2015 Child Welfare Legislative Enactments

Nina Williams-Mbengue 4/25/2016

2015 Summary Overview

NCSL’s Child Welfare Project in the Children and Families Program tracks legislative enactments related to the safety, permanence and well-being of children and families through its yearly compilation of state legislative enactments. So far for 2016, states have introduced nearly 7,000 bills related to child welfare and as of the time of publication, approximately 35 states have enacted nearly 500 bills. Of those just over 30 are on child sex trafficking, 140 are related to adoption and just over 100 address foster care.

During the 2015 legislative session, NCSL identified at least 438 child welfare-related bills enacted in approximately 51 states (including the District of Columbia and/or the territories).

NCSL tracked enactments in the following major topic areas: administration/ oversight/interagency collaboration, adoption, child fatality/near fatality, child protection, courts and legal representation, education of children in foster care, foster care, Fostering Connections to Success Act of 2008, funding, infant abandonment, health and mental/behavioral health, infant abandonment, kinship care, oversight/administration/interagency collaboration, prevention, reporting of child abuse, services for older youth, siblings, termination of parental rights, tribes and workforce. To view StateNet summaries of a comprehensive listing of all bills in all categories of legislation enacted in 2015, please view the NCSL Child Welfare Legislative Enactments Database.

The largest number of legislative enactments occurred within the topics of child protection (115 bills from 39 states) and child sex trafficking (73 bills from 30 states), foster care (93 bills from 37 states), adoption (48 bills from 25 states), health and mental/behavioral health (39 bills from 22 states), and oversight/administration (46 bills from 23 states).

It should be noted that a number of states enacted legislation related to the new requirements of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 to include child sex trafficking, missing children and development of a reasonable and prudent parenting standard.

This report was prepared using StateNet, a legislative tracking database, to perform bill searches and analysis. Summaries provided in this document and in the 50-state, online searchable database (please see the link below) are provided by StateNet.

This report is intended to provide an overview of significant enacted legislation in a limited number of sub-categories in states. It does not represent a comprehensive list of enacted bills and does not include all child welfare legislative enactments.

This document does not contain bills with technical changes, state budget appropriations bills, adopted resolutions, or Executive Orders. Please note that the total number of enacted bills do not add up due to bills that address multiple topics.

Please contact Nina Williams-Mbengue at nina.mbengue@ncsl.org or 303-856-1559 if you have questions or corrections.  To access all 2005-2015 legislation, view the NCSL Child Welfare Legislative Enactments Database webpage.

The following overview by category represents brief topical descriptions of selected 2015 bills in selected categories.

Administration/Oversight

Approximately 23 states enacted 46 bills related to the oversight and administration of child welfare services. Colorado and Montana established children’s ombudsman offices.  Colorado authorized collaborative management of multi-agency services. Illinois lawmakers mandated recommendations for a statewide multidisciplinary approach to child abuse and neglect investigations. Kansas, Michigan and Texas enacted legislation for major human services agency reorganization efforts. Massachusetts lawmakers required the department to report, to the legislature, on new or updated policies put into place to improve the child welfare system. Oklahoma created a multidisciplinary team account fund. Tennessee required a report on county commitment data and actions taken as part of the collaborative planning process.

Adoption

During the 2015 session, approximately 25 states enacted 48 bills on adoption. Lawmakers addressed issues that included: access to adoption records and information; adoption process; adoption re-homing; rights of adoptive parents; same sex adoption; and, services and supports.

Access to adoption records and information. Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, and Utah allowed access to adoption records and/or original birth certificates. Virginia provided for disclosure of identifying information.

Adoption process. Michigan enacted legislation related to adoption facilitators. Oregon addressed adoption home studies and voluntary adoption registries. Nevada and Oregon enacted legislation to streamline adoption procedures for prospective adoptive parents, including relatives. North Carolina required biological father notification of adoption.

Adoption re-homing. Arkansas, Maine and Nevada enacted laws to protect children from adoption re-homing and/or prohibit advertising of children for adoption.

Rights of adoptive parents. Tennessee addressed the rights of adoptive and foster care families.

Same sex adoption. Florida and Illinois removed the prohibition against same sex adoption. 

Services and supports. Arkansas, Illinois and Virginia enacted post-adoption services and supports legislation. California required that at least 30 percent of that savings be spent on post-adoption services, post-guardianship services, and services to support and sustain positive permanent outcomes for children who might enter foster care.

Child Fatality and Near Fatality   

Approximately 14 states enacted 10 bills related to child maltreatment fatality.  Topics addressed included: child death review teams; court proceedings; release of information and confidentiality; and, reporting.

Child death review teams. Delaware provided for a child fatality review panel and required child fatality cases involving domestic violence to be jointly reviewed by the child protection accountability commission and the domestic violence fatal incident panel. Florida lawmakers provided for representation of children’s medical services on teams investigating child death and authorized critical incident rapid response teams to review cases of child deaths during open investigations. Indiana allowed a local child fatality review team to review the near fatality or serious injury of a child. New Mexico established a commission to review child abuse fatalities. Washington required the department to conduct a child fatality review if the fatality occurs in an early learning program or a licensed child care center or home and provided for a child fatality review of a child in the care of the department.

Court proceedings. Arizona opened child maltreatment fatality court proceedings to the public.

Release of information and confidentiality. Florida addressed release of records.  Texas required notification of state legislators about the death of children in care and addressed release of investigative child fatality and near fatality information.

Reporting. Arkansas required the reporting of the sudden and unexpected death of a child.

Child Protection

Thirty-nine states enacted approximately 115 bills related to child protection. Major topic areas included access to and sharing of information/confidentiality, background checks, central child abuse registries/child abuse case databases, child abuse in military families, child maltreatment in schools, child sexual abuse prevention task forces and/or school curricula, child sexual abuse, mandatory reporting; screening/assessment/investigations, statutes of limitation in child sexual abuse cases and, other.

Access to information and sharing of information/confidentiality of abuse and neglect records/confidentiality. Lawmakers in Arkansas and Wyoming addressed confidentiality of child abuse and neglect records and information. Georgia mandated a statewide file-sharing and data collection system; permitted school officials access to child abuse and neglect information; and, provided foster parents access to children’s health and educational information.

Background checks. Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware and Maine enacted legislation related to background checks for people employed to work around children.

Central child abuse registries and child abuse and neglect case databases. Georgia legislators authorized the creation of a central child abuse registry. Maryland authorized a centralized confidential database on child abuse and neglect cases. Lawmakers in Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania addressed central child abuse registries.

Child abuse in military families. South Carolina and Washington addressed child abuse in military families.

Child maltreatment in schools. Arkansas, California, Connecticut and Virginia enacted legislation related to child maltreatment in schools.

Child sexual abuse prevention task forces and/or school curricula. Alabama, Alaska, Oregon and West Virginia mandated the development of child sexual abuse prevention task forces and/or curricula in schools.

Child sexual abuse. Oklahoma authorized the development of a school-based rape/sexual assault response program. Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia addressed child sexual abuse. Virginia legislators directed the establishment of multidisciplinary child sexual abuse response teams to conduct regular reviews of child sexual abuse cases.

Reporting. Arkansas required the child welfare agency to accept educational neglect reports through the child abuse hotline. California authorized pilot programs for the internet reporting of child maltreatment. Delaware and Maine required all mandatory reporters with direct knowledge of abuse to directly report abuse rather than rely on someone else to report.

Georgia required that mandatory reporters be notified when the report has been received and investigation completed. Oklahoma required the tracking of anonymous child maltreatment reports. Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia enacted legislation related to mandatory reporting and lawmakers in Alaska and Pennsylvania addressed mandatory reporter training. South Dakota lawmakers required that mandatory reporters who witness child abuse be available for questioning.

Screening, assessment and investigations. Alabama created a task force to improve delivery relating to screening reports of child abuse. Mississippi established a center of excellence as a resource for the assessment, investigation and prosecution of child maltreatment. Texas addressed screening and assessment and required the development of a child safety check alert list.  

Lawmakers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia addressed investigations. New Hampshire lawmakers required the department to seek a motion to enter a home as part of a child maltreatment investigation in certain circumstances and required the court to order a police officer to enter a home upon a finding of probable cause to believe the child is in immediate danger.

Statutes of limitation. Georgia addressed its statutes of limitation in child sexual abuse cases.

OtherCalifornia addressed reunification services. Colorado enacted legislation related to the office of the children’s ombudsman and to differential response.  Connecticut developed a task force on minors exposed to domestic violence. Georgia created a departmental state advisory board, and regional advisory boards, charged with the periodic review and recommendations of proposed departmental rules and regulations.

Courts

Thirty-six bills were enacted in 22 states on the work of the courts in child abuse and neglect.  Major sub-topics related to courts included: child removals, children’s participation in hearings, child witnesses, confidentiality of information, court diversion, court ordered services, guardian ad litems and court appointed special advocates, hearings and parent and child representation.

Child removal. Illinois required that child removal orders must include date, reason for removal and proposed address of the child after removal. North Carolina specified law enforcement custody orders.

Children’s participation in hearings. New York mandated children’s right to be present at court hearings

Child witness testimony. Delaware authorized remote witness testimony by means of a secured video connection in child abuse cases. Mississippi enacted child witness protection standards to accommodate children testifying in court to minimize mental and emotional suffering. Tennessee permitted courts to admit into evidence video recordings of forensic interviews with children.

Confidentiality of information. Nebraska addressed confidentiality of information. 

Court diversion. Montana legislation established a child abuse court diversion pilot project to informally resolve cases prior to the finding of a child abuse or neglect petition.

Court ordered services. Delaware granted authority for the department to petition the court to compel an uncooperative parent to complete drug, alcohol and mental health evaluation of child developmental screening.

Guardian ad litems and court appointed special advocates. Arkansas provided attorneys ad litem with increased access to information on child clients in child maltreatment cases and required provision of notice of court proceedings to attorney ad litems. Nebraska required that the Supreme Court provide standards for guardian ad litems in juvenile court proceedings. Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington enacted legislation related to guardian ad litems and court appointed special advocates. Virginia allowed the court appointed special advocate program to continue for youth in care 18 and older.

Hearings. California allowed notice of various juvenile court hearings to be made by electronic mail.

Parent and child legal representation. Colorado created the Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel to ensure high-quality legal representation for parents in juvenile dependency and neglect proceedings, including a governing commission. Oregon created a task force on legal representation in childhood dependency.

Other. Arkansas lawmakers allowed juveniles to return to foster care if evidence is presented to the circuit court that the department failed to comply with regulations or there is evidence that the youth was coerced by the department to leave foster care. Mississippi required courts to determine if a child has been adjudicated as a delinquent in a child in need of services determination and required that all youth courts use the state youth court case information delivery system. Nebraska authorized a foster care case review process.

Education

Fourteen states enacted approximately 18 bills related to the education of children and youth in the care and custody of the state. Lawmakers addressed a variety of issues related to the education of children and youth in care, including administration of psychotropic medication in schools, educational supports and services, foster care residency for school enrollment purposes, scholarships and tuition waivers and training of school personnel.

Administration of psychotropic medications in schools. New Mexico prohibited school personnel from compelling students to use psychotropic medications and stated that a parent’s or guardian’s refusal to consent to the administration of psychotropic medications is not grounds per se for protective custody.

Educational supports and services for current and former foster youth. Colorado expanded duties of court appointed special advocates for youth to insure educational success for a child. Arkansas ensured continuity of education for foster children and provided access to academic resources, services and extracurricular enrichment activities that are available to all students. California required standard notice of educational rights of foster children to be available to liaisons for such children and to be posted on the department of education website. California authorized foster children living in emergency shelters to receive education services at the shelter as necessary and lawmakers also established a foster youth services coordinating program in each county office of education to ensure the coordination of the education of children in care.  Illinois mandated the department adopt rules to develop and implement a Foster Youth Summer Internship Pilot Program to provide professional training and experiences to foster youth. Maryland revised the definition of unaccompanied homeless youth by requiring documentation that the youth has been residing in the state before enrollment in public institutions of higher education. Texas addressed the educational needs of homeless students and required designated liaison officers for current or former foster youth at institutions of higher learning.

Foster care residency for school enrollment purposes. Oklahoma allowed foster parents to change residency of children in care.

Scholarships and tuition waivers. Alabama established a tuition scholarship program for current or former foster children. Arizona authorized a university and community college pilot tuition waiver scholarship program for former foster youth. Michigan provided for individual income tax check-off for the foster care scholarship trust fund. Oregon worked on improving success rates of students receiving state tuition waivers.

Training for students and school personnel on child sexual abuse prevention and trauma.  California lawmakers required child sexual abuse prevention training and best practice in schools. Connecticut enhanced child abuse reporting and training requirements for school personnel, and provided trauma informed practices for the school setting to enable school personnel to respond to students with mental, emotional or behavioral health needs.

Foster Care

Thirty-seven states enacted 93 bills related to foster care. Lawmakers addressed issues of concern in the major topic areas of: confidentiality and information sharing; foster parent training and support; oversight/permanency/system improvement; screening and background checks; and, other. Please also see Kinship Care, the Education of Children in Foster Care and Services for Older Youth in Care for additional foster care-related 2015 enactments. For the comprehensive compilation of foster care related enactments, please view the NCSL Child Welfare Legislative Enactments Database.

Confidentiality and information sharing. Arizona, Iowa, Maryland, New Hampshire addressed confidentiality and information sharing for foster parents.

Foster parent training and support. The District of Columbia extended eligibility for subsidized child care to include foster parents who may no longer be working but have some income, teen parents in foster care and foster parents who are not working but enrolled in education or job training. Tennessee lawmakers directed the department to develop rules for a foster parent advocacy program. Washington created the Parents for Parents Program to decrease children’s time spent in care and, increase reunification and prevent re-entry by pairing parents, identified at court hearings and case staffings, with parent peer mentors who have successfully exited the dependency court process, to guide them through the process and help them access community and social services.

Oversight/permanency/system improvement. California lawmakers declared that a child whose parent is a dependent of the court is not considered at risk of abuse solely on the basis of the parent’s placement history, past behaviors, or health or mental health diagnoses prior to pregnancy. California also authorized the creation of child and family teams for purposes of improving foster care placement and services. California required that children and youth be placed according to their gender identity rather than to their birth certificate gender. California reclassified treatment facilities, transitioning from the use of group homes to the use of short-term residential treatment centers.  Colorado discouraged multiple moves for children in care in favor of expedited permanency planning.  Illinois required temporary residential shelter services to provide certain interventions and services, and screening and assessment upon admission. Kentucky mandated the rights of parents to be notified of, and to attend and participate in, a citizen foster care board review. Nevada legislators required an annual review of placement in specialized foster care homes. North Carolina mandated the creation of a permanency innovation initiative oversight committee. Oregon required the department to develop savings accounts in financial institutions for children and youth in care. Washington addressed permanency planning.

Screening and background checks. Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada and Virginia addressed screening and background checks for foster parents.

Other. Connecticut required reporting on children with identified adults who may serve as permanency resources. Nevada authorized the storage of firearms in family foster homes and allowed law enforcement to carry a firearm in the presence of children in care.

Health and Mental/Behavioral Health, Substance Abuse

Twenty-two states enacted approximately 39 bills related to health, mental/behavioral health and substance abuse.

Arkansas required investigative interviews with a health care provider in cases where a healthcare provider reports child abuse or neglect. California, New Mexico and Washington addressed the administration and oversight of psychotropic medications. California legislation provided specified rights for children who are prescribed psychotropic medications; required a foster care public health nurse to monitor and oversee a foster child’s use of psychotropic medications, provided training for the nurses; and, allowed group foster homes to use psychotropic medications under specified conditions.  The department is also required to collect data related to psychotropic medication use by children and youth in care and to identify group homes that have high levels of use, through confidential discussions with former group home residents and medical personnel. 

Montana lawmakers created a pilot project to improve outcomes for the children’s mental health system and an interim study of evidence- based outcomes. North Dakota created a task force on substance exposed newborns and required a report to the legislature. The task force is charged with researching the impact of substance abuse and neonatal withdrawal syndrome; collecting data on costs associated with treating expectant mothers and newborns suffering from withdrawal substance abuse; and, identifying and evaluating programs for mothers and newborns suffering from addiction.

 Rhode Island mandated a transition plan for all older children under the family court’s jurisdiction and who are developmentally delayed or seriously emotionally disturbed, which addresses housing, support services, health insurance and education. Tennessee required certain health, educational, mental and behavioral health information be disclosed to adoptive families.  Washington legislators directed the Health Care Authority to establish an integrated managed health and behavioral health plan for foster children.

Kinship Care

Thirteen states enacted 16 bills to support kinship care providers. Arkansas expanded guardianship subsidies. Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin addressed notification of adult grandparents and other relatives when children are placed in care. Nebraska created a pilot family finding project to increase the numbers of kinship caregivers available for children. Utah allowed emergency placement of a child with a friend designated by a parent, who is not a licensed foster parent, or with an adoptive parent of the child’s sibling. Virginia prohibited removal of children from the physical custody of a kinship foster parent, who continues to meet approval standards and with whom the child has been living for six consecutive months, unless the kinship provider consents.

Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014

New federal legislation, Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 (H.R. 4980), now requires state child welfare agencies to:

Provisions related to sex trafficking

  • Develop policies and procedures to identify, document, screen and determine appropriate services for children under the child welfare agency’s care and supervision, who are victims of, or at risk of, sex trafficking.
  • Immediately report children in their care identified as sex trafficking victims to law enforcement.  States must also report the numbers of child trafficking victims to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
  • Report children missing from their care to law enforcement, within 24 hours, for entry into the National Crime Information Center and to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
  • Develop and implement protocols to locate children runaway or missing from foster care, determine the child’s experiences while absent from care, develop screening to determine if the child is a sex trafficking victim, and report this information to HHS.

Provisions related to strengthening families

  • Develop a reasonable and prudent parenting standard for foster parents to make parental decisions to maintain the health and safety of foster youth and also to make decisions about the youth’s participation in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural and social activities.
  • Ensure that children in foster care age 14 or older are consulted on the development of, or revision to, his or her case plan, which must include the selection of two adults to be part of the child’s permanency team and which must describe the foster child’s rights to education, health, visitation, court visitation and other services and supports . Youth 14 and older must also receive a free annual credit report and help in clearing up errors on the report.
  • Provide children aging out of foster care with a birth certificate, a social security card, health insurance information, medical records and a driver’s license or state identification.
  • Prohibits the use of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) as a permanency goal for children in foster care under age 16, and requires that youth 16 and older that have an APPLA permanency goal are appropriately placed. 

In 2015, states enacted the following legislation related to the Preventing Sex Trafficking Act. See NCSL’s Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 for complete summaries of related legislation.

Protecting children and youth at risk of sex trafficking. Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Virginia addressed provisions related to protecting children and youth at risk of sex trafficking through child assessment, placement, treatment and services.

Arkansas revised the definition of “child placement agency” to include agencies that place or assist with placing child victims of human trafficking in a home or facility. California required the implementation of policies and procedures to identify, document, and determine appropriate services for children and youth who are receiving child welfare services and are, or are at risk of becoming, victims of commercial sexual exploitation. California also required the department to ensure that the state’s child welfare case management system is capable of collecting information on the number of foster children who are, or are at risk of becoming, victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Lawmakers mandated that the department develop an estimate of additional funding needed for 2016-2017 to implement the new federal mandates in the Preventing Sex Trafficking Act.

Georgia required the department, the Office of the Child Advocate, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and law enforcement to develop a plan for the delivery of services to children who are, or at risk of becoming, sexually exploited or victims of sex trafficking. The plan is to include: identifying children who need services; assisting with applying for federal and state benefits and services; coordinating the delivery of medical and mental health, housing, education, job training, child care, legal and other services; increasing awareness through preparing and disseminating training materials; developing community-based services; and, assisting with family reunification.

Illinois required a workgroup to review treatment programs for child sex trafficking victims, including secured therapeutic residential care laws and rules. Illinois legislators authorized a multi-dimensional treatment foster care pilot program and a human trafficking hotline, and required the department to make recommendations for a continuum of care for children in care who are victims of sex trafficking.

Minnesota legislators appropriated funds for the housing trust fund account and directed that the account give priority to projects that focus on creating safe and stable housing for homeless youth or on projects that provide housing to trafficked women and children. They also specified funding from the general fund for emergency shelter and transitional and long-term housing beds for sexually exploited youth and youth at risk of sexual exploitation, and for statewide youth outreach workers assist sexually exploited youth and youth at risk of sexual exploitation to access shelter and services.

Texas enacted a Governor’s Program for Victims of Sex Trafficking to provide comprehensive, individualized services to address the rehabilitation and treatment needs of child victims. The program must coordinate with state and local law enforcement agencies, state agencies, and service providers to identify victims of child sex trafficking who are eligible to receive services. Each identified child will immediately be assigned a caseworker to coordinate with local service providers to fit the victim's immediate and long-term rehabilitation and treatment needs, including medical, psychiatric, psychological, safety, and housing. 

Texas also authorized a Child Sex Trafficking Prevention Unit within the criminal justice division. The unit is charged with coordinating with other agencies to prevent child sex trafficking; recover victims of child sex trafficking; place victims in suitable short- and long-term housing; collect and analyze research and data on child sex trafficking to distribute to agencies and nonprofits; refer child victims to programs; provide support for child sex trafficking prosecutions; and, develop recommendations for improving state efforts to prevent child sex trafficking which must be submitted to the legislature as part of the criminal justice division’s biennial report.

 Additionally, Texas lawmakers allowed courts to place child sex trafficking or forced labor victims in licensed, secure agency foster homes or group homes to provide a safe and therapeutic environment to child victims. The services must be available 24 hours, must have appropriate security and must include: mental health; victim and family counseling; behavioral health care; treatment and intervention for sexual assault; education; life skills training; mentoring; substance abuse screening and services; and, individualized services based on trauma endured by the child.

Virginia lawmakers appropriated funds to contract with Youth for Tomorrow, a nonprofit that provides comprehensive residential, educational and counseling services to youth who are victims of sex trafficking. The services are to include assessment and service planning; counseling; room and board; coordination of medical and mental health services; independent living services for youth transitioning out of foster care; education; and, family reunification services.

Reporting missing children and youth and implementing protocols for children who have run away from foster care. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas required reporting of children missing from care to law enforcement and to the National Crime Information Center and to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

California required county child welfare agencies and probation departments to develop and implement specific protocols to locate any child missing from foster care.  Colorado required the department to report the disappearance of a child or youth in custody. Minnesota required the child welfare agency to determine the factors that contributed to the child’s running away and what the child experienced while a runaway, and to determine appropriate services for the child. Nevada lawmakers required the department to adopt procedures for children who have run away from foster care. Texas specified the type of information to be collected on missing children to include: whether the department’s supervision of the child is temporary or permanent; the type of substitute in which the child was placed; and, the child’s sex, age, race and ethnicity.

