Free Legal Help for Current and Former Foster Youth: 1-877-313-3688

Aging Out of Foster Care

contentsGetting Ready to Live on Your Own
Extended Foster Care
Returning to Extended Foster Care
Supervised Independent Living
Trial Independence
Limited Placement Options for Older Foster Youth
Leaving Foster Care
Extended Court Jurisdiction
Planning for Your Life After Foster Care
Circle of Support
Transition Plan Meetings
Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) Program
Independent Living Skills Assessment
How to Contact PAL Staff
Life Skills Training Class
Financial Services
Health Care Benefits
Case Management for Aged Out Foster Youth
Living with Biological Parent When Aging Out of Foster Care
Educational, Vocational, and Supportive Services
Transition Planning Assistance
Other Preparation for Adult Living Program Activities
Transition Centers
Other Resources

Getting Ready To Live On Your Own

As the time for you to leave foster care gets closer, you may feel anxious and have many questions— such as where you will live, how you will support yourself, how you can continue to go to school, and what jobs are available. These worries are only natural, but there is support available to help you get ready to live on your own.

Extended Foster Care

Once you turn 18, you are legally considered an adult and can choose to leave foster care. CPS no longer has control over you. However, leaving foster care may not be the best thing to do. Most youth, even those who did not age out of foster care, find it very difficult to live on their own. When you live on your own, you have to be able to pay for everything and handle all of the responsibilities. Most foster youth really struggle to do this. There is limited, short-term financial assistance available to aged out foster youth.  You will not be able to continue to pay for things, like rent and utilities, without a stable job and careful planning.

If you do choose to stay in foster care, or to return to foster care after turning 18, it is called Extended Foster Care. When you are in Extended Foster Care, you will have to follow the rules for the place you live. CPS will no longer have legal control over you; you will get to make your own decisions but must follow the requirements of Extended Foster Care. There must also be an available placement. If you lose a placement, CPS might not be able to find you another one.
You can stay in the Extended Foster Care Program from the age of 18 until the last day of the month you turn 22 if you:
• Regularly attend high school or are enrolled in a program leading to a high school diploma or a high school equivalency certificate (GED).

You can stay in the Extended Foster Care Program from the age of 18 until the last day of the month you turn 21 if you:
• Attend college or another institute of higher education, or a post-secondary vocational program or technical program. You must be enrolled for a minimum of 6 credit hours per semester.
• Participate in an employment program or activity that promotes or removes barriers to employment. This category can include a lot of activities. Talk to your caseworker and PAL worker (see page 15) about what things you could do that would help you improve your employment skills.
• Work at a job at least 80 hours a month.
• Are on vacation or breaks between school semesters. You can stay in Extended Foster Care from 1 to 3 ½ months after graduation from high school or a GED program before you start college or another post-secondary program, but you must have plans to start school the next regular session. You can also return to Extended Foster Care during vacation/breaks of your school program that are 1 to 4 months long. These breaks are a good time to get jobs, internships and volunteer experience. You have to begin classes once the next session starts.
• Cannot do any of the above activities because of a documented medical condition. You have a documented medical condition if you receive Supplement Security Income (SSI) benefits due to a disability.
You must continue to do these required activities to stay in Extended Foster Care, and if you don’t, you will have to leave foster care. Your caseworker should be meeting with you and discussing what you need to do to stay in foster care and there should be written plans in place. Let your caseworker and PAL worker know a.s.a.p. if you need help getting a job, or enrolling in school or a program or doing one of the above activities.

Returning to Extended Foster Care

Once you leave foster care, you might be able to return to Extended Foster Care. But Extended Foster Care is not guaranteed. CPS might not be able to find a placement for you, or find a placement in the area you want to live. Your former foster home may not have a spot open for you. If you have an adult felony or misdemeanor criminal conviction, findings of child abuse or neglect, or a history of bad behavior in placements, this will make it more difficult to find a placement for you.

If you want to return for Extended Foster Care you should contact the regional PAL Staff or you can contact the main CPS number to report abuse, (800)252-5400, and let them know you are an aged out foster youth who wants to return to foster care and need to contact regional PAL Staff. You can also call the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project for assistance.

If you want to return to Extended Foster Care during breaks between school semesters of 1 to 4 months, be sure to contact CPS weeks ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last minute!

