When you turn 18, you are legally considered an “adult'' and can leave foster care. This may not be the best thing though. Most kids struggle financially when they leave CPS care at 18. Unless you get a job, you will not be able to pay your rent, electricity or other basic living necessities.You can stay in foster care past age 18 (or return to foster care).
If you decide to leave foster care at age 18 (or older) you enter a period called “Trial Independence.” This period of time is usually 6 months but can be up to 12 months. If you decide that things aren’t really working out though, you still have the option to return to Extended Foster Care if you meet the rules and a placement is found for you.
Leaving foster care to go to a college and living in a dorm could be considered trial independence. When you come back in the summer months, you are back in Extended Foster Care and when you go back to school, Trial Independence starts again.
The difficult reality is that there are not many placement options for older kids. If you have had trouble in placements before, it might be more challenging. Before you decide to leave foster care you should make sure that you have enough money saved to find a place to live.
PAL is shorthand for “Preparation for Adult Living.” Once you turn 16, CPS will provide you with PAL classes and you must complete them. You will also have a PAL worker. This person will be able to help you with all of your eligible benefits.
If you are 18 and want to remain in the care of CPS, you will be in what’s referred to as “extended foster care.” You can stay in extended foster care until age 22. While you’re in extended foster care, you will be able to make decisions for yourself but you will have to follow the rules of your placement as well as the rules of the Extended Foster Care Agreement.
• Attend school or
In order to stay in extended foster care, you will have to continue to work or be in school. If you don’t, you will have to leave foster care. Let your caseworker and PAL worker know if you need help getting a job, or enrolling in school.
Staying in CPS care past age 18 is called Extended Foster Care. You will need to sign an Extended Foster Care Agreement with your caseworker before your 18th birthday. Usually at this point one of the specialty courts (CPC or GCC) will hear your cases. In some instances, the original court that heard your CPS case will still be the one hearing your case in Extended Jurisdiction. The court will have authority over your case to make orders in case there is something you need. No hearings are required to take place during this time and you CANNOT be required to attend any hearing that the Court may choose to hold during this time. If you are experiencing problems or have issues, it might be a good idea for you to attend a hearing so that you can get help from the court. Your CPS caseworker will not be supervising your case or maintaining contact with you unless you ask for assistance like transitional living services or aftercare room and board or ETV.
Once you are 18 you are an adult and you are not in CPS legal custody. Extended Jurisdiction really is a good thing for foster kids. Being in Extended Care allows you the opportunity to have all your needs taken care of (housing, medical, food) and you can focus on work or school. It doesn’t hurt to sign the Extended Care Agreement because you can always change your mind later. The reverse though, is not always true. When you are considering Extended Jurisdiction, remember that you will be helped by your CPS caseworker, AAL and court.
Where you will live while in foster care or after can be a challenging process but your caseworker can help you decide what the best option is for you. Below are links to some of the options available.
Supervised Independent Living or SIL is an option for youth ages 18-20. These placements are very limited though so you will need to talk to your PAL worker about this. If you attend a college or university in Texas, some of the dorms are considered SIL placements.
What colleges have SIL
When you leave foster care, you can receive $1,000 in what’s called TLA. In order to get the TLA you must do a few things.
(1) Complete your PAL classes
(2) Have a job or be looking for a job and
(3) Be a US citizen or have a legal immigration status
You will need to contact your PAL worker to get the TLA.
Some youth also qualify for aftercare funds. If you are actively working with your PAL worker, you may qualify for more financial help.
Low cost housing is available through HUD and is sometimes referred to as “Section 8” housing. There is a very long wait list for this so you need to apply asap. There may be programs available for former foster youth so be sure to ask about those. You can contact HUD online or by phone at 800-955-2232.
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