2007 Regular Session
To: Public Health and Welfare; Appropriations
By: Senator(s) Dawkins
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 43-15-13, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO AUTHORIZE THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES TO PROVIDE CASE MANAGEMENT, AFTERCARE, TRANSITIONAL AND EDUCATION SERVICES FOR YOUNG ADULTS OVER AGE 18 THROUGH AGE 23 WHO WERE FORMERLY IN FOSTER CARE UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS, TO PROVIDE FOR COURT APPROVAL OF SUCH SERVICES, TO PRESCRIBE THE SERVICES TO BE PROVIDED AND APPLICATION PROCEDURES, TO AUTHORIZE AN EDUCATION AND TRAINING VOUCHER PROGRAM FOR SUCH YOUNG ADULTS FORMERLY IN FOSTER CARE, TO AUTHORIZE A "ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE SCHOLARSHIP" PROGRAM FOR YOUNG ADULTS FORMERLY IN FOSTER CARE TO COMPLETE HIGH SCHOOL OR ITS EQUIVALENT OR TO COMPLETE A POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION PROGRAM; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 43-15-13, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
43-15-13. (1) For purposes of this section, "children" means persons found within the state who are under the age of twenty-one (21) years, and who were placed in the custody of the Department of Human Services by the youth court of the appropriate county.
(2) The Department of Human Services shall establish a foster care placement program for children whose custody lies with the department, with the following objectives:
(a) Protecting and promoting the health, safety and welfare of children;
(b) Preventing the unnecessary separation of children from their families by identifying family problems, assisting families in resolving their problems and preventing the breakup of the family where the prevention of child removal is desirable and possible when the child can be cared for at home without endangering the child's health and safety;
(c) Remedying or assisting in the solution of problems which may result in the neglect, abuse, exploitation or delinquency of children;
(d) Restoring to their families children who have been removed, by the provision of services to the child and the families when the child can be cared for at home without endangering the child's health and safety;
(e) Placing children in suitable adoptive homes approved by a licensed adoption agency or family protection specialist, in cases where restoration to the biological family is not safe, possible or appropriate;
(f) Assuring safe and adequate care of children away from their homes, in cases where the child cannot be returned home or cannot be placed for adoption. At the time of placement, the department shall implement concurrent planning, as described in subsection (8) of this section, so that permanency may occur at the earliest opportunity. Consideration of possible failure or delay of reunification should be given, to the end that the placement made is the best available placement to provide permanency for the child; and
(g) Providing a family protection specialist or worker or team of such specialists or workers for a family and child throughout the implementation of their permanent living arrangement plan. Wherever feasible, the same family protection specialist or worker or team shall remain on the case until the child is no longer under the jurisdiction of the youth court.
(3) The State Department of Human Services shall administer a system of individualized plans and reviews once every six (6) months for each child under its custody within the State of Mississippi, each child who has been adjudged a neglected, abandoned or abused child and whose custody was changed by court order as a result of such adjudication, and each public or private facility licensed by the department. The State Department of Human Services administrative review shall be completed on each child within the first three (3) months and a foster care review once every six (6) months after the child's initial forty-eight-hour shelter hearing. Such system shall be for the purpose of enhancing potential family life for the child by the development of individual plans to return the child to its natural parent or parents, or to refer the child to the appropriate court for termination of parental rights and placement in a permanent relative's home, adoptive home or foster/adoptive home. The goal of the State Department of Human Services shall be to return the child to its natural parent(s) or refer the child to the appropriate court for termination of parental rights and placement in a permanent relative's home, adoptive home or foster/adoptive home within the time periods specified in this subsection or in subsection (4) of this section. In furthering this goal, the department shall establish policy and procedures designed to appropriately place children in permanent homes, such policy to include a system of reviews for all children in foster care, as follows: foster care counselors in the department shall make all possible contact with the child's natural parent(s) and any interested relative for the first two (2) months following the child's entry into the foster care system. For any child who was in foster care before July 1, 1998, and has been in foster care for fifteen (15) of the last twenty-two (22) months regardless of whether the foster care was continuous for all of those twenty-two (22) months, the department shall file a petition to terminate the parental rights of the child's parents. The time period starts to run from the date the court makes a finding of abuse and/or neglect or sixty (60) days from when the child was removed from his or her home, whichever is earlier. The department can choose not to file a termination of parental rights petition if the following apply:
(a) The child is being cared for by a relative; and/or
(b) The department has documented compelling and extraordinary reasons why termination of parental rights would not be in the best interests of the child. Prior to granting or denying a request by the department for an extension of time for filing a termination of parental rights action, the court shall receive a written report on the progress which a parent of such child has made in treatment, to be made to the court in writing by a mental health/substance abuse therapist or counselor.