Supervised Independent Living

Supervised Independent Living (SIL) is a new type of Extended Foster Care placement. In SIL young adults live on their own while still getting casework and support services. SIL placements can be in apartments, dorms, or houses; there are several SIL providers and they have flexibility to set up the different kinds of SIL placements. Although a caseworker will be checking in with you occasionally, there is no foster parent or staff person who will be supervising you 24 hours per day. Depending on what sort of housing your SIL program offers, there may be some onsite staff. In SIL, the cost of the place where you live is paid for by CPS and you are given some money to cover expenses like food and a phone. You have to handle day to day needs like preparing your meals, washing dishes, and doing your laundry.

To be in an SIL placement you must be between the ages 18-20, apply for an SIL placement, and show you are mature and responsible. You also must meet the Extended Foster Care requirement that you work, attend school, participate in training or have a medical condition that prevents you from doing so. You can read more about Supervised Independent living on the DFPS web site. SIL has become more commonly used by many young adults, including those who felt they had issues in foster care. The program provides relief from hardships young adults may otherwise face when leaving the foster care system.

Trial Independence

When you leave foster care at age 18 or older, under state law you leave for a Trial Independence of 6 months (or up to 12 months with a court order). During this period you may be living independently and receiving transitional living benefits such as the Transitional Living Allowance and Aftercare Room and Board, Education and Training Voucher (which you can even get while you are in foster care), Aftercare Case Management and Former Foster Care Children’s (FFCC) Medicaid. Whether or not you are still in trial independence, you will have the option to Return to Extended Foster Care if you meet the rules and a placement can be found for you. Your CPS court case stays open during Trial Independence. While you can return to Extended Foster Care after the Trial Independence is over, the court case will probably be closed. If the court case is closed, it may make it more difficult to get court assistance and oversight if you are having problems getting transitional services. See Extended Court Jurisdiction later in this section.

As an example of Trial Independence, when you leave foster care to go off to a college where you are living in campus housing, you will be in your Trial Independence. If you come back to Extended Foster Care for breaks between semesters, then your Trial Independence will begin again when you once again leave Extended Foster Care for college.

Trial Independence can sound kind of scary and confusing; just keep in mind that it is a way of helping young adult foster youth return to Extended Foster Care and get extra help as they transition to independence. (It also is something CPS is required to do so it can get help from the federal government to pay for Extended Foster Care.) If you decide you don’t want to be in Extended Foster Care, and don’t want any assistance beyond the benefits available to foster youth who have aged out of care, nothing will happen. You don’t have to do anything, except take the necessary steps to receive the benefits and services you want.

Limited Placement Options for Older Foster Youth

Unfortunately, placement options for older foster youth, particularly those over age 18, are limited. CPS and others continue to work on providing more placements for older foster youth and young adults. But there may not be a spot for you to go if you want to return to Extended Foster Care, especially if you had some trouble in previous placements. You should think carefully about plans to leave care, and have enough money and guarantees of future income before you leave your current placement. This is very important if you are in school and/or at a place that you can stay at after the age of 18. It is better to save your limited transitional money for a time when you have detailed plans that are well underway. If you just suddenly move out of foster care with no means to pay your rent and other bills in coming months, you will have big problems. If you really don’t want to stay in your current placement, but are open to other foster care options, talk to your caseworker and the PAL worker about what other options there might be. For example there might be a Transitional Living Program or a Supervised Independent Living Placement that you could get on the waiting list for. Or your caseworker could try to find other foster home placements that will open up in the future.

Leaving Foster Care

When you decide to leave foster care, let your caseworker and PAL worker know far in advance. This will give them time to make the necessary arrangements and get your benefits started. Those youth who suddenly leave often may have some difficulties accessing benefits. You can also ask for the Court that oversees your CPS case to issue an order that says you are leaving foster care for a Trial Independence of 12 months, instead of the default of 6 months.

Extended Court Jurisdiction

When you turn 18, the Court that oversaw your case while you were in foster care will continue to have authority to oversee the case for certain periods of time. If you stay in Extended Foster Care the Court is required by law to continue to oversee the case. Once you leave foster care, the Court still has authority over your case for 6 -12 months of the Trial Independence. The Court has this authority over the case during the Trial Independence in case you need court assistance during this time. It also has this authority so that CPS can more quickly assist you if you decide to return for Extended Foster Care. No hearings are required to take place during this time and you CANNOT be required to attend any hearing that the Court may choose to hold during this time. However, if there are problems or concerns, attending the hearing is a good idea. CPS will not be supervising your situation or maintaining contact with you during this time unless you ask for some transitional living services such as the Transitional Living Allowance and Aftercare Room and Board, Education and Training Voucher, and Aftercare Case Management. If your Trial Independence is ending and you do not want to return for Extended Foster Care but want the Court to keep your court case open in case you need future Court assistance, you can ask the Court to keep jurisdiction over you up until you turn 21.

The best way to let the Court know that you want your court case kept open until you are 21 or that you want a 12 month Trial Independence is to go to the Court hearings and let the Judge know. You should also let your caseworker, CASA and Attorney Ad Litem know. You can also submit a request in writing to the Court; be sure to include your full name, address, phone number, the name of the court and your court case number if you know it.

Remember, at age 18 you are an adult and are no longer in the legal custody (conservatorship) of CPS. The Court can no longer tell you what to do or where to live. While Extended Court Jurisdiction might sound frightening, it really is a good thing for foster youth. It can help you complete or achieve your employment or education goals, address other important needs and resolve matters that CPS did not take care of, such as identification documents and sibling contact.

If you think you need the Court to help you get CPS to provide services or assistance, contact the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project.

Planning for Your Life after Foster Care

Once you turn 16, you should meet with your caseworker to begin planning to leave foster care. (If your caseworker does not bring up the issue, then you should!) If you are confined in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and you entered the facility while you were in foster care, you should still receive Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program services and you are eligible for the services even if you are released after you are 18 and cannot return to foster care. Contact Disability Rights Texas at (800)252-9108 if no PAL services are offered in your facility or you need other assistance as a confined foster youth. For more information, see Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) Program beginning on page 15. Your caseworker should also work with your foster parents or caregivers, your attorney or guardian ad litem and the PAL worker or provider. During these meetings, you and your caseworker should figure out the things you need to plan for, talk about staying in foster care after your 18th birthday and go over the PAL program. You and your caseworker will also decide whether to create your transitional plan (more details on the next page) through the Circle of Support or Transition Plan Meetings.

Circle of Support

If possible, you will have a Circle of Support that helps you plan for leaving foster care. The Circle of Support is a group of caring adults you would like to be part of your support system. These adults could be your foster parents, teachers, relatives, church members or other mentors. Your caseworker must approve your list before they are invited to join your Circle of Support. If you think you are going to go live with family when you leave foster care, you need to let those planning your Circle of Support know that and let the court know you want support in exploring that as an option. A Circle of Support worker, who is different from your caseworker, will help with the Circle of Support process and meetings. You have a right to insist that your Circle of Support be planned in advance so those that you want to attend have time to make plans to come or participate by phone. You also have a right to insist that there be follow-up after the Circle of Support on action items.

Transition Plan Meetings

If, for any reason, a Circle of Support can’t be created, then your caseworker will set up Transition Plan Meetings. Transition Plan Meetings are similar to the Circle of Support, but at first will only be your caseworker and you. The goal of these meetings is to make a plan for you to live on your own. In addition, you will also work with your caseworker to develop a list of caring adults that can help.

Contact the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project if you are unhappy about the planning process or if there is no planning underway by the time you are 16 1/2.

Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) Program

The Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program is part of the Transitional Living Services program. These programs are designed to help with your transition from foster care. The program is  supposed to help you figure out what skills you need to live on your own, teaching you those skills, and providing you with case management and limited financial assistance once you leave foster care. DFPS runs the PAL program and hires other agencies to provide additional services.

When you hear the word PAL, ask for more information about exactly who and what is being discussed. The term PAL is used to describe a lot of different activities in which the workers and different agencies are involved. However PAL workers are the main point of contact for services and resources related to transitioning out of foster care, including anything considered part of the Transitional Living Services program.

The PAL program provides services to current and aged out foster youth who are 16-21 years old. In some cases, 14 and 15 year olds can receive services as well. The program covers both youth currently in foster care and those who have aged out of care. However, what services you can get depend on whether you are currently in foster care or have aged out.

Independent Living Skills Assessment

Around your 16th birthday, DFPS must measure how ready you are to live on your own by giving you an assessment called the Casey Life Skills Assessment. Someone who knows you well, such as a foster parent, staff person at your foster home, or your caseworker also has to fill out an assessment about you. This must be done before you are 16 ½ years old and should be done before you take the Life Skills Training Class (often called the PAL class). The assessment will help you and your caregiver and caseworker determine your readiness to live independently, what your strengths are, and where you need more training and experience – such as developing money management skills, cooking and cleaning skills, and job skills. You should use this as an opportunity to figure out what else you need to learn so you will be prepared to live on your own.

