Understanding Out of Home Care
There is a lot to do before you turn 18 if you are in foster care. You will need to make sure that you have your birth certificate and social security card, along with proof of identification and citizenship or residency status. You will also need to look for housing. Once you find housing, you are responsible for your rent and other living expenses, such as food and clothing. If you are ready to look for a place to live on your own but aren’t sure where to start, there are programs that can help you in all stages of the process. Health Insurance is another thing you will want to get before you turn 18. In Wisconsin, all young adults ages 18 through 20 who are leaving foster care and turning 18 on or after January 1, 2008 are eligible for BadgerCare Plus health insurance. BadgerCare Plus is free health insurance, take advantage of it by enrolling as soon as possible.
Before You Turn 18
1. Before you turn 18: Go to your last court date
At your last court date, the judge will hold a hearing and close your case. It is very important that you go to this hearing. At the hearing the judge will make sure that:
• You are able to view your court records
• You have information about your family’s history and about your foster care placement history
• You know where your brothers and sisters are (if they are in foster care)
• You have completed an application for health insurance
• You have applied to college or a job training program or have secured employment
The judge will also make sure that you have your birth certificate and social security card, along with proof of identification and citizenship or residency status. You need these things to get a job and get into college. If you haven’t been given these documents, tell your lawyer and speak up before the judge closes your case.
You can attend all court hearings for your case. It is a good idea to attend hearings and keep up-to-date on your case.
2. After you turn 18: Register to vote
Once you turn 18, you can register to vote. To download an application click here. (You can mail this application, but it must be postmarked at least twenty days before the next election.)
It is important that you vote and make your voice heard. The leaders who are elected will make decisions that affect how our state and country is run. Learn about candidates and make informed choices by going to Vote Smart.
3. After you turn 18: Register for the Selective Service (Men Only)
The Selective Service is a list of names the United States Government can use to draft men into the military during a war. The selective service list has not been used since the 1970s, but you still need to register. If you do not register, you cannot participate in Federal programs or get federal loans for college.
Find out more and register online at Selective Services.
Independent Living & Housing
Looking for housing is exciting, but it can also be scary. Once you find housing, you are responsible for your rent and other living expenses, such as food and clothing. If you are ready to look for a place to live on your own but aren’t sure where to start, there are programs that can help you in all stages of the process.
Another resource is WIfrontdoorhousing.org. The website allows Wisconsin residents to search for affordable housing. It also contains a calculator to help you determine how much you can afford for rent. Click here to use the calculator.
You can also contact the Wisconsin Department of Commerce – Division of Housing & Community Development for assistance by calling 1-608-266-1018 or by going to http://commerce.wi.gov/CD/cd-boh-home.html.
If you haven’t planned ahead or can’t find housing, you may want to consider a homeless shelter as temporary housing. One option is Hope House Milwaukee (414-645-2122). Another option is Walker’s Point, which offers temporary shelter to youth and a Transitional Living Program for homeless youth ages 16-21. Walker’s Point programs are not available to youth with open Child in Need of Protection or Services (CHIPS) orders through Children’s Court. You can contact Walker’s Point by calling 414-672-8200 or by going to http://www.walkerspoint.org.
Young women ages 18 to 29 can also find shelter at Lissy’s Place. Lissy’s Place offers housing for abused or homeless women for up to two years. The shelter only has room for 17 residents at a time, and there is a waiting list. Call or e-mail My Home, Your Home Inc. (the organization that runs Lissy’s Place) at 414-874-2560 or InfoMHYH@MHYH.org.
- The name and address of your health providers
- A record of your immunizations
- A record of your known medical problems
- A list of your medications
In Wisconsin, all young adults ages 18 through 20 who are leaving foster care and turning 18 on or after January 1, 2008 are eligible for BadgerCare Plus health insurance. BadgerCare Plus is free health insurance, take advantage of it by enrolling as soon as possible. Visit BadgerCarePlus.org or call the Wisconsin Department of Health Services at 608-266-1865 for more information. Depending on your plan, BadgerCare Plus may cover the following services:
- Vision care
- Prescription Drugs
- Doctors visits
- Prenatal Care
- Check ups
- Immunizations (shots)
- Family planning services and supplies
- Mental health services
- Hospital care
- Medical Equipment
- Hearing services
- Lab and x-ray services
- Speech, physical, and occupational therapy
The service is free; it is in your best interest to take advantage of it. It is very important to see a doctor and dentist at least once a year.
How to get enrolled
You can enroll in BadgerCare Plus by calling your county health department or enrolling online. The steps for enrolling online are listed below:Go to https://access.wisconsin.gov/.
At https://access.wisconsin.gov, you can either continue working on an application or start a new one.
You will have to create a username and password before you can apply for benefits. Make sure to remember your username and password. There are many steps to the process.
You can stop at any time and finish the form later by clicking on the Save & Exit button at the bottom right-hand corner of the page.
Make sure you answer each question truthfully. If you do not know the answer, ask your social worker.
If your income is low, FoodShare Wisconsin may be able to help you buy nutritious food. You can find an application on their web site or by calling the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
You can apply to FoodShares and BadgerCare Plus at the same time at Access.Wisconsin.gov.
Family Planning Reproductive Health program
If you are 15 years of age or older, you can also obtain family planning services through the Wisconsin Family Planning Reproductive Health Program(608-266-3959).
If you have a family, financial, health and social service issue that is not an emergency, call the 211 hotline to get free information. Call 211 to get help with life. To call using a cell phone, dial (414) 773-0211 or on a pay phone, dial 1-866-211-3380.
Helping Younger Siblings
If you are 18 years of age or over, you may apply to become a foster parent for your brothers, sisters, stepbrothers, stepsisters, first cousins, nieces, and nephews if they are in or may be placed in foster care. Until you turn 21, you can only become a foster parent for the relatives listed above. To become a foster parent, you must have a stable income and have your own place, among other requirements.
Learn about these requirements by going to http://dcf.wisconsin.gov/children/foster/index.htm, http://www.legis.state.wi.us/rsb/code/dcf/dcf056.pdf, or by calling or e-mailing the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) at 1-608-264-6933 or dcfweb @ wisconsin.gov.
Even if your younger relatives are not in foster care, you may be able to receive Kinship Care payments of $220 per month if you are caring for these family members. To receive these payments, you must be at least 18 years old, and a kinship care assessor must find that the child would be in need of protective services if he or she were to remain with the parent(s), among other requirements.
To find a kinship care coordinator, access forms, and view additional requirements, click here or call the DCF Kinship Care program at 414-220-7035 (for Milwaukee) or 1-608-266-2464 (for other counties).
You might be able to adopt your siblings or relatives, but the requirements for adoptive parents are different than the requirements for foster parents. For instance, the biological parents’ rights must be terminated by a court before you can adopt your younger siblings or relatives. You can call DCF’s adoption assistance line at 1-866-666-5532 for help if you are considering adopting your relatives.