Independent Living Program and Young Adult Program
The state of Arizona provides services to assist teens in foster care to develop the skills and competencies necessary for a successful transition to adulthood. "Foster care" means any type of out-of-home placement, including relative/kinship care, licensed foster care, licensed group home/RTC, Independent Living Subsidy, etc.
Services are available to youth in foster care who have been identified as "likely" to reach the age of 18 while in foster care, and to former foster youth living in Arizona, who are under 21 years of age, and were in a state or tribal foster care system at age 16 or older, or were adopted from a state foster care system at age 16 or older. The program providing these services is referred to as the Arizona Young Adult Program (AYAP) or Independent Living Program (ILP).
The state also has a process that ensures your concerns/complaints are heard, including a formal grievance process. For more information on this and other questions about foster care and services, follow the link to our online Children’s Services Manual. (Chapter 5 Sections 34-37 contains information on Young Adult Program services and Chapter 7 Section 19 provides information on Resolving Conflict, including formal grievance procedures.)
Services provided through the Young Adult Program (YAP) include:
Independent Living / Life Skills Training
Budgeting and learning to manage money are things that most adults DON’T do well. Many people get into credit trouble and never get out. Knowing how to make good purchases, cook, clean and do other daily tasks are skills that are learned. Training is available to both current and former foster youth to learn these skills. Learning how to budget money, avoid debt, get the most out of your shopping dollar, sanitizing your home, doing laundry, getting around town, and other daily living skills are essential skills necessary for adulthood.
The best time to talk about WHO is going to teach WHAT is during the case plan staffing. Be sure to attend the staffing and let the service team (those people who participate in the planning) know what you need. You have many resources when it comes to skills training. You may prefer to learn online, or enroll in classes at school, or perhaps have your foster parent (or other caregiver) teach you to cook.
Educational Support and Assistance
The Arizona Department of Economic Security, Division of Children, Youth and Families have two Education Specialists who focus on improving education outcomes of children who are in the custody of the state of Arizona. Education assistance is provided to youth in foster care who have been identified as likely to reach the age of 18 while in foster care. The program, known as the Arizona Young Adult Program (AYAP) or Independent Living Program (ILP), is also available to those who:
- Are former foster youth living in Arizona,
- Are under 21 years of age,
- Were in a state or tribal foster care system at age 16 or older, or
- Were adopted from a state foster care system at age 16 or older.
Finishing high school should be the top priority. Making sure the student is on track to graduate is best accomplished through minimal school change. Encourage the student to request assistance for any academic barriers/ struggles. Federal legislation, such as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, assists foster youth in placement transitions. Special Education assistance provides assessments and annual reviews to identify strengths and weaknesses regarding education. Students with Individual Education Plans (IEP) will often receive accommodation to assist with AIMS testing. With or without an IEP, students are able to request tutoring from their school for AIMS and the Department of Education provides sample AIMS tests to assist students.
Earning a GED is an alternative from the traditional high school setting. GED classes are offered online and through a variety of education, training and employment programs. Information on GED requirements and testing is available through the Department of Education.
Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program
Arizona ETV Application Instructions
The Education and Training Voucher program gives money to current and former foster youth. Funds are for costs related to higher education and training programs. You must have been in foster care at the age of 16 or 17. You must enroll in a post-secondary program. It must be recognized by the Arizona Department of Education. You may receive help until you reach the age of 21. If you are making satisfactory progress at the time of your 21st birthday, you may continue to receive ETV. You may receive it until you reach the age of 23.The ETV is based on need. The application considers all school/training expenses. It includes living expenses, income, and financial resources. There must be financial need in order to issue the ETV.
Contact the Arizona Coordinator here.
Being in work related activities is a great way to decide what you want to do. There are many types of opportunities. Being ready for the duties of a job is critical to success at work. You can do volunteer work, job shadowing, job preparation classes and other activities.
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funds a variety of career centers and "One-Stop" sites which offer employment aid. DES also has a JOBS program through the local FAA office. For more information, visit the Employment Administration Web Site. The Independent Living Program (ILP) and Transitional Independent Living Program (TILP) contract providers are also able to help. If you are still in foster care, the case manager will need to send a referral to the contract provider. If you are no longer in care may contact the contractor directly.
