The Next Step
When children turn 18 and “age out” of foster placement, they find themselves suddenly without the support and resources they need. Some are homeless, without jobs, without a support network, and without healthcare. Despite this harsh reality, many foster youths don’t know who to turn to when they age out and thus struggle for years trying to find their independence.
New Jersey has many special programs that help connect aging out foster youth to valuable services that can help them get on their feet. Private and community organizations strive to provide similar support services. But the need is great, and foster youth aging out of the foster care system face the dilemma of needing continued support but not qualifying for it through the state’s foster placement system. They can also struggle with being connected with those support services, especially if their foster family is not actively helping them age out successfully.
Fortunately, certain youth who are over the age of 18 but younger than 21 might be able to continue to receive foster care services to help them transition into adulthood. Some youth may be able to remain under the care of their foster family, while others can access services designed to help youth aging out start their adult life on the right foot. Such services include:
- Independent Living Assistance. Youth as young as 16 may be able to participate in an independent living program where they live in their own apartment or in a residential building.
- Life Skills Assessment and Training. Learning all the life skills they need to survive in the adult world is difficult for foster youth. Sometimes foster youth need extra help learning the skills they need to age out successfully. At age 14, youth should be given a life skills assessment. The assessment can better help the DCP&P develop an aging out plan tailored to the youth’s specific needs.
- Healthcare Coverage. Foster youth in New Jersey are covered by Medicaid, but that coverage is now automatically extended for youth who age out.
- Other services including help obtaining life skills, applying for college or a job
Many of these services can be provided to youth under the age of 18 while still in foster placement. In fact, the DCP&P should be helping foster youth take positive steps toward self-sufficiency by accessing these services from age 14 on, but sometimes it takes more than just pointing them in the right direction to help them age out independently.
If you have concerns about a foster youth who is aging out of the foster care system, consult with an experienced child welfare attorney. An attorney can explain the process of aging out and advise you on the services that may be available to foster youth to help them in this journey.
If you have questions about foster placement, the Williams Law Group, LLC is here to help. The experienced attorneys at Williams Law Group, LLC can explain how aging out works and help you ensure your child’s best interests are protected. Located in Union, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.