Supporting normalcy: reasonable and prudent parenting standard. Legislators in California, Connecticut, Louisiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas enacted legislation to establish reasonable and prudent parenting standards so that foster parents have the authority to make day-to-day decisions affecting children in their care regarding extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, social or sporting activities. See NCSL’s Foster Children’s Bill of Rights and Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Legislation for more.

Improves another permanent planned living arrangement (APPLA). California prohibited “long-term foster care” and provided minors 16 years of age and older, under certain circumstances, with another planned permanent living arrangement, as specified by the court. Nevada authorized an agency which provides child welfare services, that has custody of a child who is 16 years of age or older, to present evidence at a permanency hearing that there is a compelling reason for placing such a child in a different permanent living arrangement. Oklahoma provided that, when the permanency plan for a child who is 16 years of age is continued placement in the legal custody of DHS, the court inquire what permanency outcome the child desires and provide compelling reasons why it is not in the child’s best interest to return home or be placed for adoption.

Case plan and transition planning for successful adulthood, including a description of the rights of the child to education, health, visitation and court participation. Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Texas enacted foster children’s bill of rights legislation. See NCSL’s Foster Children’s Bill of Rights and Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Legislation for more.

California required case plans for youth 14 years of age or older in consultation with the youth, and authorized each youth to choose up to two members of the case planning team. The bill required that case plans for these youth include a description of specified rights. The bill also required the case plan for a child who is, or who is at risk of becoming, the victim of commercial sexual exploitation, to document the services provided to address that issue.

 Connecticut and Oklahoma required the department to consult with children 12 and older when developing or revising their case plans. California and Connecticut lawmakers expanded the age range for children who can request an annual credit report. Texas Lawmakers also required a report on housing and employment opportunities for youth formerly in care.

Birth certificate, social security card, health insurance information, medical records and driver’s licenses for foster children aging out of care. Maryland, Nevada and Oklahoma directed the department to provide foster children aging out of care with records, documentation and other information.

Supporting Older Youth and Extending Foster Care Beyond 18

Maryland lawmakers required the department to advise emancipating youth of their right to re-enter care. New Mexico required the department of human services to cover state residents, who are former foster youth, for public assistance services, regardless of where the youth received foster care services.  New York provided that children and youth in care have a right to be present at their court hearings. North Carolina extended foster care beyond age 18.

 Oregon lawmakers directed the appointment of an advisory committee on the statewide planning and service delivery for runaway and homeless youth and their families, with required reporting to legislative interim committees on child welfare. Rhode Island required the development of transition planning for all children in care who are developmentally delayed or seriously emotionally disturbed which addresses housing, placement options, health insurance, education, employment services, mentors and continuing support services.

Texas required that the department ensure that the transition plan for youth 16 years of age or older includes provisions that identify with youth as part of their transition; assists the youth with housing issues including: the cost of housing in relation to youth's income; the youth's housing goals; typical rental applications and required documentation; and persons who are able to cosign or serve as references for a housing application. The legislation also required the department to inform youth about supervised independent living; and college housing, including dormitories, and clarifies that the department is required to review a common rental application with youth.

Virginia required local social services departments to provide independent living services to youth between the ages of 18 and 21. Washington directed the department to ensure that health and mental health extended foster care providers participate in Medicaid and that the court maintain the dependency proceeding for youth in care at the age of 18 and who is in an educational or postsecondary vocational program.

About This NCSL Project

The Denver-based child welfare project staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience. Denver staff can be reached at (303) 364-7700 or childwelfare@ncsl.org.

NCSL staff in Washington, D.C. track and analyze federal legislation and policy and represent state legislatures on child welfare issues before Congress and the Administration. Staff in D.C. can be reached at (202) 624-5400 or cyf-info@ncsl.org.

Additional Resources