Welcome to the Youth Guide. In a little while, you’re going to age out of foster care. We have some great tips to help you prepare for that day. Check out the Age Timeline to see what steps you can take this year to get you in a good place now and get you ready for your future.

Your Age

Event | Initial Independent Living (IL) Assessment

The Casey Life Skills Assessment is a preferred tool to be administered within 30 days after you turn 14 years of age if you are in foster care; if you are just entering foster care, the assessment is required to be administered within 30 days of your entering. The IL Assessment is to be re-administered annually.
The IL Assessment helps you identify your strengths and what you need to work on to prepare for transitioning to adulthoood. The IL Assessment is NOT a test – it’s a tool that gives you information for developing your IL Services and Transition Plan.

Event | IL Services and Transition Plan (ILSTP)

This Plan is required to be developed for every youth in foster care age 14 or older. The Plan is to be reviewed and updated every 12 months.

Your Opportunities

  • YOU have a central role in all service planning and decision making.
  • YOU identify family members and others you trust to become part of YOUR TEAM to help prepare you for adulthood.
  • YOU set the goals for learning.
  • YOU select the independent living services and activities you’ll complete to achieve your goals.
  • YOU identify how YOUR TEAM members can support you.

Congratulations! You can now attend all Project LIFE programming including conferences and workshops!

Event | IL Needs Assessment – Update

You get an updated look at your strengths and what you need to work on next. You will use this information to update your IL Services and Transition Plan.

Event | IL Services and Transition Plan – Review and Update

With your TEAM, you will

  • Record your progress,
  • Select what you will work on next, and
  • Identify how members of your team will assist you.

Hooray! You can still attend all Project LIFE programming including conferences and workshops!
When you turn 16, you can apply for the SPEAKOUT board.

Event | IL Needs Assessment – Update

You get an updated look at your strengths and what you need to work on next. You will use this information to update your IL Services and Transition Plan.

Event | NYTD Survey

You may be asked to respond to a National Youth in Transition (NYTD) Survey. If you respond when you are 17, you will be asked to complete the survey again when you are 19 and 21.

YOUR responses are important! They will be used to help improve the foster care system.

Hooray! You can still attend all Project LIFE programming including conferences and workshops!
You can apply for the SPEAKOUT board.

Event | 90-Day Transition Plan

The Transition Plan is completed during the 90-day period before you turn 18 years of age. At 18, you are legally an adult.

The 90-Day Transition Plan for Success has three sections:

1. A list of your Rights and Responsibilities. When you turn 18, you are legally an adult. Your status in foster care changes and you may choose to stop Independent Living services. The Rights and Responsibilities list explains these changes in detail, the options you have and conditions that are attached to the options.

2. Your Current Plan for Successful Transition from foster care to adulthood. This lays out your specific plans for transitioning from foster care to independence. It also confirms the status of your critical documents (such as birth certificate) and contains an updated list of your connections with trusted adults.

3. Independent Living Services and Transition Plan for Young Adults. Just as in the past, your independent living transition plan is to be completed by you, with your worker and your team. This is the plan you intend to follow for as long as you continue to receive Independent Living services.

This Plan represents the culmination of all your prior efforts and documents the ways you are prepared for transition.
With involvement of your TEAM, you will document your plans for:

  • Permanency
  • Housing
  • School and career
  • Your money
  • Health care
  • You will also be given copies of all your essential documents.

Hooray! You can still attend all Project LIFE programming including conferences and workshops!
You can apply for the SPEAKOUT board.

Event | IL Transition Plan for Young Adults

If you continue to receive IL services, you will have a Transition Plan for Young Adults that describes the support you will receive and any conditions that apply.

Event | Upon high school graduation or GED completion, you may be eligible for:

  • Tuition Grant Program.
  • Education and Training Vouchers (ETV).
  • Other needs-based scholarships.

When you turn 18 years of age, your status in foster care and in many other areas of life changes.

