A. Extended Jurisdiction

Under the Fostering Connections Act, a young adult can voluntarily remain in foster care after their 18th birthday (referred to as "Extended Foster Care") if they meet certain requirements. Extended Foster Care is eligible for Title IV-E funding from the federal government until the young adult's 21st birthday. 42 U.S.C. § 675.

In Texas, the eligibility requirements for extended foster care are that the young adult over age of 18 is:

•   Regularly attending high school or enrolled in a program leading toward a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate;

•   Regularly attending an institution of higher education or a postsecondary vocational or technical program (at least six credit hours enrollment);

•   Participating in a program or activity that promotes or removes barriers to employment;

•   Employed for at least 80 hours a month; or

•   Incapable of performing the activities described above due to a documented medical condition. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.101(a-1).

Any court with jurisdiction over a young adult on the day before their 18th birthday will automatically continue to have jurisdiction of the young adult beyond their 18th birthday for at least six months and must retain the case on their docket while the young adult is in extended foster care and during trial independence. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.602. Per Tex. Fam. Code § 263.601 et seq., the court must conduct periodic hearings every six months, and must make specific findings. The court must also maintain jurisdiction over a young adult age 18 or older who temporarily leaves foster care for a "trial independence" period. This is so that if/when the young adult returns to foster care, the young adult (and DFPS) will not lose eligibility for federal funding. This statutory structure assists the child welfare agency in ensuring federal funding to assist with extended foster care services. Without it, DFPS would not be able to serve many of the young adults who leave foster care after turning 18 and later find they need to return to care for additional supports and services while they transition to independence. Extended care also offers support and stable placement for young adults pursuing higher education.

The court may extend its jurisdiction beyond the end of trial independence if the young adult requests it and receives transitional living services from DFPS. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.6021. This gives the young adult the opportunity to return to court to ensure they are receiving appropriate or additional service if needed without having to remain in extended foster care. A young adult who consents to the continued jurisdiction of the court has the same rights as any other adult of the same age. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.608.

The court may also extend its jurisdiction on its own motion without the young adult's consent if it believes that a young adult may be incapacitated[20] and in order to allow DFPS to refer the young adult to the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) for guardianship services. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.603(a). However, the court's extended jurisdiction under this section automatically terminates on the earliest of the date (1) DADS determines a guardianship is not appropriate; (2) a court with probate jurisdiction denies an application to appoint a guardian; or (3) a guardian is appointed and qualifies under the Estates Code. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.603(b).

It is not within the court's authority or jurisdiction to appoint DFPS or DADS as the managing conservator or guardian of the young adult. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.607(a).

While the young adult is only eligible for federally-funded extended foster care if they return during trial independence, the young adult may return to extended foster care, even if the trial independence period has expired, at any time prior to the month of their 21st birthday as long as a placement is available and they meet the requirements. 40 Tex. Admin. Code § 700.346(e).

While the court's jurisdiction automatically terminates by the young adult's 21st birthday or sooner, young adults may continue to receive extended foster care benefits until the young adult's 22nd birthday if the young adult is regularly attending high school or a program leading toward a high school diploma or high school equivalence certificate. 40 Tex. Admin. Code § 700.346(c).

It is important to remember that even though a young adult may meet all eligibility criteria for extended foster care, there is no guarantee that a placement will be found for the young adult. If there is no placement available, the young adult may not enter extended foster care. Young adults who are most vulnerable to not having a placement available to them are those who have had recent psychiatric hospital admissions, those with juvenile and criminal history, those with allegations of abuse against another child that were not ruled out, and those with a history of behavioral problems in past placements.