(4) In the case of any child who is placed in foster care on or after July 1, 1998, except in cases of aggravated circumstances prescribed in Section 43-21-603(7)(c) or (d), the child's natural parent(s) will have a reasonable time to be determined by the court, which shall not exceed a six-month period of time, in which to meet the service agreement with the department for the benefit of the child unless the department has documented extraordinary and compelling reasons for extending the time period in the best interest of the child. If this agreement has not been satisfactorily met, simultaneously the child will be referred to the appropriate court for termination of parental rights and placement in a permanent relative's home, adoptive home or a foster/adoptive home. For children under the age of three (3) years, termination of parental rights shall be initiated within six (6) months, unless the department has documented compelling and extraordinary circumstances, and placement in a permanent relative's home, adoptive home or foster/adoptive home within two (2) months. For children who have been abandoned pursuant to the provisions of Section 97-5-1, termination of parental rights shall be initiated within thirty (30) days and placement in an adoptive home shall be initiated without necessity for placement in a foster home. The department need not initiate termination of parental rights proceedings where the child has been placed in durable legal custody or long-term or formalized foster care by a court of competent jurisdiction.
(5) The foster care review once every six (6) months shall be conducted by the youth court or its designee(s), and/or by personnel within the State Department of Human Services or by a designee or designees of the department and may include others appointed by the department, and the review shall include at a minimum an evaluation of the child based on the following:
(a) The extent of the care and support provided by the parents or parent, while the child is in temporary custody;
(b) The extent of communication with the child by parents, parent or guardian;
(c) The degree of compliance by the agency and the parents with the social service plan established;
(d) The methods of achieving the goal and the plan establishing a permanent home for the child;
(e) Social services offered and/or utilized to facilitate plans for establishing a permanent home for the child; and
(f) Relevant testimony and recommendations from the foster parent of the child, the grandparents of the child, the guardian ad litem of the child, representatives of any private care agency which has cared for the child, the family protection worker or family protection specialist assigned to the case, and any other relevant testimony pertaining to the case.
Each child's review plan once every six (6) months shall be filed with the court which awarded custody and shall be made available to natural parents or foster parents upon approval of the court. The court shall make a finding as to the degree of compliance by the agency and the parent(s) with the child's social service plan. The court also shall find that the child's health and safety are the paramount concern. In the interest of the child, the court shall, where appropriate, initiate proceedings on its own motion. The State Department of Human Services shall report to the Legislature as to the number of such children, the findings of the foster care review board and relevant statistical information in foster care in a semiannual report to the Legislature to be submitted to the Joint Oversight Committee of the Department of Human Services. The report shall not refer to the specific name of any child in foster care.
(6) The State Department of Human Services, with the cooperation and assistance of the State Department of Health, shall develop and implement a training program for foster care parents to indoctrinate them as to their proper responsibilities upon a child's entry into their foster care. The program shall provide a minimum of twelve (12) clock hours of training. The foster care training program shall be satisfactorily completed by such foster care parents prior to or within ninety (90) days after child placement with such parent. Record of such foster care parent's training program participation shall be filed with the court as part of a foster care child's review plan once every six (6) months.
(7) When the Department of Human Services is considering placement of a child in a foster home and when the department deems it to be in the best interest of the child, the department shall give first priority to placing the child in the home of one (1) of the child's relatives within the third degree, as computed by the civil law rule. In placing the child in a relative's home, the department may waive any rule, regulation or policy applicable to placement in foster care that would otherwise require the child to have a separate bed or bedroom or have a bedroom of a certain size, if placing the child in a relative's home would be in the best interest of the child and such requirements cannot be met in the relative's home.
