The Answer Book: Housing after I leave foster care

Basic information to help you find safe, affordable housing.

Table of Contents

Where will I live after I turn 18 and sign myself back on with DCF?

You may stay in your current living situation. If not, the DCF “Discharge Support Program” can help you find an apartment. You could get money to help pay your first and last months’ rent, security deposit, and your utility charges. This program typically lasts 18 months, so you need to save money to make sure you can continue living on your own. 

Talk to your social worker, an Adolescent Outreach Worker or call the DCF Discharge Support Program at 617-748-2421 to find out more information.

How can DCF help me with housing when I turn 18 if I do not sign myself back into care?

It depends on your situation. If you are eligible for the Discharge Support Program at DCF, you must have a plan to support yourself in your new housing situation. This means that you must have a job or some kind of income so that you can pay rent. Your social worker or the Adolescent Outreach Worker may give you money for first and last months’ rent, security deposit and initial utilities charges or may give the money directly to your landlord. The social worker or the Adolescent Outreach Worker may also want to check out your housing to make sure it is safe.

You might be eligible for the “Family Unification Program Adolescent Outreach Program Voucher.” This is a program that can help you pay your rent for up to 18 months. For more information about this program, you should contact your social worker or get in touch with one of DCF’s Adolescent Outreach Workers. For the phone numbers of local DCF offices, see the phone list at the end of this resource.

Does DCF have places I can live if I did not sign myself back on after I turned 18?

If you do not sign on with DCF after age 18, DCF only has a few housing choices for you. DCF has Family Unification Program (FUP) housing vouchers from the Dept. of Housing and Community Development. Youth who were in DCF custody or care until age 18 may qualify for these 18 month housing vouchers if they agree to work with a social worker or an Adolescent Outreach Worker toward their goals. The DCF “Safe Passage Program” has 3 beds at a transitional living program in Boston for former DCF foster youth who are male. The Bachand Residence for Girls in Lowell, run by the Sisters of Charity, provides housing for female students age 18 and older who are currently or formerly in the care of DCF and are now in post-secondary studies. DCF provides a monthly stipend to assist with rent and living expenses.
The DCF Adolescent Outreach Program also manages a Discharge Support Program that may assist youth who left DCF between ages 18 and 21 with funds to assist with housing costs.

For help finding a place to live, contact your local DCF office and ask to speak with the Adolescent Outreach Worker or ask your social worker to connect you with an Adolescent Outreach Worker.
Tip: For the phone numbers of local DCF offices, refer to the phone list at the end of this resource.

There are two types of public housing: project-based public housing and Section 8 voucher housing. For more information about how you can apply for public housing in Massachusetts and to be connected with a legal aid, visit this website:

If I don’t know where I’m going to live, can I still leave DCF care when I turn 18?

Yes. If you decide to leave DCF care, you have the legal right to a transition plan in place that has been approved by the judge that includes a safe place for you to live. This plan should also include items such as skills training, sources of money, college or vocational training scholarships and medical care.

How much money do I need to move into an apartment?

Depending on the apartment and the landlord, you may need to pay the following things when you first move into an apartment: first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a new lock fee, and a security deposit which usually costs as much as one month’s rent. You get the security deposit back when you move out, as long as there is no damage to your apartment while you are living there. Note that your landlord cannot charge you for water unless he has a permit from the city.

Before I agree to live anywhere on my own, what should I think about?

Ask yourself the following questions. Make sure you understand them and always think about them as you decide to move out on your own.

  • How much will it cost to move into an apartment to pay for a security deposit, first and last months' rent and lock fee?
  • How much money do I get each month to pay my bills (utilities, furniture, transportation, food, clothing, childcare costs, entertainment, health costs, etc.)?
  • How much can I afford to pay in rent each month?
  • What utilities (water, gas, electric, cable, phone) are included in the rent? What utilities will I have to arrange and pay on my own? How much will they be?
  • Will I need a roommate?
  • Will I need a co-signer for my lease? This may be required if you don’t have a strong credit history.
  • Where do I want to live?
  • Do I need to be near public transportation?
  • Is the apartment near a grocery store?
  • Is the apartment in an area where I feel safe?
  • Are there appliances (refrigerator, dishwasher, laundry) in the apartment? If there is no laundry machine, am I near a laundromat?
  • Is the apartment itself clean?
  • Is there a working smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm?
  • Does the apartment have two exits in case of a fire?

If I need legal help with my housing once I move out on my own, what can I do?

If there are problems with the condition of the apartment that you notice after you move in, take pictures and inform your landlord. If your landlord does not repair the problems then you should call your local board of health or inspection services. All areas in Massachusetts have legal-aid programs that have lawyers for people who don’t earn much and have issues with their housing. Find free legal help in Massachusetts at this website: Massachusetts Legal Resource Finder.

Where can I go if I become homeless?

There are shelters and transitional housing programs for runaway and homeless teens in Massachusetts. These places provide emergency housing and support to young people who cannot live at home and need help. Some of these programs also offer counseling, education, or support programs for young people who are in need.

For help in finding a program or shelter near you, you can call the National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-RUNAWAY. It is free to call. If you are over 18, go to a local church or homeless shelter and ask for help. They can direct you to places where food, shelter, and other supports may be available.

Contact a social worker or an Adolescent Outreach Worker who will assist you with resources such as transitional housing programs, affordable rental options, food pantries, food stamps benefits, counseling and education. You may sign back on to DCF care until your 22nd birthday.

See Statewide resource guide for resources in your county. Dial 211 for free confidential information on: shelter, food, rent assistance, utility bill assistance, counseling and after school programs.

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