refused to cooperate with the plan, a party may move for termination of court supervision pursuant to Rule 1631.

   2)  In no event shall a child remain under juvenile court supervision once the child has turned twenty-one years of age.

 F.  Advanced Communication Technology. The provisions of Rule 1129 shall apply to this proceeding.

 

2. Youth Independent Living Services Guidelines Bulletin and Appendix, Office of Children, Youth, and Families, Bulletin 3130-11-04, July 8, 2011

The Department of Public Welfare has authority pursuant to 55 Pa. Code 3130.92 to issue Bulletins to provide guidance to the county children and youth agencies. The Youth Independent Living Services Guidelines Bulletin and Appendix provide great detail on the provision of services to older youth, planning obligations, and placement options. The Bulletin can be found here and the Appendix here.