There is an exit survey from VDSS. The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation directing the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) to develop and administer a survey to gather feedback from youth exiting the Commonwealth’s foster care system. The objective of the Youth Exit Survey is to learn about the relationships, resources, activities, and overall experiences of youth who have been in care. It is an important way to give voice to youth exiting the foster care system. Ask your worker about this and be ready to share your experience.

Under Virginia law, you are an adult. As you assume the rights of an adult, you also assume the  responsibilities. Some of the rights you have at age 18 that you didn’t have before include:

  • The right to vote.
  • The right to enter into a contract.
  • The right to apply for credit in your own name.

Some of the new responsibilities that you have include:

  • You are responsible for your actions. If you violate the law, you will be tried and sentenced as an adult, not as a juvenile.
  • You may be sued by others if you fail to keep the terms of contracts you make.

You are now eligible for Fostering Futures.

Your Opportunities:

  • Before you graduate, begin the process by completing the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Tuition Grant Program covers tuition and fees at any Virginia Community College
  • ETV helps with post-secondary education and training expenses.
  • Other grants and scholarships may be available

Hooray! You can still attend all Project LIFE programming including conferences and workshops!
You can apply for the SPEAKOUT board.

Event | Foster care and independent living services end.

You make a successful transition to adulthood with support from trusted adults connected to you!

IF you are enrolled in college and are already an ETV participant, benefits may continue until age 26. You can continue to receive help with education expenses if you meet the qualifications. Click here to learn more about the ETV and eligibility.

You are now a Project LIFE alumni. If you’d like to participate in the conference, you can do so by volunteering.


Adult Supporter:

An adult who partners with a youth to help him or her achieve a goal or who partners with an agency to promote youth engagement


A strategic action or plan used to influence decision-making and positive change. Simply put, advocacy is speaking or acting on behalf of oneself or someone else.

Casey Life Skills Assessment (CLSA):

An assessment and planning tool for evaluating the life skills of older youth and young adults. It is youth-centered and strength-based in evaluating the independent living skills and needs of youth in foster care. The ACLSA identifies the youth’s strengths and needs in nine domains: career planning, communication, daily living, housing and money management, self care, social relationships, work life, and work and study skills. The domain scores indicate areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. (

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA):

Individuals appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected youth, to ensure youth are spoken for in the overburdened legal and social service systems and do not languish in inappropriate group or foster homes

Comprehensive Services Act (CSA):

The purpose of the act is to provide high quality, youth-centered, family-focused, cost effective, communi- ty-based services to high-risk youth and their families.

Community Policy and Management Team (CPMT):

A team of individuals who create, maintain and manage a collaborative system of services and funding that is youth-centered, family-focused, and community based when addressing the strengths and needs of at-risk youth and their families.

Education Training Voucher Program (ETV):

A program that financially assists eligible foster care and adopted youth with post-secondary education and training expenses, including: colleges, universities and vocational training programs.


A process that strengthens and/or increases one’s ability socially, economically, politically, and/or spiritually. An empowered individual is able to solve his or her own problems and gain the necessary resources to positively impact his or her own life.

Family Assessment and Planning Team (FAPT):

Comprised of the supervisory-level staff from the same agencies as the CPMT, as well as a parent, member from the community and often a private provider. These teams work with families to develop an Individual Family  Services Plan (IFSP).

Family Engagement Model (FEM):

A key building block of the Children’s Services System Transformation that identifies a structured and deliberate approach to partnering with families. The Family Engagement Model recognizes that:

  • All families have strengths.
  • Families are the experts on themselves.
  • Families deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Families can make well-informed decisions about keeping their children safe when supported.
  • Outcomes improve when families are involved in decision-making.
  • A team is often more capable of creative and high-quality decision-making than an individual.

