As a foster youth, you’ve worked hard in school—and in life—to build the skills needed to carry you into adulthood. But just because you’re turning 18 doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to be completely on your own. That’s why the state of Tennessee passed a law that gives you the option of receiving extension of foster care services until age 21.
This additional time will help you:
- Prepare for your future through additional educational and employment training opportunities
- Find and secure consistent and safe housing
- Build permanent connections with caring adults, including relatives, mentors and community members
- Grow more confident
Some specific benefits that may be available to you include:
- Education and Training Vouchers (up to $5,000 per year) to help pay for postsecondary education
- Foster care placement services for those who wish to stay in a foster home setting, OR an independent living allowance for those who wish to live independently
- Case management services
- Life skills instruction
- Independent living wraparound services
- Support of a Child and Family Team, family service worker, and court representatives
Receiving extension of foster care services is a choice. You can decide to leave foster care when you turn 18, or decide to continue receiving foster care services. You can also change your mind and return before age 21 to receive extended services and support as long as you meet the requirements.
There are a number of living arrangement options available to young adults who continue in foster care after age 18. These options include:
- Licensed or approved foster home
- Supervised independent living (This housing option can be an apartment with or without a roommate or a room-and-board living arrangement, such as a dorm. Such a placement will need to be approved, and young adults may be able to receive an independent living allowance directly if they choose this living arrangement.)
- The home of a relative or nonrelated supportive adult (Additional steps will need to be taken in order to qualify for placement support.)
- Certain group home settings
To receive extension of foster care services after age 18, you must have been released from Department of Children’s Services (DCS) custody and turned 18 in a qualifying placement setting, be a Tennessee resident, be a U.S. citizen or qualified alien, AND be doing one of the following to qualify:
- Completing high school or an equivalent program
- Enrolled in college, community college or a vocational program
- Young adults who are unable to do one of the above requirements because of a medical condition may also be eligible for services and support.
You also have responsibilities. They include:
- Signing an agreement to participate
- Working with a Child and Family Team to create and update a Transition Plan
- Working with a Child and Family Team to reach Transition Plan goals
- Meeting monthly with a family service worker to track the plan, identify any needed supports and discuss how to achieve the Transition Plan goals
- Attending a court hearing or administrative review every six months
If you have questions about these services or would like more information, talk to your caseworker or call the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services at 844-887-7277.