The AZ Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program can also help you to secure enrollment in a post-secondary training program. Think about the kinds of careers that interest you. Think about what skills you will need in order to get a good job. Check the papers and see what kinds of jobs pay a high enough wage for you to live on. Check to see what training program will best fit you. Anything is possible!
Understanding and healing the past can be very important. The Department of Health Services, Division of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS) is in charge of counseling. They contract with local groups called Regional Behavioral Health Authority or RBHA. RBHAs contract with local service providers. For more information, go to the DBHS Web site to find a link to the local RBHA provider.
There are also ways to get connected with alumni of foster care. The Foster Care Alumni Association has two Chapter sites in Arizona. Peer mentoring programs such as In My Shoes, Inc. and FosterClub are good supports. If you are enrolled in a state university or community college, there may also be an on campus group to join. Ask at the campus Student Services office.
Independent Living Subsidy
The Department offers a monthly allowance to qualified youth who participate in the Independent Living Subsidy Program (ILSP). You must be in the custody of the Department. You can't be living at home with your parents. You must be ready for the program. You also have to agree to standards in your ILSP plan. Some of the standards include finding a community advisor, enrollment in education and/or employment, etc. In the ILSP, if you are 17 and older you may receive a monthly allowance. The money is to help pay for your living costs while living on your own in your community.
The Independent Living Subsidy replaces any other foster care maintenance money. It is paid to you. The subsidy is available until you are 21. You have to be working toward your goals. If you are under 17, you can’t participate because of statute regulations. If you have questions, you can look at the policy manual. Click on Chapter 5, Section 36 "Independent Living Subsidy Program."
Youth Advocacy & Rights
You can become a "voice" for youth in foster care. You can be a part of the statewide Youth Advisory Board. This board meets with the state Independent Living Coordinator, agency administrators and other decision makers. Their goal is to improve foster care for all youth. Area Advisory Boards may also be available for you to join. Check with your local IL Coordinator to join your local board, or to find out how to go about starting a local board.
On July 13, 2009, Governor Brewer signed into law the Bill of Rights for Children and Youth in Foster Care. This bill founds rights for services for older youth in care. It also establishes your rights with placements and education. It goes on to establish your rights for contact with family and community.
In summary, as a child in foster care, you have the right to:
- Live in a place that provides the amount of direction and help that you need. You should also be able to do normal activities.
- Live in a safe, healthy and comfortable placement. Your caregivers can speak the same language as you, show respect for you, and protect you from harm. They give you personal privacy, as well as good food and clothing. They also allow you to have personal possessions and enough space to store all of your things.
- Know why you are in foster care and what will happen to you and your family. You have the right to help with planning for your “case”. You have the right to visits with your family while you are away from home, with any restrictions explained to you in a way you can understand.
- Be disciplined in a manner that makes sense for you and allows you to understand when a behavior is not acceptable. It gives you a chance to change that behavior, in a good way.
- Go to community, school and religious activities of your choice. You have the right to receive an education that fits you best.
- Learn how to take care of your personal hygiene and grooming.
- Have contact information for your caseworker, attorney or advocate and to speak with them in private if needed. You have the right to attend court hearings and speak to the judge.
- Have your records and personal information kept private. It should only be given to people who need the information in order to take care of you.
- Have necessary medical, mental health or drug treatment. To be free of excessive medication. To have information on who to call if you have a disability and need help.
- Receive a copy of these rights, and to report a violation of these rights.
If you are at least sixteen years of age you also have the right to:
- Attend life skills classes and join in activities that allow you to practice these skills.
- A transition plan that includes career planning and help with enrolling in an educational or vocational job training program.
- Be informed of school prospects before you leave foster care.
- Help in getting a place to live when you are ready to leave foster care.
- Request a court hearing to decide if you can consent to your own medical care.
- Have help with getting a social security number, birth certificate or state ID card.
- Get personal information within thirty days after leaving foster care. This includes your birth certificate, shot records, and education and health records.
For a full accounting of these rights, see the Arizona Revised Statutes, Children, Chapter 5, Article 1, 8-529.
Voluntary Foster Care for Young Adults 18 Through 20
If you turn 18 while in the Arizona foster care you may sign a voluntary agreement. It is to continue your placement (including the IL Subsidy). You can continue services until your 21st birthday. The agreement must complement your efforts to be self-sufficient. It should make you responsible for transitioning to adulthood. It must show your goals and what you will do to meet your goals. For example, if you have a goal of finishing high school, you will be responsible for attending classes. You will be responsible for doing homework. You will be responsible for getting tutoring or other services you need to graduate.
