Legislation effective June 1, 2000 changed the definition of "child" for the Kinship Care Program. 1999 Wisconsin Act 133 defines "child" under s. 48.57(3m)(a)1 and 48.57(3n)(a)1, Stats., as follows:
"Child" means a person under 18 years of age or a person 18 years of age or over, but under 19 years of age, who is a full-time student in good academic standing at a secondary school or its vocational or technical equivalent and who is reasonably expected to complete his or her program of study and be granted a high school or high school equivalency diploma.
The Act modifies the program and eligibility criteria for Kinship Care to allow eligibility for 18-year olds who meet the educational requirements. Act 133 expands the jurisdictional criteria for Kinship Care so that an 18-year old can remain eligible for Kinship Care even though, as an "adult," he or she can no longer be CHIPS or JIPS. Act 133 also amends the termination reasons for Long-Term Kinship Care so that a child may continue to receive Long-Term Kinship Care after age 18 and until age 19 if he or she meets the educational requirements.
An 18-year old meets the Act 133 definition of a child if all of the following conditions apply:
"Good academic standing" means that the child is performing at an academic level that meets local school district standards for being on course for high school graduation.
In order to verify that an 18-year old falls under the definition of child for the Kinship Care Program, Kinship Care agencies must require the Kinship Care relative to complete and sign a form shortly before the childs eighteenth birthday. On the form, the Kinship Care relative will confirm that the child meets the educational requirements for 18-year olds receiving Kinship Care. A representative of the school must also sign the form. Kinship Care agencies may but are not required to use the attached model form for confirming school status for 18-year olds. If a Kinship Care agency chooses to develop its own form for this purpose, the information on the attached model form must be included in that form. In either case, a copy of the form must be maintained in the case record.
In cases where the child is home schooled, Kinship Care agencies should follow an alternative process for verifying educational status. First, the agency should verify that the kinship relative is the guardian for the child, because only parents and guardians have legal authority to home school a child in Wisconsin. Second, in cases where the kinship relative home schools, the kinship agency must require the caregiver relative to provide a copy of the form he or she submitted to DPI in registering for home schooling. Parents and guardians who home school must register with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
The statutory changes became effective June 1, 2000. If children on cases were terminated from the caseload on or after June 1 because they reached age 18 and are still age 18 and meet the above requirements, agencies must contact the relative caregiver to determine if the Kinship Care payment is still desired. If it is, the agency must reactivate the case and continue the payment effective June 1, 2000. If the agency currently has a waiting list, the case may be added to the waiting list.
Because the case was already approved, it is not necessary to conduct a new eligibility assessment prior to resuming Kinship Care benefits unless the agency believes that one or more eligibility criteria are no longer met. Agencies must, however, verify that the academic standing requirement described above is met.