Q If I do not sign on with DCF when I turn 18, do I have to do any of this planning stuff?

Yes! When you are 18, you are a legal adult and can decide not to accept DCF services. However, it will only benefit you to participate in transition planning. You don’t have to accept or follow the plan after your case closes, but it will benefit you to know what resources are available.

If you tell your social worker you do not want to sign on with DCF when you turn 18, or if you're leaving DCF after turning 18, your social worker has to work with you to create a transition plan. Your plan must include where you will live and your plans to support yourself. Your lawyer can help you negotiate with DCF about what the transition plan includes. The judge must review and decide whether to agree to this transition plan.

Q Will DCF give me any services or help if I leave?

DCF has the Discharge Support Program to help young people who plan to leave DCF care. DCF offices have an Adolescent Outreach Worker or Outreach Supervisor to help you find the services you need, even if you do not plan to be in DCF care after you turn 18. As long as you were in DCF care when you turned 18, you can work with an Adolescent Outreach Worker and receive help until age 21. For more information on signing on with DCF, see Chapter Four Turning 18.

Q What can I get from the Discharge Support Program?

The Discharge Support Program can provide you with:

  • Help from an Adolescent Outreach Worker to find a job, housing, health care, and other services you may need
  • Help applying and paying for college, a job training or certificate program
  • Money to pay for things like clothing, rent and furniture
  • In some cases, money for your security deposit, first and last month’s rent, or initial utilities if you are moving into an apartment.
  • Help finding internships and jobs and keeping them.

The Discharge Support Program is run by the DCF Adolescent Outreach Workers. They are different from DCF caseworkers, but your social worker can connect you with an Adolescent Outreach Worker.

DCF works with community partners to help you gain employment experience. DCF can provide a stipend in support of internships in the community. DCF Outreach Workers can assist you in locating and maintaining employment.

Q I’m over 18 and on my own, but I was in DCF care when I turned 18. Can I get any help from DCF now?

Yes! You can get help from the Discharge Support Program. As long as you were in DCF care when you turned 18, you are eligible for this program until you turn 21. You can also try to sign back on with DCF if you are still under 21. (For more information on signing on with DCF, which means getting help from them until you are 22 years old, see Chapter Four Turning 18.

You also may be able to get help from a newly formed state-affiliated organization, Massachusetts Network of Foster Care Alumni (MassNFCA), working on behalf of alumni of foster care. MassNFCA advocates for appropriate services and support by promoting a healthy peer community and by developing opportunities for education, service and leadership. You can find more information on the MassNFCA website.

Q How do I get help from the Discharge Support Program?

Call your social worker (or the one you used to work with) or call the local DCF office for the number and ask to be connected to the Adolescent Outreach Worker for that office. Tell the Adolescent Outreach Worker that you were in DCF custody when you turned 18 and you need help finding a job, a place to live, in addition to any other services you may need.

Q How do I get help from the Discharge Support Program?

Call your social worker (or the one you used to work with) or call the local DCF office for the number and ask to be connected to the Adolescent Outreach Worker for that office. Tell the Adolescent Outreach Worker that you were in DCF custody when you turned 18 and you need help finding a job, a place to live, in addition to any other services you may need.

Q Checklist - What should I do before leaving DCF? 

  • Do you know when your last permanency planning hearing is and have you discussed your transition plan with your lawyer and social worker?
  • Have you located safe housing that you have enough money to pay for?
  • Who are the adults you want to stay in touch with? Do you know how to reach them? Put phone numbers where you won't lose them. Have you talked to your lawyer or social worker if you want a long-term mentor?
  • Do you have contact information for any sisters or brothers that are in care?
  • Do you have your important documents like your photo I.D., social security card, credit report, birth certificate, school records, medical records, prescriptions and medication information, immigration documents and record of being in DCF care?
  • Do you have your lawyer’s business card and/or telephone number?
  • Have you updated your address for all of your bills (credit card, cell phone, etc.), MassHealth, and benefits (TANF, WIC, Social Security, and other state sources of money) AND given your social worker that address PLUS a backup address?
  • Do you have health insurance through MassHealth, your job or your college and do you have your insurance card?
  • Have you found out where the local health services clinics are?
  • Are you enrolled in the school program that you want to be in or know how to look for or keep a job?
  • Have you completed your FAFSA form and applied for financial aid if you are going to college or a training school?
  • Do you know what services or state benefits you can get after you leave DCF care?
  • If you have a disability have you applied for adult Social Security Income (SSI) disability benefits, changed the payee for the benefits you already have (see Social Security Office Locator) or applied for adult services from the Department of Mental Health (DMH), the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) or the Mass. Rehabilitation?
  • Do you have a bank account at a bank with offices or ATMs near where you live and do you understand how to use your account?
  • Do you know where to get help if you have a problem with immigration)?
  • Have you registered to vote?
  • If you are a male citizen or immigrant male, have you registered for the draft?
  • Do you have the information needed to file taxes or know someone to help you?

Q What is the Massachusetts Network of Foster Care Alumni?

Stay connected with other former foster youth through the Massachusetts Network of Foster Care Alumni (MassNFCA)! You can never have too many connections on your road to success. Behind every success story, there stands at least one amazing person and several extraordinary opportunities.

The Perks:

  • Creating opportunity for current and former foster youth in the areas of education, employment, service and leadership

You’re an alum of foster care if:

  • You’re 18 + and have been in foster care for any period of time in your life even if you continue to receive voluntary services from DCF between the ages of 18-22.

MassNFCA members welcome alumni and friends of foster care! Friends of foster care are people that care about foster youth. Join alumni and friends of foster care in building a network of intergenerational support and opportunities for alumni of all ages. Go to MassNFCA for more details. Connect with us on Facebook/Twitter.