Aging Out of Foster Care Programs
Many young adults are unaware of all of the aging out of foster care programs available to transition-aged youth to help support their success in adulthood. As much as you may feel alone as a former foster youth, please know that there are a growing number of people, organizations, and governmental recourse dedicated to your success.
In our efforts here at Finally Family Homes to help youth aging out of foster care, we provide this page as a guide to national resources for TAY.
Please note that programs are constantly changing. If you live in California also check out our post on California / Los Angeles TAY support services.
Aging Out of Foster Care Programs
There are more programs than we could ever possibly list on one page, but we tried to make sure to touch on all of the biggest ones available nationally here. Also keep in mind that many programs are also available to youth who did not age out, but were in foster care for some period of time in their teen years. Even if you didn’t age out, make sure to check the rules to see if you can qualify for benefits!
What Happens When You Age Out Of Foster Care?
When you are 16 or 17 in foster care, it’s important to start preparing for the possibility that you will age out. Unfortunately, the odds of getting adopted greatly decrease after 12. Some statistics say your chances are about 5%.
While many young adults are carefully guided and prepared by their social workers, group homes, or foster families, others aren’t. We’ve heard more than one story of a youth who on their 18th birthday were told to sign papers and go with nothing but their clothing. This has even happened during the pandemic.
All this to say, don’t rely on one particular plan. Not only this but even if you don’t age out, just being in foster care at 16 or older qualifies you for extra supports through many states’ independent living programs, including California’s. It’s important to connect to a variety of other resources to help you when the unexpected happens. Unfortunately, too many aging out foster youth are under-prepared and end up in homelessness and human trafficking.
If you are in foster care when you turn 18 in California, one of your options is to emancipate. In the United States, about 4% will emancipate before 18. In California, 2% emancipate before 18, usually 16 or 17. Many states do not offer extended foster care and youth are immediately ejected from the system upon turning 18.
Emancipation means becoming legally independent from the government. If you enter into foster care, the government becomes legally responsible for you. A fully emancipated young adult may choose where to live, may earn, keep and spend wages, enter into legally binding contracts, sue and be sued in court, and buy and sell real property.
By law, all states are required to provide TAY with a birth certificate, a Social Security card, health insurance information, medical records, and a driver’s license or a state identification card as they leave the system. The Federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 mandates this.
DCFS is no longer obligated to help you, but you can re-enter up until the age of 21 in California and many other states. To be eligible for re-entry and to receive Extended Foster Care benefits you must:
- Have had a court order for foster care placement on your 18th birthday; and
- Be under twenty-one (21) years old.
In California, there is no limitation on the number of times you may exit and subsequently return to juvenile court jurisdictions and foster care or resume participation in NRLG Extended Benefits. Your circumstances and needs may change several times between the ages of eighteen (18) and twenty-one (21) years.
Extended Foster Care
As of now, 28 states, the District of Columbia, and nine Tribes have been approved for Title IV-E extended foster care. Under this federal program, youth are usually allowed to remain in foster care until age 21. Some of the remaining 22 states do not have federally approved extended foster care programs, but do fund extended foster care programs through the state.
States That Extend The Federal Program
These states & territories extend foster care beyond age 18 through the federal program: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana (age out at 20), Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts (age out at 22), Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin.
States With Their Own Extended Foster Progams
These states offer their own unique programs include Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Iowa (age out at 20), Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont.
States Offering Minimal To No Extended Support
The following states offer the least. If you are in a rough spot in one of these states, you may consider trying to move to State that supports aging out foster youth. Most offer their supports to youth regardless of where they grew up.
In Oklahoma foster care is not extended beyond age 18. “Successful adulthood services” are offered until age 21.
Montana extends foster care only for youth still in high school.
South Carolina offers independent living services up to age 21, but no extended foster care.
In South Dakota, the youth must consent in writing, must’ve been in foster care immediately prior, and have not completed the twelfth grade of school or is in a continuing course of remedial treatment.
Wyoming only extends as per a case-by-case court judgment.
In addition American Samoa allows courts to offer extended care supports.
Extended Foster Care Requirements
Each state has its own requirements, but they generally follow the same kinds of rules, especially those extending the federal option. See full state profiles here.
California is one of the many states that offer options for extended foster care through extending the federal program. Whether you transition indirectly from foster care or re-enter, you will be required to meet at least one of the following conditions.
- Enroll or be enrolled in a secondary education program
- Participate in an employment program
- Enroll or be enrolled in a post-secondary or vocational program
- Work 80 or more hours per month
- Gain an exemption from the above requirements through documented medical limitations.