(8) The Legislature recognizes that the best interests of the child require that the child be placed in the most permanent living arrangement as soon as is practicably possible. To achieve this goal, the Department of Human Services is directed to conduct concurrent planning so that a permanent living arrangement may occur at the earliest opportunity. Permanent living arrangements may include prevention of placement of a child outside the home of the family when the child can be cared for at home without endangering the child's health or safety; reunification with the family, when safe and appropriate, if temporary placement is necessary; or movement of the child toward the most permanent living arrangement and permanent legal status. When a child is placed in foster care or relative care, the department shall first ensure and document that reasonable efforts were made to prevent or eliminate the need to remove the child from the child's home. The department's first priority shall be to make reasonable efforts to reunify the family when temporary placement of the child occurs or shall request a finding from the court that reasonable efforts are not appropriate or have been unsuccessful. A decision to place a child in foster care or relative care shall be made with consideration of the child's health, safety and best interests. At the time of placement, consideration should also be given so that if reunification fails or is delayed, the placement made is the best available placement to provide a permanent living arrangement for the child. The department shall adopt rules addressing concurrent planning for reunification and a permanent living arrangement. The department shall consider the following factors when determining appropriateness of concurrent planning:
(a) The likelihood of prompt reunification;
(b) The past history of the family;
(c) The barriers to reunification being addressed by the family;
(d) The level of cooperation of the family;
(e) The foster parents' willingness to work with the family to reunite;
(f) The willingness and ability of the foster family or relative placement to provide an adoptive home or long-term placement;
(g) The age of the child; and
(h) Placement of siblings.
(9) If the department has placed a child in foster care or relative care pursuant to a court order, the department may not change the child's placement unless the department specifically documents to the court that the current placement is unsafe or unsuitable or that another placement is in the child's best interests unless the new placement is in an adoptive home or other permanent placement. Except in emergency circumstances as determined by the department or where the court orders placement of the child pursuant to Section 43-21-303, the foster parents, grandparents or other relatives of the child shall be given an opportunity to contest the specific reasons documented by the department at least seventy-two (72) hours prior to any such departure, and the court may conduct a review of such placement unless the new placement is in an adoptive home or other permanent placement. When a child is returned to foster care or relative care, the former foster parents or relative placement shall be given the prior right of return placement in order to eliminate additional trauma to the child.
(10) The Department of Human Services shall provide the foster parents, grandparents or other relatives with at least a seventy-two-hour notice of departure for any child placed in their foster care or relative care, except in emergency circumstances as determined by the department or where the court orders placement of the child pursuant to Section 43-21-303. The parent/legal guardian, grandparents of the child, guardian ad litem and the court exercising jurisdiction shall be notified in writing when the child leaves foster care or relative care placement, regardless of whether the child's departure was planned or unplanned. The only exceptions to giving a written notice to the parent(s) are when a parent has voluntarily released the child for adoption or the parent's legal rights to the child have been terminated through the appropriate court with jurisdiction.
(11) The Department of Human Services shall extend the following rights to foster care parents:
(a) A clear understanding of their role as foster parents and the roles of the birth parent(s) and the placement agency in respect to the child in care;
(b) Respect, consideration, trust and value as a family who is making an important contribution to the agency's objectives;
(c) Involvement in all the agency's crucial decisions regarding the foster child as team members who have pertinent information based on their day-to-day knowledge of the child in care;
(d) Support from the family protection worker or the family protection specialist in efforts to do a better day-to-day job in caring for the child and in working to achieve the agency's objectives for the child and the birth family through provision of:
(i) Pertinent information about the child and the birth family;
(ii) Help in using appropriate resources to meet the child's needs;
(iii) Direct interviews between the family protection worker or specialist and the child, previously discussed and understood by the foster parents;
(e) The opportunity to develop confidence in making day-to-day decisions in regard to the child;
(f) The opportunity to learn and grow in their vocation through planned foster parent education;
(g) The opportunity to be heard regarding agency practices that they may question; and
(h) Reimbursement for costs of the foster child's care in the form of a board payment based on the age of the foster child as prescribed in Section 43-15-17.
