A lot of kids want to get out of foster care and go home to their families.
A lot of kids leave foster care to live on their own. A lot of kids want to be
When you are in foster care, the agency has to have a plan for your
future. This means that the agency has to have a plan for you about how
and when you will leave foster care. These are the choices:
- return to your parent(s)
- live with another relative or friend
- be adopted
- live on your own (independent living)
- go to another residence, group home, residential treatment center
You have the right to know what your plan is. You should ask your
social worker if you don't know. Your rights about visits, the services you
get, and the money you get are different depending on your plan.
Return to Parent(s)
You are supposed to be returned to your family as soon as possible after
you come into foster care.
But many kids stay in care for many years even when the plan is for
them to return to their parent(s). When you want to go home but the
agency or your family won’t let you, you need to know why.
You have the right to know what the problem is and what is supposed to
happen before you can go home. Call your lawyer if you want to go home
but need help getting there sooner than the agency plans. Your family and
social worker might not know about all the help available, like extra money
for rent or therapy near your family's home. Your lawyer can help you
solve these problems.
Living With Friends or Relatives
There are two ways you can go to live with a friend or relative:
- You are discharged from
foster care to the friend or relative.
- The friend or relative becomes your foster parent, which means he
or she gets money to support you.
There are rules about who can and who cannot be foster parents. Your
agency worker can explain these rules to you.
If you want to live with a friend or relative, tell your caseworker. She or
he will visit the home to see if it’s a safe place for you to live.
Whether you are going to be discharged to Lisa or you are just planning
to visit with her, the social worker would still have to visit her house. The
social worker has to make sure Lisa is a safe person to live with and also
find out who else lives with Lisa.
You do not have to prove that someone is related to you in order to have
them certified as your foster parent.
What if your worker says you can’t go there but you still want to?
what to do
if your agency says no:
- One thing to do is ask for a conference with your worker, your friend or relative, and your worker’s supervisor.
- Another thing to do is to ask your social worker to visit the friend or
relative. If that social worker says it may be a good place for you, your lawyer can go to court and ask the judge to send you there.
- You can also mail a letter or call Lawyers For Children.
If the plan is for you to go out on your own when you leave your foster
home, your goal is independent living. You can have this goal only if you are 14 or older.
Agencies have to make sure that kids get “independent living skills." You must be in high school, a G.E.D. program, or vocational training. This means you are learning a job or a skill that will lead to a job.
You also must take group classes in independent living skills at least 2 days a year.
(Most agencies give more classes than that.)
The classes should teach you things like how to:
- look for a job
- find an apartment
- budget your money
- shop, cook, and clean house.
If you have questions, ask your social worker to explain your
independent living plan or to show you your agency’s policy manual about
Some agencies have group homes called independent living group
homes. They are usually for older kids (16 and up) who are in school
You should also get money every month if your goal is independent
living and if you are participating in the agency's independent living
This money is called a stipend. You get it either once a month or spread
out over the month. A stipend is different from allowance.
The amount you get dependson how old you are:
Age Monthly Stipend
16 - $20
17 - $25
18 - $30
19 - $35
20 - $40
Foster Care After You Are 18
You are allowed to stay in foster care until you are 21. After you are 18,
you can leave when you want. The agency is supposed to check out where
you will be living once you leave.
This is what the agency has to do for you:
- identify people, services, or agencies that will help
you maintain and support yourself.
- help you contact them and talk to you about them. The agency must
help you contact your parents, old foster parents, or anyone else you
think can help you once you leave foster care.
- notify you in writing at least 90 days before you will be discharged
(leave the agency). They don't have to do this if you choose to leave the agency on your own and stay away for 60 days (2 months).
- find you a place to live. The agency cannot discharge you to
independent living unless you have a place to go. That place cannot be a shelter. The agency has to believe that you will be able to stay in your new place for at least 1 year after discharge.
- keep you on trial-discharge status for 6 months, or longer, up to your
21st birthday. This is so that if you need to go back into foster care you can.
- work with you during the trial discharge.
- take you back into foster care if you become homeless.
- help pay for college. (Read the School section on College.)
At some agencies, you will go shopping with your caseworker for the things you need to buy with your discharge grant. Other agencies let you purchase the items you need and provide receipts for the money you spent.
It is up to you if you want your agency’s help after you turn 18. Some kids do and some never want to see the agency again. It's important to remember that even if you have had trouble in the past with the agency, they are supposed to help you, and you can and should take advantage of what they can do for you.
There is really no legal way to become an “emancipated minor” in New
York, but young people often hear about being emancipated. This is what
you can do to be on your own.
If you are at least 16 years old, it may be possible for you to live on your
own and receive public assistance (home relief). You must be able to prove
to a public assistance worker that you live apart from your family, that you
have your own place to live, and that you are not receiving and do not need
any foster care services.
If you have left foster care and you need to know more about how to live
on your own and receive home relief, call The Door or your lawyer. The
Door is a center for young people ages 12-21. The Door is open Monday-
Friday from 2–8PM. You can contact The Door at 212- 941-9090. All
information and services at The Door are confidential between you and The Door staff.
555 Broome Street
Between 6th Avenue and Varick Street
Phone (212) 941-9090
Hours: Monday-Friday 2:00-8:00 PM or call
If you want to stay with a foster family or someone else you are living
with, you need to know what your agency’s plan is.
It can be:
- discharge to that family or person
- independent living. Independent living is usually for kids 14 and older.
You can live with foster parents until you are 21 if your plan is
independent living, and if you are in school.
- adoption by that person. Your foster parents become your legal parents.
This process usually takes a long time. You and our foster parents have
to think and talk about adoption a lot. It is a big step.
what to do
if you want to be adopted:
- If you want to be adopted by a family and you donít think that is the
plan, or you think the plan is taking too long, call your lawyer!
- You can also write a letter or email to your law guardian and explain that you want to be adopted. Write down when you last saw your parents and how long you have been in foster care