In New Jersey each year, close to 800 young people age out of foster care when they reach the age of 18. Legally eligible to leave the foster care system, they are often unprepared to make informed decisions about education, health, housing, job, and other issues that are critical to their becoming self-sufficient adults.
To assist these young people in transitioning successfully to independence and to help all of the 15 to 21-year-olds currently in foster care placement (roughly 4000), the Child Advocacy Clinic at Rutgers School of Law–Newark has partnered with the NJ Child Placement Advisory Council (CPAC) to develop a manual Aging Out: Don’t Miss Out. The publication explains the social service and court processes and informs the youth about what they are entitled to from the NJ Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS).
“The need for this manual is critical,” said Lila Bernstein, chair of CPAC. “Most of these youth are unaware that there are services and resources available, such as housing, health insurance, clothing, and vouchers for post-secondary education. In fact, DYFS is mandated to provide these and other services until they are 21.”
These youth have few if any supportive adults in their lives. “While there is some information available for the social services providers of the resources that exist for these young people,” noted Professor Randi Mandelbaum, Director of the Rutgers clinic, “none of it is written for the youth themselves.” Law students in Mandelbaum’s Child Advocacy Clinic wrote the manual, which was then edited by Bernstein and Mandelbaum and revised after focus groups were held with young people.
Beginning in November and going forward, informational sessions will be held throughout the State with young people in the foster care system to distribute Aging Out: Don’t Miss Out and answer their questions. Child Placement Review Board citizen volunteers, law students from the Rutgers Child Advocacy Clinic, and young people, many former foster youth. Additional distribution efforts also are planned.
For more information or a sample copy, contact the Rutgers Child Advocacy Clinic at 973-353-3196 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT CAC and CPAC – The Rutgers Child Advocacy Clinic (CAC), which began in August 2000, focuses on addressing the needs of children and their families through individual advocacy, community education and outreach, and program and policy development. The CAC has a twofold mission of serving the needs of children who are at risk and living in poverty, and educating law students to be highly-skilled practitioners. The NJ Child Placement Advisory Council (CPAC), established in 1978, by State statute, focuses on community education and outreach, such as educating and training volunteers, producing a monthly newsletter, The Flash, about child welfare issues, and publishing an Annual Report on the effectiveness of the implementation of the Child Placement Review Act. CPAC is also responsible for reviewing the policies, practices, and procedures of DYFS.
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