Florida’s Independent Living Resource Center opened in 2016. It was created to serve as an information clearinghouse to address all areas of Independent Living in Florida. As a free service, the I.L. Center provides information and referral services to youth, adoptive parents, former foster youth, teachers, mentors and social services professionals. The center also provides annual statewide training opportunities for Independent Living professionals.
Florida’s Independent Living Overview
Independent Living services for transitioning young adults include Extended Foster Care (EFC), Postsecondary Education Services and Support (PESS), and Aftercare Services. The categories of services to assist in the successful transition to adulthood include independent living needs assessment, academic support, postsecondary educational support, career preparation, employment programs or vocational training, budget and financial management, housing education and home management training, health education and risk prevention, family support and healthy marriage education, mentoring, supervised independent living, room and board financial assistance, education financial assistance, and other financial assistance.
My Future My Choice
Current and former foster youth have a variety of services available to nurture their success. In the past, youth did not have the option to remain in foster care after their 18th birthday. Now, through Extended Foster Care, they have the flexibility they need to transition into adulthood at a pace that suits their individual circumstances.
“My Future, My Choice” is the theme for this new program, because it gives youth the option to remain in care until they turn 21, or – if they are enrolled in an eligible post-secondary institution – receive financial assistance as they continue pursuing academic and career goals. In extended foster care, young adults will continue to receive case management services and other support to provide them with a sound platform for success as independent adults.
View a flowchart of your new options
Find Out More
Q. What is extended foster care?
In 2013, a law passed in Florida allowing youth who would normally age-out of licensed care at age 18 to opt to stay in until age 21 (or 22 with a documented disability) while finishing school or gaining work skills and experience.
Q. Requirements for participation
Extended Foster Care (EFC):
You aged out in the legal custody of DCF
You are participating in a qualifying activity like;
Attending high school or working on GED; or
Enrolled in college or vocational education program; or
Employed at least 80 hours per month; or
Participating in a program designed to promote or eliminate barriers to employment.; or
Have a diagnosed and documented disability that would prevent you from participating in any of the activities listed above.
In order to stay in the program, you must:
Meet with a caseworker every month
Continue to participate in at least one of the activities listed above
Attend Court reviews every six months
If you leave the program and want to get back in:
You must submit an application, also known as an Extended Foster Care Voluntary Placement Agreement to your community based care lead agency for eligibility determination.
Supervised Living Arrangement Options
You have options, although we want you to be safe and have the opportunity to develop the skills you need to succeed. You may be approved to live in a foster home, group home, transitional living program, or other shared living environment. If you are ready, you may even be approved to live in your apartment.
Q. What is Postsecondary Educational Support Services?
PESS is a state program for eligible former foster youth to receive the skills, education, and support necessary to become self-sufficient and have lifelong connections to supportive adults. Depending on certain statutory conditions, eligible youth may receive a monthly financial payment of $1,256; this may include applicable Education and Training Voucher (ETV) funding. The financial award is to secure housing, utilities, and assist with cost of living while attending a Florida Bright Futures-eligible postsecondary educational institution.
You may be eligible for PESS if:
You turned 18 while in the legal custody of the Department and who you have spent a total of at least six months in licensed out-of-home care before turning 18.
You are at least 18 and you were adopted after the age of 16 from foster care or placed with a court-approved dependency guardian after spending at least 6 months in licensed care within the 12 months immediately preceding such your placement or adoption.
You have earned a standard high school diploma, or its equivalent.
You are attending a college or vocational school that is Florida Bright Futures eligible.
If the school you are attending is NOT a Florida Bright Futures-eligible School, you are NOT eligible for PESS; however, you may be eligible to receive ETV funding. ETV is a federal grant provided to states to help fund eligible former foster youth who are enrolled in postsecondary programs. There are specific eligibility requirements for funding and states have some discretion to limit or expand eligibility. Florida has determined that funding may be provided to youth who have reached 18 years of age but are not yet 23 years of age. The initial application for these funds must be received before the young adult’s 21st birthday. ETV grant funds are limited; therefore, financial assistance will be administered on a first come, first served basis.
This program is available until you reach your 23rd birthday.
Tuition and Fee Exemption
Florida provides tuition and fee exemptions to eligible young adults. The waiver is authorized at State (public) Universities, Colleges (public) in the Florida College System, and School District Workforce Education Programs.