How to Contact PAL (Preparation for Adult Living) Workers

You can find the office that serves your area of the state here or searching for DFPS Preparation for Adult Living on the internet. Contact the office that serves the part of the state where you currently live. If the office tells you that they are not the correct PAL office or does not respond to your questions or assist you, contact the State PAL office at (512)438-5442.

Life Skills Training Class

This is a class that is offered to all foster youth who are 16 and older. Often the class is referred to as PAL or PAL class, although it is only one part of the Preparation for Adult Living program. The class helps train you to live independently and covers these 6 areas:

  • Health and Safety
  • Housing and Transportation
  • Job Readiness
  • Financial Management
  • Life Decisions and Responsibilities
  • Personal and Social Relationships

This program covers at least 30 hours of training. Generally you will go to class for several weeks in the evenings or on the weekends. In some areas of the state the agency that is providing the training may have you come in for a week-end long program. This class introduces you to important things to help you start becoming independent but you must continue to work on these life skills once you complete the class.

IMPORTANT! You have to successfully complete the work for at least 5 of the 6 areas listed above, including financial management, to be eligible to receive the $1,000 Transitional Services Allowance. Once you leave foster care, it will be too late to take the class and become eligible. Contact your regional PAL Staff if you have not been scheduled for a class before your 17th birthday or if your placement is not taking you to the class. You can then contact the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project if you still don’t get into the PAL class.

In certain situations, you can be approved by the DFPS Preparation for Adult Living program to complete the Life Skills Training class with an independent study guide. The independent study guide requires that an adult work closely with you and oversee and assist you with completing the various projects and tasks. Generally the class is a better option but if you have not completed some or all of the class areas listed above and you are scheduled to leave care and it won’t be possible for you to be placed in a class before you leave care, you should request that you be given the independent study guide option. Be sure to plan and ask ahead of time as it will take time to complete the study guide.

Financial Services

Transitional Living Allowance and Aftercare Room and Board are two forms of financial assistance you may be able to receive once you leave foster care.  See Finding a Place to Live in the Housing section for more information.

Health Care Benefits

If you age out of foster care in Texas, you qualify for free health insurance until you turn 26. When you leave foster care, your caseworker and PAL worker should help you access this health insurance, a type of the Medicaid, called the Former Foster Care Children’s (FFCC) Medicaid Program. See the Health Care Section for more information.

Case Management for Aged Out Foster Youth

Once you leave foster care, you can have a case manager work with you to help you as you transition to independence. until you turn 21. Generally the case manager will work for a private agency that has a contract with CPS. Different parts of the state have different agencies. The case manager can help you access benefits, locate housing, seek employment and job training, apply for college or other education options and apply for financial aid, plan for becoming able to successfully live on your own, budget your money, get a bank account, and much more. It will be up to you whether you want to use the services of the case manager. If you need help getting case management services, contact the regional or state Preparation for Adult Living office.

Living with Biological Parent When Aging Out of Foster Care

Some foster youth decide to return to their biological parent or the person they were removed from by CPS. As long as CPS is still your conservator until you turn 18 years old, that should not impact your eligibility for aged out foster youth benefits, even if CPS is the one who places you in your parents’ home. Conservatorship means that there is a court order saying CPS is in charge of you. Keep in mind that if the court gives your biological parent/s or someone else custody of you or lets them adopt you before you are 18 years old, that will make you not able to get some benefits. It is complicated and is something you should talk with your PAL worker, your attorney ad litem and CASA about in great detail if you are considering leaving CPS conservatorship before you turn 18. Even if you are considered to have aged out of foster care, if you live with a biological parent or the person you were removed from by CPS, your Transitional Living Allowance and Aftercare Room and Board might not be paid if CPS is concerned the person is a threat to your health and safety. CPS does not want to give money to someone who is mistreating you.

Educational, Vocational and Supportive Services

All youth, whether in foster care or out, and whether over 18 or not, can receive assistance from the PAL Staff with:

  • Obtaining Tuition Waiver letter,
  • Providing information about applying for the Education Training Voucher (ETV) program, and
  • Assistance in applying for college or other education options and applying for financial aid.

Additional services that can be available to foster youth based on need and funding availability:

  • Vocational assessments and/or training,
  • GED classes,
  • Preparation for college entrance exams,
  • Driver education,
  • High school graduation expenses,
  • Identification documents,
  • Counseling, and
  • Volunteer mentoring programs.

