Transitioning to adulthood is a challenging time for all young people, but it can be especially challenging for youth leaving the foster care system. Fortunately, there are additional services and supports to help you transition to independence.
Did you know that you can stay in foster care until your 21st birthday. To stay in foster care after age 18, you must give your consent to remain in foster care AND you must be in school, or in college, or regularly attending a vocational or technical training program, of lack the skills or ability to live independently. The court will continue to hold permanency hearings for you throughout your stay in the foster care program.
The Chafee Foster Care Independence Programs was created by federal legislation specifically to help youth transition out of foster care. This program helps you:
All local departments of social services in New York State are required to provide a variety of services to help you make a successful transition from foster care. These services include:
Assessment and casework counseling includes setting your permanency planning goal such as adoption or discharge to the community/Another Planned Living Arrangement with a Permanency Resource (APLA), and documenting the goals and activities that you and your caseworker develop in your case plan to help you gain the skills you need when you leave care.
Education services and vocational training include education, training and services to help you gain the academic skills you will need to receive your high school diploma or GED/TASC and be prepared to enter college or a vocational training program to learn a trade. View this publication - Bridging the Gap: From Foster Care to College Success to learn more about education transition specific to youth in care.
As a youth-in-care, or a former youth-in-care, you may be eligible to be considered for independent student status. This status may apply to you if you are an orphan (both parents deceased), a ward of the court or in foster care on or after your 13th birthday, even if you have subsequently been adopted. This may also apply to youth in kinship guardianship.
If you are considered independent, your custodial parents' financial information is not required on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The U.S. Department of Education's publication Determining FAFSA Dependency has a complete list of the criteria that determines dependency.Foster Care to Success: America's College Fund for Foster Youth offers a variety of supports for students having been in foster care or aging out of foster care. These take the form of scholarships and grants, and assistance in applying as well as academic and social support. With this program you have access to young people in similar situations to talk to.
If you are currently a foster youth and attending college away from your foster care setting, the foster care maintenance payment may be available to help pay for your college room and board. Be sure to check with your caseworker for more information.
Visit the Education Information Pack to learn much more about gaining a secondary education.
Life skills training is a way for you to develop a variety of skills to help in your transition to adulthood. Starting at age 14 and based on an assessment, you should be receiving life skills training that is appropriate for your age and abilities. Examples of these trainings include:
Independent living (IL) stipends are provided to eligible foster youth who are 16 years of age or older and are actively participating in their independent living programs. An IL stipend serves as an incentive for you to participate in the program, and it will also provide you with money management experience. If you are 16 or older, check with your caseworker to see if you are eligible to receive an IL stipend.
If you've decided to move into an apartment, it's probably time to start looking for one. You may be eager to leave foster care before you have to, but don't rush it. Before you leave care, make sure you have a place to stay - and not just for a few nights. To be successful in finding your own place to live, plan ahead so you have a safe, long-term place to stay when you age out of the foster care system. This section contains information pertinent for foster youth. Be sure to check out the housing information pack for additional transitional housing information.
Various housing options may exist, such as transitional group homes, subsidized supportive housing, shared housing, host homes, school dormitories, or apartments. Funding for housing may be available from federal funds (through Section 8, Family Unification Program, or public housing) or state child welfare funds (Chafee Foster Care Independent Living Program funds or Education Training Vouchers). The process for securing publicly funded housing can take considerable time and may involve wait lists.
Even though some foster youth are eligible for housing vouchers, it's not a simple process to get the voucher and find a place, so plan ahead!
Things You Can Do to Prepare
Be sure to check out our additional housing information.
Aftercare services are available to former foster care youth between the ages of 18 and 21. If you are going to be discharged to the community or another planned permanent living arrangement (APLA), the district is required to offer you a trial discharge. To participate in a trial discharge, you would need to agree to live on your own in the community, but remain in the custody of the district. A trial discharge can last 6 months or longer.Your caseworker would visit you and help you obtain needed services during the trial discharge period. The most important thing to understand is that if you are living on your own in the community and lose your housing, you would not be able to re-enter foster care unless you have agreed to be on a trial discharge. When your trial discharge period ends, you would have the opportunity to agree to be under the district's supervision until the age of 21. This means that your caseworker would visit you and help you obtain needed services.
A transition plan is a plan for older youth who will soon be exiting foster care. The plan includes options in areas that are important for you to address before you leave care, to help you make a successful transition from foster care to self-sufficiency. It is your personalized plan and can include as much detail as you would like to see in it. Your transition plan will help you identify your options in such areas as housing, health care and health insurance, and education/ vocational training. You and your caseworker must begin developing your transition plan 180 days prior to your scheduled discharge, and it must be completed 90 days prior to your leaving care.
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:
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.
Room and board services may be available through your local department of social services. You must be a former foster youth between the ages of 18 and 21 who left foster care on or after the age of 18 to be eligible for these services. These services, when available, may help you pay your rent and/or utilities, obtain furnishings for your apartment, and cover your security deposit.
Content Excerpts from Youth in Progress Need to Know Series
As a youth in foster care, you have a right to have someone appointed to represent your best interest in your dependency case, such as a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), or an attorney. If there is no CASA/GAL available, the court can appoint a "suitable person" to act as a GAL for you.
You have the right to: