Successful transitions don’t just happen. They take a lot of planning, preparation, and practice. The earlier you start, the more prepared you will be when it’s time to make the transition. As you plan for your future, keep your health care needs in mind so that you can stay healthy.
Here are some tips on what that involves — and why it matters.
Manage Your Health Care
Find out your basic medical information:
Ask your mom, dad, or whoever keeps your health information to give you these six things:
- The name, address, and phone number of your doctor(s).
- The details on medications you take. If you don't know why you take that little green pill every morning, now is the time to find out.
- Your personal medical history. Know what vaccinations you've had, whether you had any major medical problems, and the details of any operations or hospital treatments.
- Your family medical history. Ask family members if diseases like cancer or diabetes run in the family.
- Any allergies you may have.
- Some of this information — like your doctor's contact details, allergies, or medications — should be programmed in your phone. Keep other information, like medical history, in a safe, private place, like on a password-protected thumb drive.
- Start Making Your Own Decisions. The more you learn about health care, the smarter your decisions will be — and the more comfortable your parents might feel with having you make them.
- Choose your doctor. Choosing your own doctor is one of the most important decisions you can make. You can stay with your childhood doctor during the teen years (if your doctor is a pediatrician, you'll have to switch eventually), or you can switch to a family doctor, adolescent medicine specialist, or internist.
Your doctor should be someone you feel comfortable talking to about anything—body image, dating, relationships, peer pressure to drink or do drugs, school problems, or depression. Know what's important to you, like having a doctor who asks good questions, or is young or the same gender as you. Take all the time you need to find the right doctor. If you have to switch a couple of times, that's OK.
- Make your own medical appointments. Tell your mom or dad that you want to be the one who calls to make the appointment. If it helps, ask your mom or dad to sit with you as you make your first call, or get a checklist of the things you need to say.
- Call in any prescription refills and pick them up at the pharmacy. You can now download apps that let you refill your prescription without making a phone call.
- Keep your own personal health records.
- Schedule alone time at each doctor's visit. This lets you build your own working relationship with your doctor.
- Have copies of your medical records — or know where to get them (for example, school or your doctor's office).
- Know your health insurance company, insurance id number and contact information.
- Understand the basics of health insurance coverage and how to get it if you're no longer on a parent's plan.
- Know how to get referrals to specialists, if needed.
- Take Good Care of Yourself. Taking responsibility for your health is a great way to learn critical lifelong skills and demonstrate your independence. It is the best head start you can give yourself on the road to lifelong wellness.
- Stay at a healthy weight.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods (like whole grains).
- Get enough sleep.
- Exercise regularly.
- Stay hydrated.
- Help your body to grow and be its best by not smoking, drinking alcohol, or doing drugs.
- If you take medication, follow the directions. Avoid missing doses by programming reminders into your phone or taking medications at the same time you do another daily routine, like brushing your teeth. When your doctor gives you a prescription, ask what to do if you forget to take a dose.
- If you have an illness like diabetes or asthma, ask your mom, dad, or doctor for small steps you can do to manage your own treatment.
Medicaid is available to you as a former foster care youth for young adults who are discharged from foster care until age 26, regardless of income or resources.
You should contact the Department of Social Services in the county where they currently live to enroll. A directory is available here.
You may also go to New York State of Health, New York’s health care marketplace, to enroll.
What documentation will you need to enroll?
You do not need to have documentation with you when you contact a county to enroll. The counties will handle verification and notify you when your eligibility is confirmed. The process will be quicker if you can provide one of the following documents:
- A statement from state or county agency verifying that you were in their custody at age 18.
- A statement from agency responsible for placement verifying that were in the custody of the state or county at age 18.
- A copy of court order verifying that you were in the custody of the state or county at age 18.
- A copy of your Foster Care Transition Plan that includes foster care and Medicaid status.
If you are already enrolled in Medicaid, you do no need to do anything. The Medicaid system will adjust your status to keep you enrolled.