Introduction To Planning For Your Future And Aging Out Of Foster Care
Getting older and aging out of foster care is exciting, but it can also be scary. Leaving a system that has been caring for you can be overwhelming. There is a lot to do to prepare, especially when you are leaving foster care to live on your own. You may need to find housing, get a job, continue school, apply to college, and/or locate new mental health service providers. The more you plan in advance, the better prepared you will be to leave foster care and live independently.
You have the right to remain in foster care until you turn 21. You also have the right to leave foster care at any point after you turn 18. How long you stay in foster care after you turn 18 is an important decision that you should always discuss with your lawyer. You should never be forced to sign yourself out of foster care, and you always have the right to discuss this decision with your lawyer. Even if you eventually want to leave foster care to live on your own, it is a good idea to stay in care as long as possible to make sure you receive all of the benefits and services you are entitled to. This can help you live successfully and independently when you do leave the system.
Whatever decision you make about staying in care, it is important to remember that some of the mental health services you receive may end when you turn 18. The good news is that you may be able to receive additional or different services after you turn 18. In fact, there are a variety of services—from vocational and educational services to supportive housing—specifically for young people over 18 who have mental health challenges. Your agency and ACS must make sure that you have the services you need to live independently before you leave foster care. Begin speaking with your caseworker and your lawyer about your options before your 18th birthday, and use your remaining time in foster care to get as much help as you can from your agency. If your agency is not providing you with the help you need, tell your lawyer right away.