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Support Services Available for Illinois Foster Children

Posted on in Adoption

Illinios adoption laws, Illinois family law attorney, children in foster careA recent audit report reveals that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) cannot accurately account for thousands of runaway or missing foster-care children. For example, the agency admitted that it cannot always distinguish between actual runaways and children who might have temporarily left home without informing their caregivers. Moreover, DCFS does not track the number of foster children who disappear each year or where they disappear from. DCFS officials did not deny that a problem exists, and said that they are working to improve their tracking system.

While foster care might seem like a shoddy substitute for “real” parenting, it is a rewarding system for many youth who might otherwise languish on the streets or land in an orphanage. The audit report highlights a problem, but it also demonstrates that state officials want the foster system to work.

Helping Foster Children Transition to Adulthood

Although foster care is not the best solution for every child, for some children, it is the only option. In recognition of that fact, Illinois has implemented various programs designed specifically for foster children. One example that demonstrates Illinois’s commitment to its foster children is the Foster Child Successful Transition to Adulthood Act, which allows foster children who leave the system before their 21st birthdays to either re-enter the system or to access support services. In other words, the state does not leave foster children to fend for themselves the moment they turn 18 years old.

The act directs DCFS to “provide or authorize child welfare services, aimed at assisting minors to achieve sustainable self-sufficiency as independent adults.” Here are a few things that foster children should know about their rights under this law:

  • Participating youth must cooperate with their assigned case manager to identify which services will be provided and to discuss what steps the youth should take to become self-sufficient;
  • Participating youth will not be housed in a homeless shelter; and
  • Participating youth are eligible until age 21, or until they no longer consent to participating, or until they reach self-sufficiency as identified in their service plan.

The takeaway is that Illinois foster children have access to child welfare services until their 21st birthdays. The state wants these children to be prepared for adulthood and is willing to work with them in advance. If you are a foster child, do not wait until the month before your 21st birthday to request these services. And if you are a foster parent, encourage your children to participate.

Our dedicated Kane County family law attorneys have experience with the foster system, as well as adoption and other related services. If you have a question regarding your rights and responsibilities as a foster parent, or regarding your rights under the Foster Child Successful Transition to Adulthood Act, contact us today for a consultation. We can assist those in the St. Charles area.
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