Fee exemptions are offered to students if:
- He or she is or was at the time he or she reached age 18 in the custody of the Department of Children and Families;
- He or she was adopted from the Department of Children and Families after May 5, 1997;
- He or she is or was at the time of reaching age 18 in the custody of a relative under s. 39.5085, F.S.;
- He or she is or was at the time of reaching age 18 in the custody of a non-relative under s. 39.5085, F.S.; or,
- He or she was placed in a guardianship by the court after spending at least 6 months in the custody of the department after reaching 16 years of age.
**The exemption remains valid until the student reaches 28 years of age. See § 1009.25(1)(c), (d), Fla. Stat.
- Corona Virus Updates
- Age 17: Transition Planning Training-Participant Guide (Cby25)
- Age 17: Transition Planning Training-Trainer Guide (Cby25)
- Becoming An Adult (Stages of Psychosocial Development in Adolescence and Young Adulthood)
- DCF’s My Future My Choice Page
- Extended Foster Care Beyond Age 18: Using Innovative and Effective Approaches (Presentation on how other states are implementing similar legislation)
- Flowchart of Options
- My Future, My Choice (Dymanic Presentation)
- Transition Planning with Adolescents: A Review of Principles and Practices Across Systems (NRCYD)
Resources and Useful Links
Community-Based Care (CBC) Lead Agency Independent Living Contacts – Florida’s Child Welfare System is comprised of CBC Lead Agencies which combines the outsourcing of foster care and Independent Living services. This design provides community ownership over the programs and services designed to help older foster youth and young adults who have spent time in Florida’s System of Care.
Office of Continuing Care – The Department of Children and Families recognizes that the transition into adulthood can be tough for young people. For current and former foster youth, it can be even more difficult without an existing support system. The Office of Continuing Care, part of Hope Florida – A Pathway to Prosperity, offers free, one-on-one help for young people who are about to or have recently transitioned out of foster care, aiming to make the leap into adulthood a positive experience.
Positive Pathways Program: The Florida Department of Children and Families Positive Pathways Program was created in 2015 to establish and develop a network of campus-based student services professionals, known as foster care liaisons. The network also includes students, youth advocates, and independent living professionals located at community-based care lead agencies throughout Florida. If you work with students eligible for the DCF tuition and fee exemption or the homeless exemption, or with an organization that supports these students, we welcome you to join this program, which is administered by Educate Tomorrow. To join the network or for more information, visit www.PositivePathwaysFlorida.org.
Florida’s Independent Living Resource Center https://www.danielkids.org/our-programs/floridas-i-l-resource-center serves as an information clearinghouse to address all areas of Independent Living Services
Employ Florida Marketplace, Florida’s official online portal to virtual job-matching services and many other workforce resources. This tool was created through partnership between government and the private sector, to respond to workforce needs in our state. If you are seeking a job, you may create and post your resume, search thousands of openings in any or all of our 67 counties and access other career-development tools.
Family and Youth Services Bureau, within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is responsible for federal programs that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities. ACF programs aims, among other things, to empower individuals to increase their own economic independence and productivity.
Florida Children First works to ensure that each child in care or in an at-risk situation will have a voice that is heard when decisions are made. FCF uses legislative and policy advocacy, executive branch education and advocacy, training and technical assistance to lawyers and Guardians Ad Litem representing children, public awareness, and filing of amicus briefs as strategies to improve child serving systems.
Foster Club is the national network for young people in foster care. The organization’s mission is to lead the efforts of young people in and from foster care to become connected, educated, inspired and represented so they can realize their personal potential and contribute to a better life for their peers. It includes three mini-sites, serving children, teens and adults. Fosterclub.com includes articles, contests, message boards for youth.
Make Your Voice Heard: A Guide to Dependency Court is a video for youth ages 12 to 18 that explains what happens in dependency court and
On the Strengthening Youth Partnership Web site, you can learn more about who you are, what you want to do and how to get there. If you are between 10 and 24 years old, take a look inside. It’s fun and the links will help you get started on building your future. MyFloridaYouth.com has lots of resources to help you learn about your strengths, interesting careers, opportunities and training and getting into a technical school or college.
Youth Communication helps teenagers develop their reading and writing skills so they can acquire the information they need to make thoughtful choices about their lives. YC does that by training teens in journalism and related skills; • publishing magazines, books and other materials written and illustrated by young people; • encouraging teens and the adults who work with them to use our publications to stimulate reading, writing, discussion, and reflection.