Governor signs bill requiring DCYF to create a transition plan for developmentally delayed minors
STATE HOUSE — Legislation sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael J. McCaffrey and Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly) that calls on the Department of Children, Youth and Families to create a transition plan for developmentally delayed minors has been signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo.
The Senate bill (2015-S 0572) passed both chambers on Thursday. The house version (2015-H 6016) is being voted on in the Senate tomorrow.
The legislation will mandate the development of a transition plan by DCYF for all children under the jurisdiction of the family court who are developmentally delayed or seriously emotionally disturbed prior to the child turning 21. The legislation also provides the right of a transition plan to all disabled children whose care may be administered by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) as they age into adulthood.
The plan, which will be undertaken by DCYF in collaboration with BHDDH, will address housing, placement options, health insurance, education, employment services, mentors and continuing support services.
“It is unconscionable that a child in need of services would just be abandoned by the state by virtue of the fact that the individual has turned 21,” said Chairman McCaffrey. “At that age, a child may be off the state’s conscience, but that doesn’t mean he or she is prepared for a life of independence — particularly if that child is developmentally delayed or emotionally disturbed. Too many of these children are falling through the cracks because they have reached our definition of adulthood.”
Currently, the law calls for a description of transition services for children under the court’s jurisdiction who are dependent, neglected or abused. The law will be amended to state specifically what those transition services are. The legislation also creates an explicit right to a transition plan for all children who are 18 and aging into adulthood who may require continued care through BHDDH or school districts.
“In order to better serve these children, the details of the transition plan would be developed in consultation with the child, wherever possible,” said Representative Azzinaro. “Not only is this good legislation for the child, but it benefits everyone in the state when we ensure that they are guided through the transition into adulthood.”
The plan will have to be approved by the court prior to the dismissal of an abuse, neglect, dependency or miscellaneous petition before the child’s 21st birthday.
The plan will include the BHDDH community or residential service level, health insurance option, education plan, available mentors, continuing support services, workforce supports and employment services. For youth in foster care, the plan shall be provided to the court at least 12 months prior to discharge.
Family Court Chief Judge Haiganush R. Bedrosian developed the legislation in partnership with the legislators. She said, “The Family Court applauds Chairman McCaffrey and Representative Azzinaro for their advocacy on behalf of disabled youth. The court has been concerned about the continuity of services to disabled youth after they attain the age of 21. Beginning 12 months prior to a youth’s discharge from DCYF care, the bill provides each of them with a detailed plan, regularly reviewed by the court, to facilitate their transition into adulthood. This particularly vulnerable population stands to benefit greatly from this bill. The court agrees with Chairman McCaffrey and Representative Azzinaro regarding the urgent need for this legislation.”
Regina Costa, the state’s child advocate, is a strong supporter of this legislation; she too applauds the policy makers for recognizing the significance of this bill for children and families. She said, “This legislation helps to take the anxiety out of a stressful time for children and families, by providing them the opportunity for appropriate and timely transitions, and giving them a voice in the process. The legislation incorporates the right for families to request the participation of all agencies having input, and recognizes the importance of providing DCYF and BHDDH the opportunity to plan for their individual agencies.”
For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903