Emancipation and Aging Out
Time in foster care is temporary. No matter when you entered you will exit at some point. It is important that you set goals and plan for your exit from care. There are various ways that you might exit care. You might be reunified with your parents or go into guardianship with family or other caring adults. You might be adopted or possibly you will remain in care until you are twenty-one years old when you will “age-out” of the system. CFSA is responsible for supporting your transition out of foster care and for providing resources for two years following your emancipation. For those who emancipate from care at twenty-one it is extremely important that you exit with a plan for housing, education, employment and have a solid support system of adults.
- You have the right to participate in the development of your service and transition plan that includes and addresses options related to housing, health insurance, education, employment, etc.
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Transitioning Planning: The planning process begins at age 15 and you will have planning sessions every six months until you exit care (either by guardianship, adoption or aging out at 21). You will have a team who supports this planning process. Members of your transition team might include your biological family members or others with whom you have a close relationship. It will also include your social worker, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer, Guardian ad Litem (GAL), staff from the Office of Youth Empowerment (OYE), or foster parents/staff from your placement site. You can talk with your social worker to request additional people such as a teacher, work supervisor, counselor, mentor or other supportive adults.
Foster Club Transition Toolkit: Although your transition plan will be tailored to meet your individual needs CFSA uses the Foster Club Transition Toolkit to guide you through the transition process. This tool covers twelve subjects central to successfully transitioning into adulthood such as education, employment, housing and financial literacy. Each planning session will cover one or two subjects with tasks and assignments that you should complete between meetings. Your goals and plans are the driving force behind these sessions and it is crucial that you are fully engaged during the process. If there is something that you do not understand then you should ask questions and provide feedback and suggestions. You are the most important person in these sessions—it is all about you!
The toolkit also covers other areas such as:
- Life skills
- Personal identify
- Pregnancy and family planning
- Health (physical, mental & emotional)
- Community, culture and social life
Support After Leaving Care at 21: CFSA provides support and resources to youth who age out of care at age 21 for two years (until your twenty-third birthday). You will be assigned a case worker through one of the Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaboratives. You should be connected with the Collaborative office that is located close to where you will live when you exit care. If you have a moderate to severe developmental disability you will receive comprehensive case-management services through the Department of Disability Service (DDS)s. You should meet Collaborative (or DDS) staff and possibly your case worker before you exit care (about 6 months to a year prior). Your case worker will help you to find housing, employment and get into school. The Collaboratives sometimes require a lot of follow up to get the services you need. They are supposed to help with the following things:
- Obtaining government benefits such as food stamps (SNAP benefits), applying for subsidized housing programs, or Social Security Benefits.
- Enrolling in parenting classes and obtaining daycare vouchers
- Connecting with other agencies such as the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH), Department or Disability Services (DDH), Department of Housing, etc.
- Life skills sessions
Aftercare Transportation Stipend: You are eligible to receive a $100 monthly transportation stipend as long as you are actively participating in the aftercare program. Your Collaborative case work will give you the stipend each month.
Housing Resources: Finding affordable housing is one of the major challenges for youth aging out of care. It is important that you find a safe and secure place to live. If you are not able to remain in your foster home, move in with friends or family, or afford to pay your rent without assistance the following options are available:
- Wayne Place Housing Program: Housing program located in Southeast DC from youth aging out of care. Space is very limited. Through this program you will be assigned your own apartment (with a roommate) for 18-24 months. You will have a case worker and support team. Wayne Place is run by the Far South East Family Strengthening Collaborative and is a joint effort between CFSA and DBH.
- Genesis Housing Program: This is a housing program located in Northwest DC for youth who age out of care and have children. Parents and children are place in the “intergenerational” apartment complex where they receive support from senior citizens resident. Prior to emancipation, your social worker will assist you with applying for the program. After you age out your Collaborative case worker will provide assistance. The general instructions on how to apply to the program can also be found here.
- Rapid Housing Assistance : You can receive assistance paying your rent if you meet certain qualifications. You should submit your application as soon as possible and the CFSA director must approve your application. In order to receive Rapid Housing assistance, you must be employed at least part-time (if enrolled in academic or vocational program) or full-time if you are not in school. You can receive up to a year of rental assistance through this program. Your Collaborative case worker will assist you with applying for this assistance. It is important to remember that after your one-year term expires then you are responsible for paying your entire rent.
- Transitional & Long-Term Supportive Housing Programs: (link to Drop-In & Housing resources link on homelessness page)
IF YOU ARE HAVING ISSUES WITH YOUR TRANSITION PLANNING OR AFTERCARE SUPPORT
It is key that you are fully engaged in your transition process and you deserve a support team that is fully engaged as well. If you do not feel as though your process is going well then you should talk with your social worker, GAL, resource providers, CASA volunteers or others who are on your transition team. You should let them know what you need and if you do not quite know what you need then let them know that you require more support, guidance and attention.
After you exit care you can still contact your social worker if you are experiencing issues. You should also regularly communicate with and seek assistance from your Collaborative case worker. It is their job to help and guide you. If they are not answering your calls, emails or if they are generally unhelpful then do not hesitate to contact their supervisor or f the executive director of your assigned Collaborative. You can also contact Ms. Ruby Nelson or CFSA Director Davidson (link to the foster care take action- agency leader page).
While you are still in care you can contact the CFSA Youth Ombudsman (“Yo BUD”) concerning any issues that you are experiencing with your transition planning process process (or any other issues as well).