Every year in New Jersey, young adults, age 18, leave foster care. They often face challenges without the support of family and friends. Many are homeless, unemployed, and without health care. In response to this problem, New Jersey’s child welfare agency, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), formerly DYFS, recently began helping young adults who have reached the age where they are too old to remain in (are aging out of) DCP&P foster care. If you or someone you know will age out of DCP&P foster care, this article will help you to understand what services are available and how to get them.
Are you eligible?
In order to get services, an aging-out young adult must either:
Be in an out-of-home placement through DCP&P (an out-of home-placement is when a judge orders your removal and placement either with a relative or in foster care as a result of concerns about your health and safety); or
Have aged out of DCP&P care at 18 and be no older than 21.
If you are not currently in an out-of-home placement or did not age out of such a placement, you are not eligible for assistance.
What services are available?
DCP&P should begin giving services to youths under their care beginning at age 14. Services may continue until the age of 21, if the young adult meets the service requirements. Some of the services that aging-out youth may get are:
Life skills assessment. Youths in care at age 14 should receive a life skills assessment. A life skills assessment tests a youth’s basic skills in daily living, career planning, housing, and money management. A life skills assessment is an ongoing process. The results of this assessment should help DCP&P to come up with a transition plan for services that may assist the aging-out youth in leaving foster care.
Independent living program. The independent living program is a program available to youths age 16 or older if no other appropriate, supervised placement is available. An independent living arrangement does not always mean that a youth has his or her own apartment. Some independent living programs are part of a residential program or group home. DCP&P must approve the placement of a youth in this program and:
Medicaid. Medicaid coverage through DCP&P usually ends when a youth reaches the age of 18. A new DCP&P policy extends Medicaid coverage for all youths aging out of the Division’s care at age 18. The Medicaid extension is automatic, but aging-out youths should talk to their DCP&P case workers to make sure that their Medicaid coverage continues.
Aftercare services. Aftercare services include wraparound services, help with finding a job, applying to school, and developing other life skills or support. Aftercare services are intended to help youths 18 and over, but to be eligible for these services a youth must either:
DCP&P works with other agencies to provide aftercare services. The other agencies should give the youth information about the services and about financial assistance.
Can services be refused?
At the age of 18, youths eligible for the services outlined above can sign themselves out of DCP&P supervision. The DCP&P case worker will ask them to sign forms closing their cases and refusing services.
If you are an aging-out youth who has refused services and you have changed your mind, you may ask DCP&P for help getting those services if you ask before you reach the age of 21. The DCP&P case worker or aftercare service provider should reopen your case. If you are unable to get your case reopened, contact LSNJLAWSM, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, for assistance. The hotline telephone number is 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529) or (732) 572-9100 if you are calling from outside New Jersey.
This information last reviewed: Jan 12, 2017