Most programs also require you to sign an agreement whether you are continuing from foster care or re-entering after having left.
How To Prove You Were In Foster Care
Accessing the services and benefits that former foster youth can receive requires proving you were in fact in foster care. The best place to reach out is to the social worker you were last working with.
If your case was closed after 2004 in California, contact your ILP / Transition Coordinator or call the Foster Care Support Services Bureau, at (916) 651-7465
You can also request a verification letter, from the California Foster Care Ombudsperson’s Office by calling them at 1-877-846-1602.
In California, if your case was closed prior to 2004, you may be able to access the records at the Archives and Records Center.
Transitional Housing Programs For Foster Youth Aging Out Of Foster Care
When you are approaching 18, you basically have two major paths to choose when it comes to housing. Either you continue into extended foster care or emancipate and pursue options apart from the state.
Housing Programs In Extended Foster Care
If you decide to continue in extended foster care, you have several options depending on your age and system eligibility. The options for housing include apartments, single-family dwellings, condominiums, college dormitories, and host family models.
Some states allow you to stay with your foster family or group home.
Former Foster Youth Housing Programs Outside Of Extended Foster Care
For those who chose not to continue with extended foster care, there are still options available to you. However, many organizations may hold you to the same requirements to pursue work or education.
Host Home programs house youth for 6 months if they are dealing with the risk of homelessness. The Host Homes Program is available in a growing number of locations across the country. Learn more about Host Homes.
Federal Funding For Housing Aged Out Foster Youth
Historically, two federal programs include housing support for TAY. They are the Chafee Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program administered by HHS and HUD’s Family Unification Program (FUP).
All states receive an allocation under the ETV program. Although the FUP is intended to help serve youth aging out of foster care, it is rarely used that way. To access the program, child welfare agencies must partner with a public housing agency to compete for grants. The grants are not awarded to youth, but to the public housing agencies.
Note that vouchers for families are permanent, but those for youth formerly in foster care expire in 18 months.
Recently the Foster Youth Initiative has started other options. Read more about the Foster Youth Initiative.
Mentors for Transition Aged Youth
There are mentorship programs throughout the country. Of all the aging out of foster care programs available to youth,
National mentoring organizations:
Regional mentoring organizations:
it may be the easiest to do a search for foster care mentor + your location. Here’s a few we’ve found.
For Los Angeles, we’re personally connected with and love Fostering Hope LA. They do an amazing job vetting & training their mentors.
The Alliance for Children’s Rights has a mentor program for young people ages 18-22 who have been in foster care in Los Angeles. To fill out an application and find a mentor, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 213.368.6010.
Friends of the Children offers mentorship in the Los Angeles area as well.
In Santa Clarita, Fostering Youth Independence serves youth 16-24.
Help With Identity Theft
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Unfortunately, identity theft is a significant problem for youth who’ve spent time in foster care. Twenty-two percent of foster youth between 14 to 17 in California had at least one issue on their credit report, according to iFoster.
Sadly this leaves many foster youth starting off adulthood with ruined credit, even though they’ve never accessed this credit themselves.
It’s important to check for identity theft as you are aging out of foster care. In California, your social worker or probation officer is required to assist you in requesting and reviewing your credit reports.
If you have experienced identity theft, Norton Life-Lock offers free services to help secure your identity and repair your credit. Get help through their FAST program.
Alliance for Children’s Rights also assists youth with resolving identity theft.
Covid Stimulus Payments
As a former foster youth, you may be entitled to a stimulus payment. You qualify if you have a social security number, are not claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s tax form, and earn less than $75,000 gross.
As a single filer you will likely receive $1,200, and potentially more if you are married or parenting. You are encouraged to apply, even if you are unsure if you qualify.
Visit this Q&A by the Alliance for Children’s Rights for more information.
Health Care For Former Foster Youth
If you were in foster care in any state on your 18th birthday or later, are under 26, and currently live in California you qualify for Medical. It’s completely free and covers medical care, vision exams, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, counseling, and dental care. There is no open enrollment period for Medi-Cal and you can apply anytime of the year.
You can sign up online at www.coveredca.com or contact your county to sign up. If you have more questions or are having trouble signing up, try reaching out to email@example.com and someone will get back to you to help.
Other states have similar programs. Be sure to check with your state funded health care programs.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
ILP or Independent Living Programs assist Transition Aged Youth with thigns like driver’s education, auto insurance, food assistance, dues, tuition, fees, computers, books, and more.
