Every year in New Jersey, young adults, age 18, leave foster care. They often face challenges without the support of family and friends. Many are homeless, unemployed, and without health care. In response to this problem, New Jersey’s child welfare agency, the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), recently began helping young adults who have reached the age where they are too old to remain in (are aging out of ) DYFS foster care. If you or someone you know will age out of DYFS foster care, this article will help you to understand what services are available and how to get them.
Are you eligible?
In order to get services, an aging-out young adult must either:
Be in an out-of-home placement through DYFS (an out-of home-placement is when a judge orders your removal and placement either with a relative or in foster care as a result of concerns about your health and safety); or
Have aged out of DYFS care at 18 and be no older than 21.
If you are not currently in an out-of-home placement or did not age out of such a placement, you are not eligible for assistance.
What services are available?
DYFS should begin giving services to youths under their care beginning at age 14. Services may continue until the age of 21, if the young adult meets the service requirements. Some of the services that aging-out youth may get are:
Life skills assessment. Youths in care at age 14 should receive a life skills assessment. A life skills assessment tests a youth’s basic skills in daily living, career planning, housing, and money management. A life skills assessment is an ongoing process. The results of this assessment should help DYFS to come up with a transition plan for services that may assist the aging-out youth in leaving foster care.
Independent living program. The independent living program is a program available to youths age 16 or older if no other appropriate, supervised placement is available. An independent living arrangement does not always mean that a youth has his or her own apartment. Some independent living programs are part of a residential program or group home. DYFS must approve the placement of a youth in this program and:
The youth must be in school or in a training program or entering such a program;
Services through this program are limited to 18 months; and
The youth must participate in case management, life skills, counseling, and other services.
Medicaid. Medicaid coverage through DYFS usually ends when a youth reaches the age of 18. A new DYFS policy extends Medicaid coverage for all youths aging out of the Division’s care at age 18. The Medicaid extension is automatic, but aging-out youths should talk to their DYFS case workers to make sure that their Medicaid coverage continues.
Aftercare services. Aftercare services include wraparound services, help with finding a job, applying to school, and developing other life skills or support. Aftercare services are intended to help youths 18 and over, but to be eligible for these services a youth must either:
DYFS works with other agencies to provide aftercare services. The other agencies should give the youth information about the services and about financial assistance.
Can services be refused?
At the age of 18, youths eligible for the services outlined above can sign themselves out of DYFS supervision. The DYFS case worker will ask them to sign forms closing their cases and refusing services.
If you are an aging-out youth who has refused services and you have changed your mind, you may ask DYFS for help getting those services if you ask before you reach the age of 21. The DYFS case worker or aftercare service provider should reopen your case. If you are unable to get your case reopened, contact LSNJ-LAW™, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, for assistance. The hotline telephone number is 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888- 576-5529) or (732) 572-9100 if you are calling from outside New Jersey. Hotline hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
This information last reviewed 11/2/11