What can I do to plan for my future?
When you are 18, you are a legal adult and can decide whether or not to stay in DCF care. Well before your 18th birthday, you should start talking to your social worker and lawyer about planning your next steps. They will 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. If you decide not to continue in DCF care, you will be better off if you 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. For more information from a national resource on what should be in a transition plan, see the following: https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/foster-care/youth-transition-toolkit.pdf
Will DCF give me any services or help if I leave or decide to return?
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.
The Discharge Support Program at DCF 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.
If you have left DCF care and want to return, call your local DCF office and ask to be connected to someone who can help you sign back on. Also contact your former lawyer for help.
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. You can try to sign back on with DCF if you are still under 21. For more information on signing on with DCF, see “TURNING 18.”
What should I do before leaving DCF?
- Discuss your transition plan with your lawyer and social worker. Attend and participate in your last permanency hearing.
- Find safe housing that you can afford.
- Identify 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. Talk to your lawyer or social worker if you want a long-term mentor.
- Get contact information for any sisters or brothers that are in foster care.
- Get 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.
- Get your lawyer’s business card and/or telephone number.
- Update your new 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 give your social worker and lawyer your new address PLUS a backup address.
- Continue your health insurance through MassHealth, your job or your college. Get your insurance card.
- Find local health services.
- Enroll in the school program that you want to be in. Know how to look for and keep a job.
- Complete your FAFSA form and apply for financial aid if you are going to college or a vocational school. (Website: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/)
- Know what services or state benefits you can get after you leave DCF care.
- If you have a disability apply for adult Social Security Income (SSI) disability benefits, change the payee for the benefits you already have (web-site: www.socialsecurity.gov/locator) or apply for adult services from the Department of Mental Health (DMH), the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) or the Mass. Rehabilitation.
- Begin to save money. Open a bank account at a bank with offices or ATMs near where you live. Understand how to use your account.
- Get help from an immigration lawyer if you have a problem with immigration.
- Register to vote (see https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ovr/)
- If you are a male register with the Selective Service (See website: https://www.sss.gov/RegVer/wfRegistration.aspx.
- Get information needed to file taxes or find someone to help you.
What income could I possibly have if I leave DCF care?
- Working full time
- Working Part-Time
- Food Stamps (SNAP)
How can I connect with other former foster youth?
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.
- 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 former foster kids 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 former foster youth friends for support and opportunities for alumni of all ages. Go to: www.MassNFCA.org for more details. Connect with us on Facebook/Twitter.