INDIANAPOLIS — Transitioning into adulthood can be scary for anyone, but it’s especially daunting for those youth in the foster care system when they turn 18 years old.
That’s why the Department of Child Services wants foster families to be aware of the critical services it offers, so foster youth can continue to lead productive lives. T
he department has increased funding for older foster youth the past three years.
“Going into the system, it was scary because I was separated from my older sister,” Davita Short said. She spent eight years in foster care.
As she got older, having a loving and supportive foster family, she says, at 16, Short began working with her collaborative care case manager, known as a 3CM.
One is assigned to every foster youth over age 16 who is likely to not exit foster care through reunification or adoption, though those permanency plan options are still pursued even after a Collaborate Care Case Manager is assigned.
The 3CM will manage the case for the duration of the youth’s time in care.
“For me, collaborative care really helped me grow,” Short said. “And helped me become more of an adult. It helped me apply for jobs and also helped me to budget.”
Through the program, they helped her apply for colleges and scholarships, and now, she’s a student at Vincennes University.
“Collaborative care is extended foster care,” said David Reed, child welfare services deputy director for the Department of Child Services. “So young people can choose to stay in foster care beginning at age 18 voluntarily but foster care for an adult looks different than for a 12-year-old.”
This means, they could live in their own apartment or in a college dorm, while still being supported financially by the Department of Child Services.
“We can help them with rent, help them with utilities, or food, transportation, education costs,” Reed said.
“It made me feel comfortable,” Short said. “It made me realize that there’s people that are wanting to help me and want to see me succeed.”
“For them to hear from up a peer, it’s going to be ok and it’s ok to take advantage of these resources available, you do not have to be alone. That’s a message that we really want to get out there to our young people,” Terry Stigdon, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, said. “We don’t want them to be alone.”
Right now, there are currently 344 youth across the state utilizing these services.
While some foster youth might experience what’s referred to as “system fatigue,” by the time they’re 18 — having spent years in the system — and choose not to utilize these services, that’s ok, too. They’re able to call back at any point and re-enter until age 23.
“It’s voluntary," Reed said. "You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. We can’t make you. But we are not going to turn our back on you yet. We want to make sure that young people who are exiting our system all of them know that.”
“Take advantage of the resources that are being presented in front of you! They’re awesome! They are great and they help you,” Short said.
Foster youth can call this hotline number to be connected with services at any time by calling 1-800-800-5556.