In California, young adults 16 to 21 are eligible for ILP services if they were (1) in a foster care placement between 16-18, (2) under a KinGAP guardianship or (3) under a non-related legal guardianship granted by dependency court on or after the 8th birthday or (4) adopted after the age of 16.
We’re still doing our research on this one, but our research indicates approximately only 2% of youth who age out of foster care have their driver’s licenses.
Educational Resources For Youth Aging Out
The federal Education and Training Vouchers Program is a way for states to financially support youth pursuing post-secondary education and training.
According to the Washington State School of Social Work, there are 38 states that have some form of statewide postsecondary education support. This means that they offer a tuition waiver or scholarship program for students who have been in foster care.
Make sure to check out their comprehensive 2020 list here.
College Resources For Foster Youth
Three are a variety of grants and resources to youth who’ve aged out of foster care. Some states offer free community college, like California. Other states offer free schooling at a University, like Texas. Others have no supports for youth who were in foster care, but there are federal programs.
The John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) offers assistance to help current and former foster care youth. Grants are offered to states and Tribes who submit a plan to assist youth in a wide variety of areas designed to support a successful transition to adulthood.
The Chaffee Education and Training Vouchers Program (ETV) provides
vouchers of up to $5,000 per year, for as many as five years, for the cost of post-secondary education or vocational training for Chafee-eligible youth.
Chaffee grants are awarded by states. Here’s a few direct links to the state applications.
Foster 2 Success
Foster 2 Success offers scholarships, grants, and educational resources to college-bound foster youth. They can help with book money, living stipends, and emergency funding for unexpected expenses. They also provide academic coaches, personal mentors, care packages, and internship opportunities.
Federal TRIO Programs
TRIO is administered by the U.S. Department of Education, TRIO programs identify and prepare students from disadvantaged backgrounds for higher education and to support their graduation success. Young people who left foster care at age 13 or older are eligible for TRIO programs.
These programs often operate through post-secondary institutions, many of which do not take advantage of the TRIO program or do not advertise that it’s available to former foster youth.
This National Postsecondary Support Map is from Western Michigan University Center for Fostering Success. It provides links and information on state tuition waivers, statewide education support programs, and 4-year campus-based support programs for students who experienced foster care.
EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) provides support at some state colleges across the country.
College Scholarships for Foster Youth
Find national scholarships, state tuition waivers, housing assistance, and on-campus programs for former foster care youth on this foster care to college page.
College Tuition Waivers by State
For 2020, 38 states have some type of statewide postsecondary education tuition waiver or scholarship program for students with time in foster care. Get the list of states and their unique options here.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Youth Program
Administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, the WIOA Youth Program serves eligible youth, ages 14 to 24, including former foster youth. WIOA also funds youth-focused programs such as YouthBuild and Job Corps. employment programs and training.
America’s Job Centers sometimes fly under the radar, but they are a great resource to help you get trained and connected to jobs. AJCC is coordinated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA). Find a center near you through the link above or by calling the helpline at 1-877-889-5267 (1-877-US-2JOBS).
The Alliance for Children’s Rights ensures that young adults who are or were in foster care or on probation and are between ages 16 and 24 know their legal rights and entitlements. They can help you resolve identity theft, re-enter foster care, clear juvenile tickets, seal juvenile records, and more.
Call 213.368.6010, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Juvenile Law Center stands with youth when systems meant to serve them fall short. The Juvenile Law Center advocates for rights, dignity, equity, and opportunity for youth in the child welfare and justice systems – youth who often have no one in their corner.
Call 800-875-8887 or email: email@example.com
iFoster Phones & Technology
iFoster is currently offering technology access to foster youth ages 13-24. This includes free, unlimited high-speed data hotspots, headsets, and laptops to assist in taking online classes.
For additional information on the resources that they have, call or
email iFoster at 1-855-936-7837 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TAY Online Assistant
iFoster’s TAY Assistant is a free online personal assistant that helps current or former foster, kinship, or crossover youth manage their lives. With the AY Assistant, you can store documents, find resources, apply for programs, and keep track of it all in one place.
Fostering Change Network Foundation – uniting and empowering alumni of foster care globally while supporting their personal and professional endeavors and dispelling the foster care stigma.
Escaping and Healing From Trafficking and Assault
National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE (4673)
Domestic Violence Emergency Help Line 800-799-7233(SAFE)
Human Trafficking Help Line 888-373-7888
Connect with Polaris at https://polarisproject.org/
More Help for Accessing Resources for Former Foster Youth
Please check back with this page often for updates. Also, check out these other awesome lists of resources:
Learn more from the National Conferences of State Legislatures about how states are implementing the requirements to support aging out foster youth.
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