As children in foster care approach adulthood, they must soon leave and face new challenges. Transition planning for youth with disabilities helps them succeed in the next chapter of their lives.
Adulthood is a time of great change: you can become independent, pursue higher education, join the workforce, build connections, and play an active role in society. However, young adults with disabilities must often overcome greater obstacles to reach these opportunities. For those who have lived all or most of their lives in foster care, a well-planned transition is crucial. Proper transition planning for youth with disabilities addresses housing, medical care, ongoing support, and academic and vocational goals to help maximize success in the adult world. How should it start?
Plan in Advance
In Arkansas, transition planning should ideally begin at age 16 or earlier depending on the nature of the disability. A concrete transition plan should include specific goals, objectives, and timeframes and allocate specific duties to each person involved in the process.
Will the individual live alone or with supervision? Is he or she eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, Medicaid, or other health services? Where do academic and vocational objectives come into play? Outline which agencies should be involved in providing these services and how they fit together into the big picture. At the bare minimum, a transition plan accounts for the child’s education, employment, housing, activities of daily living (ADLs), individual identity, social and community involvement, overall health, and life skills.
Recruit a Dedicated Team
Due to the wide array of factors involved in the transition process, support is essential. People who can help ensure a successful outcome include:
- Family members, caregivers, and significant others
- Social services and foster care workers
- Financial services workers and supervisors
- Local support groups
- Physicians, therapists, and other health care professionals
- Teachers, counselors, and life coaches
- Residential services workers
- Job placement professionals, staffers, and recruiters
Studies show that young adults who have at least one caring adult consistently present fare much better throughout the transition process. If ongoing care is determined to be the best option for them, consider placing a community-based care program rather than a long-term care facility. Involve as many people as it takes, and coordinate all efforts to help address the child’s needs and avoid oversights.
Research and Understand Support Options
Many independent and government-sponsored programs can help ease the confusion surrounding the transitioning process. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides resources and support to help youths with disabilities complete high school and transition into higher education and employment. The Arkansas Department of Human Services has information about qualifying for Medicaid coverage, adult day care, assisted living, transportation, waiver care, and other valuable programs.
The Consumer Vocational Rehabilitation program helps participants prepare for, locate, and find a job. For low-income individuals, Arkansas Job Corps centers has similar programs while the Arkansas Section 8 housing program can provide clean and safe housing. When transition planning for a young adult coming out of foster care, all of these options and more should be considered until you find the right programs that can help them succeed.
Enroll in a Community-Based Program
Integrity, Inc. provides an array of community-based programs and services for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in Central Arkansas. For more information on how our programs can help your foster child transition, contact Integrity, Inc. at 501-406-0442 today.