Provisions of the Chafee Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 are equally applicable to youth with disabilities. Transitioning youth with disabilities face the same challenges as their peers without special needs and are at higher risk for many undesirable outcomes such as poverty and victimization.
Family Support Teams must consider youth with disabilities versus youth who are incapacitated. Youth with special health care needs include all children who have, or are at increased risk for, chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional conditions and who also require health and related services of a type or amount beyond that generally required. Incapacitated youth, in reference to consideration of Chafee referral, means unable to participate due to their disability. The youth is lacking the ability to engage or understand their participation.
Services should be provided in a holistic manner which addresses not only their special needs but their independent needs as well. Coordination with other service providing agencies is essential in order for youth with special needs to succeed in transitioning out of care. Youth with special needs require on-going support related to their disability as well as continued support towards self-sufficiency. This may mean assuring the youth is receiving benefits which they are eligible for such as SSI, connecting them to resources such as Vocational Rehabilitation, or advocating on their behalf. Youth with special needs are also likely to have or be entitled to an Individual Education Plan (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), an Individual Written Rehabilitation Plan (IWRP) through the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, and a plan of service care and coordination through Title V (Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Division of Services for Children with Special Health Needs (DSCSHN)). Depending on the extent of the youth’s needs, services may be coordination or advocacy only. However, if the youth is able to practice new skills, these opportunities should be made available to them in a format to suit their individual needs.
For youth who have been determined ineligible for referral due to disability level, it is understood the forms may not be completed with youth participation. Efforts should be made to complete the assessment tools with the youth if at all possible. A referral for services should be made as the law requires a personalized independent living plan that is youth driven.
If the youth is not able to participate, documentation of the youth’s independent living skills/functioning level should still occur on the Adolescent FST Guide (CD94) after Family Support Team discussion and decision. The Adolescent FST Guide (CD94) should be completed by the worker as thoroughly as possible and filed in the record in the Older Youth Program Section.
The Family Support Team should continue to discuss the youth’s independent living skills status at meetings and if the youth’s functioning level should change, a referral for Chafee Foster Independence Program Services should be made.