(12) The Department of Human Services shall require the following responsibilities from participating foster parents:
(a) Understanding the department's function in regard to the foster care program and related social service programs;
(b) Sharing with the department any information which may contribute to the care of foster children;
(c) Functioning within the established goals and objectives to improve the general welfare of the foster child;
(d) Recognizing the problems in foster home placement that will require professional advice and assistance and that such help should be utilized to its full potential;
(e) Recognizing that the foster family will be one of the primary resources for preparing a child for any future plans that are made, including return to birth parent(s), termination of parental rights or reinstitutionalization;
(f) Expressing their view of agency practices which relate to the foster child with the appropriate staff member;
(g) Understanding that all information shared with the foster parents about the child and his/her birth parent(s) must be held in the strictest of confidence;
(h) Cooperating with any plan to reunite the foster child with his birth family and work with the birth family to achieve this goal; and
(i) Attending dispositional review hearings and termination of parental rights hearings conducted by a court of competent jurisdiction, or providing their recommendations to the court in writing.
(13) (a) The services that shall be provided by the Department of Human Services to young adults formerly in foster care to transition successfully to independent living shall include, as appropriate for the individual young adult:
(i) Aftercare Support Services;
(ii) Road To Independence Scholarship Program; and
(iii) Transitional Support Services.
(b) Case Management/Contact with Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care/Support by Services Worker.
(i) Depending upon the stated wishes and needs of the young adult formerly in foster care, services worker support through home visits, office visits and other types of contact shall occur.
(ii) A plan for transition is required for all recipients of scholarship and/or transitional support funds.
(iii) The services worker shall arrange and provide services to support young adults formerly in foster care between the ages of eighteen (18) and up to his or her twenty-third birthday.
(iv) The services worker shall provide young adults formerly in foster care with developmental disabilities, mental health needs and/or other special needs more contact, as necessary, to assist in the ability of the young adult to transition successfully to independent living.
(v) The frequency of contact by the services worker with the young adult shall be determined by the young adult in consultation with the services worker.
(vi) Services prorated under this subsection (13) to any child who is under the jurisdiction of the youth court shall be provided subject to the approval of the court.
(c) Preparation and Education of the Child/Youth Age 16-17 in Foster Care. The services worker shall arrange or provide the services necessary to ensure that preparation/education for the young adult formerly in foster care to achieve independence occurs. This shall include initial application, renewal and reinstatement for the Road To Independence Scholarship, which provides specific direction for young adults formerly in foster care to renew or continue receiving benefits and to reinstate benefits for young adults whose scholarship benefits were interrupted and who wishes to begin receiving benefits again. This shall also include selecting the appropriate funding source for young adult services which is available from federal funding sources to support the program for young adults formerly in foster care, including Education and Training Voucher (ETV) funds. The services worker shall determine the appropriate fund in order to comply with federal regulations and to maximize available funding. State funds shall be used for young adults age twenty-one (21) and twenty-two (22) if they are not eligible for ETV funds.
(d) Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care with Children of Their Own. The services workers shall determine which funds may be used for children whose parents are young adults formerly in foster care. If the parent of a child in a dependency case is a young adult formerly in foster care, the processes required for any parent still apply. Case planning, case management and required contacts shall continue as with any other dependency case.
(e) Selection of Placements for Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care. Prior to his or her eighteenth birthday, each young adult formerly in foster care shall choose the placement that best suits his or her needs. The services worker assigned to work with a young adult shall provide information to the young adult so as to assist in the best decision making.
(i) If the young adult elects to reside in the same or different licensed placement after reaching age eighteen (18), the services worker assigned to work with the young adult shall assist both the placement provider and the young adult to understand the roles and the responsibilities of continuing this placement after the young adult's eighteenth birthday.
(ii) A young adult who continues with the foster family shall not be included as a child in calculating any licensing restriction on the number of children in the foster home.
(f) Program for Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care. This plan shall be used in order to develop each departmental district/region or contracted service provider specific implementation plan. Steps for effective implementation are as follows:
(i) Departmental districts/regions and contracted service providers shall designate staff responsible for receiving inquiries about services available to young adults formerly in foster care. The departmental district/region and contracted service providers shall also develop methods to provide information about ETV funds, prior to their eighteenth birthday, to youth adopted from foster care at ages sixteen (16) and seventeen (17), and to perform outreach for those adopted since July 1, 2007.
(ii) District/region and/or contracted service providers shall develop a process with fiscal/budget staff to ensure expedited and/or emergency assistance is provided.
(iii) District/region and/or contracted service providers shall develop a tracking system for approved cash assistance payments until such time as the Department of Human Services can utilize this information.