You are eligible to remain in care if you turn 18 while in the custody of ADES. You must live in an approved placement. You will be under the supervision of the ADES.
You must sign an agreement with the department. The agreement must complement your efforts to be self-sufficient. It should make you responsible for transitioning to adulthood.
Your case manager will help you to write the agreement. They will help find supports for your transition to adulthood. The information provided will include supports for where you want to live. It will include education and training supports. It includes employment and counseling resources. It may include other support resources such as mentorship.
Young Adult’s Rights and Responsibilities:
You will show responsibility for transitioning to adulthood by working with the CPS Specialist and:
- Maintain enrollment in a school or training program of your choice;
- Participate in the school of your choice and work towards graduation;
- Maintain a job or an activity that provides work skills. These activities include volunteering or job readiness classes;
- Know your physical and mental health needs and participate in services. If you choose not to participate, you must have plans to address your health needs;
- maintaining a safe living arrangement of your choice;
- participate in activities that support permanent connections with adults; and
- Stay in contact with your case manager. You must immediately report changes to your living arrangement. You must report changes in education, training or employment or health status.
CPS Specialist Responsibilities
The CPS Specialist is responsible for working with you. They should be giving you information on services. Services should support your goals. They include education, training, employment and counseling needs.
The CPS Specialist will:
- Help create an agreement for continued care. It should reflect your goals and document those services and supports to help you in achieving positive outcomes. They include permanent connections with supportive adults.
- Ensure all authorizations for payment of services are in place prior to your 18th birthday.
- Ensure you have an original birth certificate, social security card, and state ID card.
- Provide you with family history. It should include a medical history. It should include any photos, letters or other family history available in the case record.
If the Specialist thinks any of the history may hurt to you, therapeutic support will be requested, to meet your needs.
After Care Services
You can get transitional support if you were in an out of home placement through state or tribal foster care when you were 16 years or older. To get services, you must be a legal resident of Arizona between the ages of 18 and 21. The services are given by groups in the community that have contracts with the state. To use these services, you will create and sign a plan that includes how you plan to transition to being an independent adult. Supports are available for help with counseling, housing, jobs, and school. Money is also available to help with living costs. Living costs include food, clothes, and housing costs. It is only available to you if you turned 18 while you were still in foster care. If you were 18 when you left you are also able to apply to re-enter foster care before the age of 21.
Physical and Mental Healthcare Services
Foster care provides health care to foster youth to age 18. Arizona extends health care to youth 18 to 21. If you were in the Arizona foster care when you turned 18 you can get health insurance. You get it through the Medicaid program called AHCCCS. AHCCCS is "Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System"-Arizona’s Medicaid Program.
AHCCCS has many types of insurance. One is for youth who turned 18 while in care. It is called Young Adult Transitional Insurance or YATI. All Arizona foster youth who are Medicaid eligible are enrolled in to YATI. You are enrolled the month you turn 18. You can apply for YATI at the local Family Assistance Administration (FAA) office.
Foster youth who did not reach the age of 18 while in foster care may be able to get another AHCCCS plan. The Transitional Independent Living Program (TILP) can also help you to explore other health plans. Some schools offer a low cost health plan for purchase.
Counseling and other mental health services are available through the local Regional and Behavioral Health Agency (RBHA). The RHBAs get federal funds to provide mental health services to Arizona Residents. You can ask your Primary doctor for help with mental health.
Post-Secondary Education & Training
Education beyond high school is needed for financial security. The DCS Education Specialists are available to help.
Money for school is available from resources such as the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation. There is Federal Financial Aid and the Arizona Education and Training Voucher Program (AZETV). There are a lot of other scholarships for former foster youth. It is important to meet with the financial aid officer at the school and ask about them.
Other helpful resources:
- The College Board. Their mission is to connect students to college success. The College Board has more than 5,700 members. All of them are educational groups.
- Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education (ACPE). Their mission is to increase success in post-secondary education for Arizonans.
