Teens in foster care, this page is for you!
We want to make sure you have the support you need to be successful in life. Becoming a young adult is tough enough without the natural life lessons and supports that a parent would provide. We hope this information is useful to help guide you through the available options.
When you turn 14, or if you come into foster care at age 14 or older, then you can access transitional services. We know everyone is different, so these services are flexible to fit your unique needs.
The starting point is the Transitional Plan. It talks about the life skills and resources needed for a successful move into adulthood. The plan is all about you! It is developed by you and your Transitional Team — people identified by you as important (e.g. foster parents, bio family, attorney ad litem, CASA volunteer, mentors, therapists, teachers, and coaches).
The plan focuses on school, jobs, health care, housing, and more. It also includes things like your birth certificate and medical and school records…all the things you’ll need as you become an adult.
Your caseworker should connect you with your local Transitional Youth Services (TYS) Coordinator to start building the plan. But you can reach out, too! We’re here to help. If you’re not sure who to contact, just call your local DHS office and ask to speak with the DCFS County Supervisor. (You can find the phone numbers here.) Tell them you need to speak with your TYS Coordinator, and they’ll take care of you.
Staying in Foster Care Past Age 18
Look, we get it. Foster care isn’t fun. You want your freedom and your own space. But there are some great opportunities to remain in foster care past your 18th birthday that give you more freedom than you think.
In Arkansas, the law allows you to choose to remain in foster care until your 21st birthday if you:
- Are going to school
- Are working
- Have a medical condition that prevents you from going to school or working
This is called extended foster care. We know, we know – You’re wondering, “Why should I stay in foster care any longer than I have to?”
Here’s why. Extended foster care provides money and support for you to go to school (including college), get job training, find a place to live, and other things you need as a young adult. The maximum amount of assistance each year is $5,000.
Yes, there will be some hoops to jump through and we’ll still be coming by once in a while to check on you, but we really try to give you your space. We’re always just a phone call or text away if you need any help.
To learn more about extended foster care and how it can help you, talk to your caseworker, TYS coordinator, or attorney ad litem.
Oh, and there’s one more option that we think you’ll like if you stay in foster care. It’s called Supervised Independent Living, and it launches in Fall 2020. It’s a blend of the freedom you want and the support you may need.
We’ll help you find a safe place to live and offer you extra services in addition to the support you already get from your DCFS staff. Again, we’re not trying to hold you back. We just want you to feel supported and make sure you have the best chance to make it on your own.
To learn more about Supervised Independent Living, just reach out to your caseworker, TYS coordinator, or attorney ad litem. You can also learn more about the program by calling 501-320-6012.
Support for Youth Who Leave Foster Care
Some of you may want to leave foster care when you turn 18. We really hope you dig in and learn more about the extended foster care options, but if you feel leaving care is best for you, we can still help after you leave.
In some counties, the Division has an agreement with local housing authorities regarding Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) Housing Choice Vouchers. Young adults ages 18-24 who are no longer in foster care or who will leave foster care within 90 days may qualify if living in a participating county. FYI vouchers may only be used to provide housing assistance for a maximum of 36 months. For more information, please call 501-320-6012.
We can help pay for school or job training programs, housing, insurance, transportation, or utility bills/setup…up to $2,000 total. This is a one-time benefit, though.
If you are in care and want to learn more about this option, just ask your caseworker, TYS coordinator, or attorney ad litem. If you are a former foster youth who needs this support, please contact your last caseworker or TYS coordinator to learn more. If you no longer have that contact information, please call 501-320-6012. It’s OK if you haven’t been in contact with us for a while, we’re here when you’re ready.
If one of the things you’re thinking about as you’re setting up your plans isn’t health care, it should be. It’s really important, and we can help.
In most cases, if you left foster care at age 18 or older, you qualify for what’s called Former Foster Care Medicaid until you turn 26. To access Former Foster Care Medicaid, all you have to do is apply online at https://www.Access.Arkansas.gov OR turn in a paper Medicaid application at your local DHS county office. The folks there will be happy to help you fill it out. (To find your local office, go here.)
We know your time in foster hasn’t been easy. And we know you want to grow up and be your own person. Our goal is to make sure you have the information to make the best choice for you. We hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunities talked about here. At least have a conversation with your caseworker, TYS coordinator, attorney ad litem, or any adult you trust about the options. If you have any questions, just reach out.