Crucial Opportunities for Youth & Young Adults Impacted by the Pandemic

Calling everyone connected with older youth!

Today, we want to draw your attention to time-sensitive benefits available to youth and young adults currently or formerly in foster care through the Federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021’s Division X provision.

Division X provides increased, temporary direct funding (that’s right—money!) and opportunities for young people who are aging out of care and/or pursuing higher education.

These benefits have specific qualification requirements and strict deadlines—making it critical that advocates help young people take action and apply for benefits now.

Staying in Care: Expanded Eligibility for Extended Foster Care

Extended Foster Care is a voluntary program that offers young people the opportunity to remain in foster care after age 18 while DFPS helps facilitate their transition to independence. Division X temporarily allows young adults to voluntarily enter, remain in or return to Extended Foster Care, regardless of their age and regardless of whether they are currently working or in school.

Through Sept. 30, 2021, the state cannot require young people to leave foster care solely because of their age.

Young adults who did leave foster care between Jan. 27, 2020 – April 20, 2021, can voluntarily choose to re-enter through the Extended Foster Care program should they choose to do so.

The above options for Extended Foster Care will expire on Sept. 30, 2021.

Financial Assistance: Increased Education & Training Voucher (ETV) Funds for Qualifying Young People

The ETV Program helps young people who’ve experienced foster care by providing funding and supports to help them achieve their educational goals. Division X temporarily expands the cap for ETV funds from $5,000 to up to $12,000 for eligible young people. It also expands the upper age limit.

It’s important to note that this increased ETV assistance is still based on need, and there are very specific eligibility requirements that are important for advocates and youth to understand.

For the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, young people age 16-26 who already applied and received the full $5,000 should contact their ETV Coordinator to reevaluate their need for increased funding, up to the temporary cap of $12,000. Young people who applied and received less than $5,000 are not eligible for more funding, unless their needs have changed. For the 2021-2022 school year, the eligible age will lower to 24.

Students currently using the ETV may also be eligible for a one-time payment of $1,500 for certain non-cost of attendance expenses.

This 15-minute webinar breaks down the temporary changes to the ETV in an easy-to-understand way.

You can also contact the youth’s regional ETV Coordinator to make sure you understand the options fully.

What should a CASA volunteer advocating for a youth who qualifies for Division X support do?

Once you’re sure you have a solid understanding of the aid available, as well as the deadlines, talk with the young person you’re serving and explain the benefits available to them. Make sure they understand that the relief is temporary, with very strict deadlines. If they want to explore staying in or returning to Extended Foster Care, help them get in contact with their Regional Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) Coordinator. If they qualify for increased ETV funds, help them through the application and/or if needed, follow up with their ETV Coordinator. This may take persistence, calling and leaving voicemails, but it will be worth it!

If the youth you are serving qualifies but has been unable to obtain the assistance they need, they can contact the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project for free legal assistance.

The COVID-19 crisis has been difficult, and as we know, disasters hit our most vulnerable communities the hardest. We urge everyone advocating for young people who might be able to use these temporary benefits to help them take action now.

Thank you for your unwavering advocacy during this challenging year.