Legislation provides youth in state care with legal rights regarding supportive services once they have turned 18 years of age. With the youth’s consent, both the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the juvenile courts will have the responsibility to provide services to the youth and to ensure that once they turn 22 years they will leave state care equipped with a transition plan tailored to their needs.
Effective January 3, 2011, the legislation amends M.G.L. Chapter 119 Sections 21, 23, 29, 29B, and 29C to provide that with the written consent of the youth, DCF shall continue its responsibility for youth over age 18 until their 22nd birthday.
Some of the highlights of the bill include:
• The Juvenile Court retains jurisdiction over a youth until age 22 if he or she chooses to continue in DCF’s care.
• The youth will be given the right to counsel.
• During the 90-day period immediately prior to the youth leaving care, or the youth’s 22nd birthday, DCF will work with the youth in developing a personalized transition plan.
• The transition plan must address housing, health insurance, education, and local opportunities for mentors and continuing support services, employment services and workforce supports.
• Transition plans must be approved by the court. The court will maintain jurisdiction until it is satisfied with the plan.
• If a youth, before reaching age 22, has left DCF care and wants to return for support, DCF must make “every reasonable attempt” to supply the youth with supportive services.
The OCA commends all the individuals who worked towards the passage of this bill to ensure that youth have access to all available services as they transition out of state care.