(g) Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program Requirements are as follows:
(i) Young adult must have been adjudicated dependent, have been in the custody of the State of Mississippi on his or her eighteenth birthday and have spent at least six (6) months in foster care prior to reaching his or her eighteenth birthday; or
(ii) Adopted from the Mississippi foster care system at age sixteen (16) or seventeen (17) as of July 1, 2007.
(iii) Young adults are potentially eligible for services from age eighteen (18) through age twenty-two (22).
(iv) Initial application must be completed before twenty-first birthday.
(v) Benefits from this and other federal educational assistance sources may not exceed the young adult's "cost of attendance" at an "institution of higher education" as defined by federal statute.
(vi) The young adult must be attending an institution of higher education in Mississippi.
(vii) The young adult may receive a maximum of Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) per year towards the payment of Road To Independence Scholarship awards.
(viii) For a student attending an institution of higher education on a part-time basis, ETV funds of up to Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) per year may be used to pay for Transitional Support Services.
(ix) The young adult shall provide proof of enrollment and satisfactory progress.
(h) Aftercare Support Services for Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care. The services worker shall provide support to young adults formerly in foster care through making of service referrals in the community to assist young adults in developing "the skills and abilities necessary for independent living," as determined by the Department of Human Services. Eligibility for aftercare support is as follows: A young adult who leaves foster care at age eighteen (18) but requests services prior to his or her twenty-third birthday shall be eligible for Aftercare Support Services. There is no formal written application to receive aftercare support service referrals. The services worker shall assist the young adult to receive cash assistance for housing, electric, water, gas, sewer service, food and any other provisions permitted under federal regulations. Prior to arranging for the provision of cash assistance, the services worker shall explore the feasibility of agreements with community providers to waive fees, contacting relatives and other such options. The young adult shall complete the "Aftercare Support Services Cash Assistance Application." The services worker responsible for the case shall choose between making one (1) payment directly to the young adult formerly in foster care or, at the request of the young adult, paying all or a portion of the funds to a service provider.
(i) Road To Independence Scholarship (RTI) requirements are as follows: Each student, with the assistance of the services worker if requested by the young adult, shall complete an RTI Scholarship application. This application shall be completed and signed by the student, reviewing authority and approval authority and a copy must be placed in the case file. For the initial award, a young adult formerly in foster care must:
(i) Be age eighteen (18), nineteen (19) or twenty (20);
(ii) Have been a dependent child;
(iii) Be or have been in the legal and/or physical custody of the Department of Human Services at the time of his or her eighteenth birthday;
(iv) Have spent at least six (6) months in foster care before reaching his or her eighteenth birthday, which may include the time the youth spent in shelter status in state custody;
(v) Be a resident of Mississippi; and
(vi) Meet one (1) of the following educational requirements:
1. Earned a standard high school diploma or its equivalent, or earned a special diploma or special certificate of completion, and has been admitted for full-time enrollment in an eligible postsecondary education institution.
2. Is enrolled full time in an accredited high school, unless he or she has a documented disability and has provided documentation that part-time attendance is a necessary accommodation; or
3. Is enrolled full time in an accredited adult education program designed to provide the student with a high school diploma or its equivalent, unless he or she has a documented disability and has provided documentation that part-time attendance is a necessary accommodation.
(vii) In addition, young adults age eighteen (18) up to their twenty-third birthday, who were adopted from foster care at age sixteen (16) or seventeen (17) and are attending an institution of higher education, whether on a full- or part-time basis, and meet the other criteria set forth for scholarship eligibility are eligible to receive the scholarship award. The same application shall be used for children adopted at age sixteen (16) or seventeen (17) applying for ETV funds. These funds are intended to assist in meeting the student's living expenses or provide for basic personal needs.
(viii) Application Process for Scholarship.
1. The services worker shall assist each youth between the ages seventeen (17) years, six (6) months and eighteen (18) years of age to apply for the Road To Independence Scholarship. The youth shall complete the application and obtain document of proof of enrollment.
2. Each departmental district/region or contracted service provider shall designate a services worker to assist each young adult applying for or receiving independent living services. The young adult shall submit his or her application to the Independent Living services worker designated by the department or its contracted service provider. The Independent Living services worker shall have ten (10) working days to review the application and approve or deny the scholarship award or, if not the approval authority, shall forward the request to the approval authority early enough to have it approved within the ten-day period.