Family Partnership Meetings (FPM):

A deliberate and structured approach to involving youth and families in decision-making through a facilitated meeting of the family, their supports, and professionals working with the family. The team collaboratively develops ideas and establishes a decision for the child or family throughout the family’s involvement with the agency.

Guardian Ad Litem (GAL):

An attorney appointed by a judge to assist the court in determining the circumstances of a matter before the court. It is the fundamental responsibility of the GAL to provide independent recommendations to the court about the client’s best interests, which can be different from advocating for what the client wants, and to bring balance to the decision-making process. The GAL may conduct interviews and investigations, make reports to the court, and participate in court hearings or mediation sessions.

Independent Living (IL):

Having the self-determination to make decisions that affect one’s life and the ability to pursue activities of one’s own choosing.

Independent Living Services:

Services and supports that are designed with and provided to youth ages 14-21 in foster care. They build upon the strengths and meet the unique needs of the youth in preparing for the transition to adulthood. Independent Living services include activities that are based on a written assessment of life skills.

Individual Family Services Plan (ISFP):

A family-focused plan that identifies a youth’s current developmental levels, what services will be provided to advance those levels, and what goals one would like the youth to reach. It also contains valuable information about the youth’s strengths, needs, likes, and dislikes.

Lifelong Connections:

A mutually beneficial relationship in which an adult consistently states and demonstrates unconditional caring and support to a youth throughout his or her life.

National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD):

A data system created to track independent living services and learn how successful states are in preparing youth to move from foster care into adulthood. Every three years beginning on October 1, 2010, Virginia surveys youth in foster care at age 17 and conducts follow-up surveys of the same youth at age 19 and again at age 21.


A process and a result that includes involvement of the youth as a participant or leader in finding a lasting connection with at least one committed adult who provides:

  • A safe, stable and secure parenting relationship.
  • Love.
  • Unconditional commitment.
  • Lifelong support in the context of reunification, a legal adoption or guardianship where possible, and in which the youth has the opportunity to maintain contacts with important persons, including brothers and sisters.

Positive Youth Development (PYD):

Attending to and supporting the development of universal needs in youth versus attending to what is wrong with youth. The four universal developmental needs are identified by the Circle of Courage. Goals of PYD are:

  • Promoting positive relationships with peers.
  • Emphasizing youths’ strengths.
  • Providing opportunities to learn healthy behaviors.
  • Connecting youth with caring adults.
  • Empowering youth to assume leadership roles in programs.
  • Challenging youth in ways that build their competence.

Service Learning:

Engagement in deliberate action that benefits the public good in order to develop, reinforce or strengthen learning goals.

Transition Plan:

Specifies the independent living services, activities, and supports that will be provided to help youth transition to adulthood. The plan is to be:

  • Youth-driven.
  • Based on your IL needs assessment.
  • Developed through a team process.


VDSS stands for Virginia Department of Social Services. You can visit their page and our VDSS page to learn more.

Youth/Adult Partnerships:

A collaborative partnership in which youth and adults are involved in their community. Youth and adults develop relationships that are characterized by respect and mutuality in teaching, learning, and action as it relates to youth in foster care. Action may involve youth advocating for their rights in the form of lobbying with legislators, as well as providing service to the community.

Youth Engagement:

Involving youth in shaping their own lives and the future of the world around them. For youth in foster care, it specifically means involving them in case planning and encouraging them to advocate for themselves.

Youth Involvement:

A deliberate effort that centers on young peoples’ participation in personal, social, institutional, cultural, and other forms of action throughout society.

Youth Driven:

A process or activity is youth driven when youth are self-directed, involved and have real choice in deciding what the next step(s) are. It is important to note that interdependence may outweigh individual independence.

Youth Voice:

The ideas, opinions, experiences, attitudes, knowledge, and actions of young people.

Youth Welfare Approach (YWA):

The Youth Welfare Approach (formerly called the Youth Welfare Model) is an approach that Virginia will be transitioning to. The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) will release more information on the shift as it’s available.