One of the most difficult parts of being in foster care is having to live with people that you don’t know. It can be scary and feel uncertain. During your time in foster care you might live in a foster home, group home, independent living program ILP) or residential facility. The majority of foster youth live in foster homes in DC, Maryland or Virginia. Maryland has the most foster homes and Virginia has the least. You should feel safe, secure and respected wherever you live. Foster parents and group home staff should make you feel welcomed and at home.
- You have the right to reside in a foster home that is maintained in a safe, sanitary condition with reasonable measures being taken to keep it free from rodent and insect infestation.
- If available, you have the right to be placed with all or some of your siblings unless the placement is precluded by court order or not appropriate to the safety, best interest or needs of you and/or your siblings.
- You have the right to be integrated into household family activities, consistent with your age and level of development.
- You have the right to reasonable privacy when it comes to your personal belongings. You also have the right to reasonable privacy when using the telephone or computer.
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Your foster family should make you feel comfortable in their home. It should not feel like a boarding house or a place where you are simply renting a room. You should feel like you are a part of the family—not an unwanted house guest or intruder. You should be treated similarly to the other children living in the home—not like a second class citizen.
You should have your own bed and personal space where you can store your personal items. You should not be forced to sleep on the floor or share a bed. The home should be clean and safe. There should not be rodents or bugs (especially bedbugs, roaches, etc.). If there are the family or facility should take immediate steps to address the issues. They should also work to secure your personal items from rodents or bugs.
Your foster parents are responsible for providing healthy food (at least three meals a day and a snack) and they should not lock food away or prevent you from accessing the refrigerator or other parts of the kitchen. They are also responsible for providing your personal items such as deodorant, hair care items, sheets, and blankets.
Living in a new place with strangers is not easy but you should make an effort to interact with your foster family and participate in family activities. You should also be included in special family events such as holiday celebrations and vacations. Your foster family should do all that they can do make you feel included and comfortable.
You are responsible for keeping your room clean and neat. Your foster family might also assign you chores to do in the house such as cleaning the bathroom or washing the dishes. Your foster parents should provide cleaning tools and products that you need to get the job done. One of the most important responsibility that you have is attending school every day and making an effort to arrive on time.
All homes have rules that are designed to maintain order and keep you safe (such as curfew or rules about visitors) and you should work hard to follow the rules and communicate with your foster family when you have questions or issues. Positive communication with your foster family is important to your success in their homes.
Group home staff should work hard to make you feel at home. While you are not living in a “traditional” home environment staff should make an effort to create a “home” environment. It should not feel like you are in jail or living in residential program. The house should be clean and well maintained, the heat and the air conditioning should work, and you should have your own bed (not sharing a bed or on the floor), a defined personal space and a safe place to store your clothing and personal items (such as a dresser or closet). There should not be rodents or bugs (especially bedbugs, roaches, etc.).
Your group home should provide personal items such as deodorant, shampoo/conditioner/moisturizer (the basics for maintaining healthy hair in line with your hair texture), sheets, blankets and other daily necessities. They also are responsible for providing healthy food (at least three meals a day and snacks). You should have access to food or snacks for most of the day—things should not be locked away.
One of your most important responsibilities is attending school and making an effort to get there on time. You are responsible for keeping your room and personal space clean and neat. You might be assigned chores such as cleaning the bathroom, hallways or kitchen. You should make an effort to participate in the entertainment and leisure activities planned by group home staff—this will help you to feel more connected and included in your placement.
Group homes have “house” rules that are designed to maintain order and keep you safe (such as curfew or rules about visitors) and you should work hard to follow the rules and communicate with group home staff when you have questions or issues. Positive communication with the other residents and staff is important to your success in their homes.
Independent Living Programs (ILP)
If you live in an ILP you will have your own apartment or one that is shared with a roommate. ILP programs are supposed to help you to build your independence skills. CFSA will pay your rent and your will be given a monthly stipend to help to pay for necessities. Most ILP programs restrict the hours that you can have visitors and some even have curfews. Most programs have monitors who perform regular apartment checks inspecting for cleanliness or program violations. The apartment that you are assigned should be safe and free from bugs and rodents. Your apartment should be adequately secure with working locks or possibly a security system.
Monthly (ILP) Stipend: If you live in an independent living program them you will receive a monthly stipend to pay for your necessities such as clothing, food, transportation, cleaning products and other household items. If you do not have children, then your ILP is $695 a month. If you have children, then you will receive an additional $250 for each of your children. Your ILP stipend is not meant cover all expenses because there is an expectation that youth living in ILP programs will be employed at least part-time.
You are responsible for keeping your apartment clean and neat. If there is a problem or there is a needed repair, then you should report the issue to your ILP program manager as soon as possible. Unlike a group home or foster home, you will not have staff who continuously monitor your activities and daily movements. The majority of your time should be spent doing productive activities such as attending class and working. Although you have your own space and there is no daily monitoring you should keep an active schedule and not simply stay in the apartment. The monthly stipend rarely covers all of your expenses so it will be important to have a job and save for the future. Many programs have required life skills sessions and workshops that you have to attend and it is important to actively participate.
IF YOU ARE HAVING ISSUES WITH YOUR PLACEMENT
If you are having issues with your placement then notify your foster parent, social worker or group home/ILP staff as soon as possible. Do not wait days to report an incident or issue. Document any issues that you are having by taking pictures, sending emails and keeping any paperwork. Do not delete any email or voice messages. When talking to your social worker or others be specific about the issue that you are experiencing, submit your documentation and be clear about what assistance you are seeking. If you are having issues you can also contact:
- Program Monitors (link to resource page): All group homes and ILP programs have assigned monitors who you can contact when issues raise with your placement.
- Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) When talking with your GAL be specific about what is going on. You should send your GAL an email and call. Always leave a message.
- CFSA Youth Ombudsman or “Yo BUD” If you are 14 years old and older you can contact the CFSA Youth Ombudsman when you are having issues with your placement (or any other issues as well).
If you would like to work to improve the lives of current and former foster youth you can take one of these following actions:
- Write the Committee on Health and Human Services Chair Yvette Alexander
- Contact CFSA Director-Raymond Davidson
- Contact the Citizens Review Panel
- Join the YWP Youth Advocate/Trainer Team
- Become a YWP Youth Member
- Follow YWP on social media