- ASU Financial Aid Department
- U of A Financial Aid Department
- NAU Financial Aid Department
- Maricopa Community Colleges
Other Services for IL & YAP
Finding a clean, safe, affordable place to live is often really hard. Leasing agents often will not sign a lease with a person who has no rental or credit history. They often won't lease to someone who is under 21 years of age. Housing is a required part of your transition plan. There is some money available (through TILP, AzETV, etc.) to help you get housing. Sharing expenses with a roommate or renting a room is a good way to build rental history. If you are attending post-secondary programs may also get housing in dorms or on campus. Some training programs, such as Phoenix Job Corps offer residency based programs.
Local Public Housing Authorities have housing resources. The resources are for people who are low income, veterans, or victims of domestic violence. They are for former foster youth. Transitional Living Programs (TLPs) are also in some areas of the state to help people age 18 and older. These programs are funded through federal, state and private money. TLPs are open to former foster youth. They are open to people who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness. The following is a list of some community transitional housing resources.
Re-Entry into Voluntary Foster Care
Former foster youth who are legal residents of Arizona, and who left the Arizona foster care system at age 18 or older, may request to re-enter foster care, anytime prior to the 21st birthday. All foster care and other services end on the person’s 21st birthday.
Re-entering foster care means the DCS will assign a case manager to help create a case plan, arrange for services, and monitor progress. All services provided must complement the youth’s own efforts to become self-sufficient. Youth must work cooperatively with the case manager in order to benefit from services, which may include long-term case management and support, a monthly living stipend, and coordination of services.
Youth may request re-entry by contacting the local Transitional Independent Living Program (after care) provider. The TILP contract provider will initially work with the youth to resolve immediate housing, mental health, employment or other crises, and to confirm the youth’s desire to return to DCS care. Once this is complete the TILP staff will contact DCS to arrange a meeting with the local Re-Entry coordinator to ensure a smooth transition back into care.
If a youth changes his/her mind, and decides he/she does not wish to return to care, the youth may still receive assistance from the TILP provider, who will work with the youth to identify goals and arrange for supportive services. This type of assistance is available until the youth turns 21, on an as needed basis. Services provided must complement the youth’s own efforts to become self-sufficient.
Termination of Services
The Arizona Young Adult Program has many services and opportunities available to help foster youth develop the skills and connections necessary to make a smooth transition to adulthood. The program does require that the services provided complement the foster youth’s own efforts towards becoming self-sufficient. This means that youth must be trying to help themselves by actively participating in things like school, training, therapeutic and health services, etc.
The DCS Children’s Services Manual outlines the conditions under which services to a foster youth may be terminated.
Participation in the Independent Living Program or in voluntary continued out-of-home care will be concluded when the young adult has:
- reached the age of 18 and does not desire continued services; or
- reached the age of 21; or
- made a voluntary decision to withdraw from the program; or
- Generally demonstrated non-compliance with or refusal to meet the requirements of the case plan.
The department shall not terminate voluntary foster care services until all requirements are satisfied, including the case plan staffing, grievance/complaint process and development and implementation of an appropriate discharge plan.
The department shall not transition a young adult to a state of homelessness.
For more information on termination of services, click on the policy manual link and go to Chapter 5, Section 5, "Discharge and Conclusion of the Voluntary Foster Care Program."
Youth also have a right to file a formal grievance, if he/she disagree with the termination of services. Click here for more information on resolving conflict and filing a grievance.
Resolving Conflict and Filing a Grievance
The Arizona Young Adult Program encourages youth to take advantage of services and supports available. These services and supports will be outlined in the case plan and agreed to by all parties (youth, case manager, service providers). The plan should be individualized and reflect what the youth’s wishes. If a youth age 18 or older does not actively participate in the case plan, the case manager may request termination of services. If the case manager recommends that services be terminated, the youth may take steps to have their situation reviewed. DCS policy states:
Clients, including children age 12 and older, out-of-home care providers, and service providers have the right to express dissatisfaction with services and/or treatment received.
Individuals served who have a complaint, will be provided a copy of the department’s written conflict resolution and grievance procedures and will be encouraged to raise the complaint informally with the supervisor for resolution. An individual may initiate a formal grievance request at any time during the process.
Conflicts shall be resolved at the lowest possible level.
Visit the Policy Manual for more information on how to file a grievance. Go to Chapter 7, Section 19, "Quality Assurance".