Children in California's foster care system used to "age out" of the system automatically upon reaching the age of eighteen, abruptly ending their access to services. Young adults found themselves turned loose without necessarily having the means or the skills to thrive in the adult world. California passed the California Fostering Connections to Success Act (CFCSA) to correspond to a federal statute and allow "nonminor dependents" to continue in the foster system long enough to acquire the means to join society. A California appellate court recently considered how to apply the definition of "nonminor dependent" in the case of a child who turned eighteen while in the system. In re K.L., No. D061577, slip op. (Cal. App. 4th, Oct. 25, 2012).
The CFCSA became effective on January 1, 2012. Juvenile courts may maintain dependency over qualifying individuals who have turned eighteen but not yet turned twenty-one. The California Welfare and Institutions Code defines a "nonminor dependent" in § 11400(v) as someone who turned eighteen while in a foster care placement under county or Indian tribal jurisdiction; who was eighteen years old or younger on January 1, 2012; and who is involved in a "transitional independent living case plan."
The case before the court involved K.L., a child who turned eighteen in September 2011. The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (the "Agency") had filed a petition under Welfare and Institutions Code § 300(d) based on allegations that her father had sexually abused her. The Agency removed her from her father's home in September 2010, claiming that K.L.'s mother knew she was not safe in her father's home, but had moved out three months earlier. The court declared K.L. a dependent child and ordered reunification services for the mother.