Transition Planning Assistance

Regional PAL Staff should provide important transitional services for youth who are still in foster care. Someone from the PAL office, often called a PAL Staff or PAL Coordinator should be available to assist you and your caseworker as you prepare to transition. Regional PAL Staff should participate in transition planning, explain your foster youth benefits, assist in identifying and accessing regional education, employment and housing resources, help with problems getting identification documents, provide guidance in applying for higher education programs and apply for financial aid and more.

Other Preparation for Adult Living Program Activities

Statewide Teen Conference – The Statewide Teen Conference is held each year at a college campus. Youth must go with an adult sponsor such as your caseworker or PAL worker. The three-day conference includes workshops on issues that foster youth preparing for adulthood have to deal with.

Statewide Youth Leadership Council – The Statewide Youth Leadership Council consists of two current or former foster care youth from each region. The youth give input and a youth perspective for developing policy and programs. They make recommendations to improve services for children and youth.

Regional Youth Leadership Council – Some CPS regions have a youth leadership council. To find out what is happening in your region, please contact your regional PAL worker.

Regional Activities – From time to time, there may be other activities in your area, like teen conferences, visiting colleges, wilderness trips, mentor programs, support groups, job development
workshops and youth forums.

PAL College Conference – A 2 day weekend conference held at Texas A&M University-Commerce where foster youth learn about and prepare for higher education opportunities at colleges around Texas.

PEAKS Camp – A four day camp for foster youth where you work on building self-esteem, problem-solving, improving communication, and have fun!

Aging-Out Seminars/ Transitional Living Conference – A one day program required for any foster youth age 17 who is in licensed or verified foster care. This program builds on what you learned in your

Life Skills Training classes– including foster youth programs, benefits, resources and other independent living topics.

If you are interested in attending any of the statewide or regional events or have questions about services or resources, please contact your regional PAL Staff and let your caseworker know as well.

Transition Centers

Transition Centers are one-stop places to serve the many needs of older foster youth and aged out foster youth. They also may provide services to other older youth, including homeless youth, at-risk youth and young adults, sometimes up to age 25. Current and former foster youth can use the Transition Centers. The Transition Centers serve as central locations for services such as the Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program. You will also find job assistance to get you ready, help searching and exploring options related to getting a job. Assistance with enrolling in college or GED programs and applying for financial aid, which includes the Education and Training Voucher (ETV), are also all available. You can also find help with housing, identification documents, mentoring and obtaining the benefits available to aged out foster youth.

Each Transition Center offer different services. The best way to find out what your Transition Center offers is to visit it and get to know the staff. As part of planning your transition from foster care, be sure you get to visit the Transition Center. Remember, if you move to a different part of the state, there may be a Transition Center there you can use. Even if you don’t live near the Transition Center, or can’t easily get to it, you should call the center and find out more about what they do and how they can help you. As an aged out foster youth, go to or call the Transition Center.

What you can find at a Transition Center:

  • Bus tokens,
  • Housing Assistance,
  • Employment and Education Assistance,
  • Counseling,
  • Computer Labs and E-Mail and Internet access,
  • ETV and financial aid application help,
  • Aged out foster youth financial benefits,
  • Limited case management for former foster youth ages 21 through 25, and
  • Case manager staff for aged out foster youth.

A current list of Transition Centers in Texas is available online.

Other Resources

Texas Youth Connection is a project of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services that works with foster youth and youth who are looking for general tips and information.

Texas Youth Connection provides information about:

  • Foster care records
  • Job opportunities
  • Hotlines
  • Housing
  • Finance
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Many other areas of support for young adults getting ready to live on their own.

The Texas Youth Hotline is another place youth, including current and former foster youth, can go for help.  You can call (800)989-6884, chat with someone or text the hotline at (512)872-5777 to get confidential counseling, information, referrals and help with finding services in your area.

You should also talk to other sources, like guidance counselors at your current or former high school and people who have already graduated.

211

Dialing 211 is a way to connect with health and human services in your community. You can also visit 211Texas.org to access health and human services programs information.

additional

 

CPS Case Court Hearings

Benefits for Aged Out and Older Foster Youth

Getting your History

Resources for Young Adults

 

 

*Indicates a resource developed by the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. or Texas C-Bar. Please download, copy, and distribute. Complete Resource List