3. If approved, the services worker or Independent Living services worker shall notify the youth in writing within ten (10) working days of the determination. The monthly scholarship award shall be distributed at the beginning of the month that the recipient turns eighteen (18) years of age or, if approval occurs after the youth's eighteenth birthday, at the beginning of the next month following approval of the application. For youth approved prior to their eighteenth birthday, the first monthly scholarship award shall not be prorated regardless of the day of the month recipient turns eighteen (18) years of age.
4. If the application is denied, the services worker shall notify the youth in writing within ten (10) working days of the termination and shall provide the youth the procedure for filing an appeal and notify the youth of other available benefits, including Transitional Support Services or aftercare support.
5. If a young adult formerly in foster care did not complete the application process prior to his or her eighteenth birthday, or if the application was not approved, the young adult may apply once prior to his or her twenty-first birthday. No retroactive benefits are available due to delayed completion of the application process by the youth.
(ix) Scholarship Renewal. The services worker shall evaluate for renewal each scholarship award annually during the ninety-day period before the student's birthday. In order to be eligible for a renewal award for the subsequent year the student shall:
1. Complete the number of hours, or the equivalent considered full time by the educational institution, in the last academic year in which the young adult earned a scholarship.
2. Maintain appropriate progress as required by the educational institution, except that, if the young adult's progress is insufficient to renew the scholarship at any time during the eligibility period, the young adult may restore eligibility by improving his or her progress to the required level.
(x) Scholarship Reinstatement. A student who has lost eligibility for the RTI scholarship or who choose not to renew the award may apply for reinstatement one (1) time before his or her twenty-third birthday using "Road To Independence Scholarship and/or Education Training Vouchers (ETV) Funds Reinstatement Application." In order to be eligible for reinstatement the student must meet the eligibility criteria and the criteria for scholarship renewal.
(xi) RTI Scholarship Needs Assessment. An RTI Needs Assessment must be completed on each student who has been awarded the RTI scholarship. The amount of the award, whether it is being used by a young adult working toward completion of a high school diploma or its equivalent or working toward completion of a postsecondary education program, shall be determined based on an assessment of the funding needs of the young adult. This assessment shall consider the young adult's living and educational costs and other grants, scholarships, waivers, earnings and other income to be received by the young adult. The total amount of ETV funds and any other federal educational assistance to the young adult shall not exceed the young adult's cost of attendance.
(xii) Payment Requirements for Scholarship Recipients. The services worker responsible for the case shall determine how the monthly scholarship awards will be paid according to either of the two (2) following methods:
1. Direct payment to the young adult.
2. Payment of a portion of the scholarship award to a service provider and the balance to the young adult, if requested by the young adult. If the young adult makes this request, it must be made in writing.
ETV funds are available pursuant to the following:
1. For students attending an institution of higher education, including community college, university or vocational education courses. High school or GED attendance does not qualify.
2. For youth adopted at age sixteen (16) or seventeen (17) from foster care who are attending an institution of higher learning.
3. Part-time attendance at an institution of higher education may qualify young adults under Mississippi's Transitional Support Services component.
(xiii) Renewal of Road To Independence Scholarships.
1. Young adults formerly in foster care are required to renew their scholarships on an annual basis.
2. Departmental districts/regions or contracted service provider agencies shall develop a plan for renewal of scholarships. At a minimum, the plan shall address the tracking and scheduling of scholarship renewals and those staff responsible for notifying for these activities as well as notifying the scholarship recipient of his or her obligations during the renewal period.
3. Each approved award shall be evaluated and renewed during the ninety-day period prior to the young adult's birthday.
4. If the young adult is awarded a scholarship within ninety (90) days prior to his or her next birthday, he/she is not required to file for renewal until the following birthday.
5. For young adults who were adopted from foster care at age sixteen (16) or seventeen (17), the same procedures established above shall be followed when renewing their ETV funds.
(xiv) Eligibility to Renew Road To Independence Scholarships. The young adult shall:
1. Make one (1) application for the initial award prior to his or her twenty-first birthday.
2. Complete the number of hours, or the equivalent considered full time by the educational institution, in the last academic year in which the young adult earned a scholarship.
