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Transition to Adulthood

The Big Picture

What Does It Mean to Age Out?

Ages for Aging Out Vary by System

Aging out is a term that is used in the context of services for children and youth. Most services and programs that are publically funded have age “ceilings,” meaning you cannot be in the program past a certain age.

Even if the program still meets your current needs, when you reach that age, you automatically “age out” and will be required to move on, whether or not you wish to or are ready for it.

What does Aging Out Mean?

Aging Out/Planning

Aging out scenarios, if they are not planned for, can turn into a crisis. To avoid this, many service systems have developed requirements for advance planning concerning what will happen when person reaches the point when they will age out and no longer be able to access the same services .

When do I Become an Adult?

People mature at different ages, but states must draw the line somewhere. New York's legal ages laws, for instance, establish an "age of majority" of 18 at which an individual is legally considered an adult. Minors in New York may consent to medical treatment if they are married, a parent of a child patient, or in an emergency.

While New York does not provide a formal procedure for the emancipation of minors, the court may grant a minor's request for emancipation in some rare instances. Generally, a New York court may consider a minor emancipated if he or she is:

  • At least 16;
  • Living separately from the parents;
  • Not relying on parents for living expenses; and
  • Able to manage his or her financial affairs.

At what age does a person “age out” of children’s services?

There is no simple, single answer to this question. The line between children and adult services is drawn differently depending on the service system. For some programs and services, the transition occurs at age 18 and for others at 21. The key to successful transitions is planning. Below are some important planning activities:

No Later than Age 16

  • Identify vocational interests and skills that you can use in a career. (Check out our employment information pack.)
  • Include activities such as career exploration, job sampling, visit Vo-Tech and some job training when possible.
  • Begin to identify community services that provide job training placement and other community resources.
  • Consider summer employment or volunteer experiences.
  • Obtain working papers from your school.
  • Participate in school clubs and activities.

Age 17 - Age 18

  • Continue to update your transition plan.
  • Visit colleges/career training schools. Talk to developmental disability services offices as well. (Check out our education information pack.)
  • Register with college disability services office by the end of your senior year.

Age 18

  • If you are male, you need to register with the Selective Service (You can do this at the U.S. Post Office).
  • Register to vote at any of these places.
  • Learn about your health insurance (private or Medicaid).
  • Apply for or re-certify yourself for Social Security benefits.
  • Think about and make plans for where you will live as an adult. (Check out our housing information pack.)


Developed by the Council on Children and Families and Funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council