Independent living can be established for children who are in long-term foster care and age 16 or older. The independent living program has four components.
- Independent living skills training
- Independent living subsidy
- Transitional independent living program
When it has been determined that a child has no other possible permanency options, Child Protective Services will begin the procedure for transitioning a child into an independent life. This begins between the ages of 14 and 15. CPS will assess the child's health, hygiene, housekeeping, and interpersonal and safety skills. Once a child has reached the age of 16 CPS will evaluate the child's skills at education planning, finding and keeping employment, as well as knowledge of transportation, community resources, and dietary awareness. In areas where the child has little knowledge or poor skills, CPS will provide services or direct the child to state and federal programs that will provide the services.
Activities can also be arranged to help the child develop interpersonal relationships, daily living skills, understanding legal rights and responsibilities, and how to use community systems and services. A community advisor may also be provided to help the child make the difficult transition into independent living. The advisor can help with more of the community and life skills development.
In order for a child to take part in the Independent Living Subsidy program, they must meet all of the following requirements.
- In the custody of CPS or a licensed child welfare agency
- Adjudicated dependent or involved in the Transitional Independent Living Program
- At least 17 years old
- Employed or a full-time student
These requirements are only to determine if the child is eligible for the program. It is up to CPS staff to determine if the child should participate in the program. To pass CPS standards a child needs to show the ability to assume responsibility and work toward self-sufficiency. This can be demonstrated by how well the child can set goals and complete tasks, make decisions, managing finances, and demonstrates a willingness to follow program requirements.
If unable demonstrate the ability to be self-sufficient or has great difficulty handling independent living, the child will be returned to an out-of-home placement. The child can also request to be returned to an out-of-home placement after entering the independent living program.
The Transitional Independent Living Program allow youths who came through the foster care system a small extension to help them prepare for adulthood. In order to qualify, the youth must be in an approved placement program on their 18th birthday. The youth must also demonstrate a willingness to achieve self-sufficiency by participating in educational, vocational, employment, or other transitional support services. If approved for the program, the youth will receive the following services in addition to the services listed for the independent living program:
- Cost of care
- Medical and dental services
Participation in the program ends when the youth reaches 21 years of age, voluntarily leaves the program, or does not meet the requirements of the program.
An important note: state agencies cannot sign for a driver's permit or a driver's license. Foster parents, parents, or guardians may sign, but CPS cannot accept responsibility for the youth's actions.
Long-term Foster Care
Long-term foster care is only intended to be an option when adoption and guardianship are not in the best interests of a child under 16 years old, and the child is expected to remain in out-of-home care until they turn 18. To allow long-term foster care, CPS, the potential foster family, and the child need to formalize an agreement to support the continuity and stability of the foster home.
When a long-term foster provider has been selected, CPS must have a compelling reason why the foster family will not consider adoption or guardianship of the child but placement with the family is still in the child's best interest. This also needs to be accompanied by reasons why adoption or guardianship are not in the child's best interest. If the child is over 12 years old and is unwilling to consent to an adoption, be sure that the benefits of adoption and guardianship have been explained to the child.
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