3. Maintain appropriate progress as required by the educational institution, except that, if the young adult's progress is insufficient to renew the scholarship at any time during the eligibility period, the young adult may restore eligibility by improving his or her progress to the required level.
(xv) Documentation Requirements for Scholarship Recipients. All eligible recipients shall:
1. Provide documentation of enrollment in a high school or institution of higher education; and
2. Provide documentation of progress made in his or her course of study during the most recently completed school term.
(j) Transitional Support Services for Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care. A young adult formerly in foster care may request Transitional Support Services in addition to aftercare referrals, each assistance or the Road To Independence Scholarship if the young adult demonstrates that the services are critical to his or her own efforts to achieve self-sufficiency and develop a personal support system.
In order to be eligible, the young adult shall:
(i) Be age eighteen (18), nineteen (19), twenty (20), twenty-one (21) or twenty-two (22);
(ii) Have been a dependent child;
(iii) Be or have been in the legal and/or physical custody of the Department of Human Services at the time of his or her eighteenth birthday.
(iv) Have spent at least six (6) months in foster care before his or her eighteenth birthday.
(v) Demonstrate that the services are critical to his or her own efforts to achieve self-sufficiency and to develop a personal support system, as determined by the Department of Human Services.
If at any time the services are determined by the services worker as no longer critical to the young adult's own efforts to achieve self-sufficiency and to develop a personal support system, they shall be terminated or reapplication denied. Application Process to Receive Transitional Support Services is as follows:
(i) A Transitional Support Services application shall be completed by the young adult with assistance from the assigned services worker.
(ii) An application for Transitional Support Services is limited to a maximum three-month benefit period. A young adult may reapply for Transitional Support Services after the three-month period but must demonstrate that the services are vital for achieving self-sufficiency.
Transition Plan. Each young adult requesting Transitional Support Services shall prepare a transition plan. This plan shall:
(i) Outline the types of services being provided by the department and the types of activities that the young adult will complete in order to achieve self-sufficiency.
(ii) Be reviewed a minimum of every three (3) months, if the young adult intends to reapply for services, and adjusted according to the young adult's needs at the time of review and reapplication.
Service Worker and Young Adult Contact Requirements. The services worker shall work with the young adult formerly in foster care to determine the need for contact.
Payment Requirements for Transitional Support Services Recipients. Payments shall be made directly to the young adult formerly in foster care unless the young adult requests all or a portion of the funds be paid to a service provider. This request shall be made in writing.
Confidentiality. The youth's status as a former foster youth and recipient of public benefits is confidential and shall not be revealed to anyone without the youth's permission. Staff shall not have direct contact with the youth's landlords or third parties, unless the youth provides written permission.
Services workers shall process a young adult's request for assistance. If a young adult requests assistance in completing the application, the services worker shall provide the requested assistance. Each office of the department or its contracted service provider involved in serving young adults formerly in the custody of the department shall maintain application forms for the Road To Independence Scholarship, Transitional Support Services and Aftercare Support Services in a visible area and shall assist the youth with completing the application forms.
(k) Youth with Disabilities. Youth who have disabilities shall be provided with an equal opportunity to participate in the continuum of independent living services.
(i) Though a youth who has a physical, emotional or learning disability may need additional support, he or she still is eligible for all independent living and post-18 services.
(ii) Each office of the department or its contracted service provider involved in serving young adults formerly in the custody of the department shall provide youth with disabilities with reasonable accommodations and appropriate services to ensure the equal opportunities and participation of these youth.
(l) Youth who are Pregnant or Parenting. Youth who are pregnant or who are parenting shall be provided with an equal opportunity to participate in the continuum of independent living and post-18 services. The services worker shall assist these youth with accessing needed services, such a prenatal care, day care, other public benefits and appropriate housing.
(m) Pursuant to federal and state documentation requirements, for each young adult receiving funding from the Road To Independence Scholarship, Transitional Support Services and/or Aftercare Support Services the department or its contracted service provider shall have an active case and a case file containing at a minimum:
(i) A document that contains current demographic information on the student such as, name, address, date of birth, social security number, school attending, etc.
(ii) Completed applications signed by the young adult and review and approval authorities.
(iii) Follow-up renewal applications or evidence of review of transitional support services cases.
(iv) Completed Needs Assessments for RTI Scholarship cases.
(v) Documentation to support eligibility requirements for the services provided.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2007.