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Transitioning to Adulthood

Foster mother hugging daughter after graduation

Transitioning from life at home and high school to living away from home and working and/or going to college can be daunting for any young adult. Youth transitioning from foster care have an even tougher challenge, as they typically don’t have their family to rely on for financial and emotional support. Each child’s situation is unique, and each county agency handles these cases differently. Generally speaking, young adults who turn 18 or graduate from high school without having a permanent adoptive family are considered to be “emancipated” from care. Sometimes, this is called “aging out.”

When youth in care turn 14, the county agency will start to prepare them for the transition to self-sufficiency. This does not mean that youth in permanent custody cannot be adopted after this time. In fact, this should remain the goal. The county agency will conduct a life skills assessment and determine which independent living services would be most helpful.

Once the assessment has been completed, an independent living plan will be developed. The plan will include the youth’s strengths, limitations and resources and outline the services the agency will provide. The caregiver and the child will be involved in the plan’s development and will receive a copy.

In addition to the services provided by the agency, there are plenty of activities foster parents can do to support the child’s transition to self-sufficiency.

Money management

Typically, a teen hasn’t had much first-hand experience earning or managing money.

Most have much to learn about developing a budget, paying bills, obtaining credit, paying taxes and saving. The best way to learn is through everyday teachable moments. Talk through your grocery shopping budget, involve the teen in the budgeting and bill paying process, and give him or her real-life examples of saving for the future. Most importantly, have the teen develop a budget that will outline estimated living expenses and expected income after the transition from care.

Finding an apartment

Securing stable and affordable housing can be a challenge for youth transitioning from foster care. Educate the teen about all the expenses that come with moving into an apartment. Security deposits, moving fees, furnishing the space with essentials, and utility costs are likely not on the teen’s radar. Help the teen explore any support that might be available to them.

Self-care, health care and mental wellness

While children and teens are in foster care, Medicaid covers their health care. In Ohio, youth who transition from foster care can continue their Medicaid coverage until age 26. Health and mental wellness are basic life necessities, and it's imperative to encourage teens to take care of themselves.


Bridges is a voluntary program available to young adults in Ohio who leave foster care at ages 18, 19 or 20 and who are in school, working, participating in an employment program, or have a medical condition that prevents them from going to school or working. The program provides guidance and support as they transition to adulthood. If the child in your home will be emancipating from the system, talk with the county agency about how to access Bridges services.

Additional Information

For more specific tips about the following topics, please see the Child Welfare Information Gateway publication Helping Youth Transition to Adulthood:

  • Building supportive relationships and connections
  • Managing money
  • Pursuing educational and vocational opportunities
  • Finding and maintaining employment
  • Securing housing
  • Maintaining health and wellness
  • Exploring identity and culture
  • Developing additional life skills

The links below are other good sources of information: