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Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood

The Department of Human Services' (DHS) Office of Children, Youth, and Families (OCYF) is the single state agency designated to administer and supervise the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood. The Independent Living (IL) Program is funded with Title IV-E, state, and local funds. This state-supervised, county-administered program prepares youth in foster care, ages 14-21, for their transition from foster care to independence. The IL Program is operated statewide, and all county children and youth agencies (CCYA) are required by regulation to provide IL services to youth in their custody. County agencies apply to OCYF to receive state and Chafee funds based on their assessment of local needs. IL programs are operated by individual CCYA, their respective designated private providers, or both. IL programs are supported and provided technical assistance by Practice Improvement Specialists (PIS) located within the Central, Southeast, Northeast, and Western regions. All IL programs participate in an annual site visit facilitated by their regional Practice Improvement Specialist (PIS) from the University of Pittsburgh's PA Child Welfare Resource Center to assess services and provide training and technical assistance. Statewide training and technical assistance sessions are provided based on identified needs and new practice implementations.

DHS is committed to providing youth making the transition from foster care to adulthood and self-sufficiency by providing services such as assistance in obtaining a high school diploma, career exploration, vocational training, job placement and retention, training in daily living skills, training in budgeting and financial management, substance abuse prevention and preventative health activities (including smoking avoidance, nutrition education and pregnancy prevention).  The primary purpose of the IL program is to reduce or eliminate the instances of homelessness, poverty, delinquent or criminal behavior through increased employability, high school graduation rates, enrollment in post-secondary, or vocational institutions. The design and delivery of services to this population must be responsive to the individualized needs and goals of youth in transition.

Eligibility

To be eligible for Independent Living services in PA, a youth must:

  • Be in, or have been in, out-of-home placement on or after age 14;
  • Be adjudicated dependent; or
  • Be dually adjudicated dependent AND delinquent; or
  • Be a pre-adoptive and adopted youth; or
  • Be a qualified alien youth; or
  • Be adjudicated delinquent with shared case management responsibility between the CCYA and the Juvenile Probation Office.

After Care Services

The provision of aftercare services is mandatory for youth who experienced foster care at age 14 or older and meet Chafee eligibility regardless of the county or state where services were previously provided.  The county where the youth is currently residing is responsible for the assessment and delivery of services.  The availability of aftercare services is essential in preventing and/or minimizing the setbacks that can occur after discharge from foster care.  Aftercare services are defined as: "IL services available to any youth who exited foster care on or after their 14th birthday and prior to their 23rd birthday" and meet Chafee eligibility.  Aftercare services may include the full range of services and supports which can include needs assessment/case planning, life skills training, prevention services, education, support services, employment, location of housing, room and board, retreats and camps, indirect services and program administration.  This would include supports for post-secondary education, room and board and supplies such as textbooks.  Room and board services are for youth who exited care on or after 18 to age 23 as well as youth who resume dependency or remain dependent past the age of 18.  No more than 30 percent of Chafee funds may be used for room and board for youth ages 18-23.

To access IL services, please visit the County Children and Youth Directory Using the drop-down arrows, select "county children and youth agencies" to filter your search.

Pennsylvania Youth Advisory Board

The Pennsylvania Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is comprised of current and former substitute care youth ages 16-23. Youth leaders on the YAB educate, advocate, and form partnerships to create positive change in the substitute care system.

The YAB is funded by the DHS/OCYF and is supported by the University of Pittsburgh's Child Welfare Resource Center.

Chafee Education and Training Grant Program

The Chafee Education and Training Grant (ETG) Program is a federally funded program that offers grant assistance towards the costs of attendance at an institution of higher education for Chafee eligible youth who, after attaining 16 years of age, have left foster care to return home, kinship care, guardianship or adoption. ETG is available to Pennsylvania undergraduate students who are attending a postsecondary institution approved for Federal Title IV student financial assistance programs.

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) administers the ETG Grant Program on behalf of Pennsylvania Department of Human Services as authorized under the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 and amended by the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Amendments of 2001 and the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018.  PA Chafee Education and Training Grant Program | PHEAA  Maximum awards under this program are $5,000 per academic year based on available funds.  Youth are eligible to receive the waivers for 5 years, which need not be consecutive, or until age 26.  However, no award may exceed the student's cost of attendance minus other financial aid the student is receiving. Awards are contingent upon federal funding and are not guaranteed.

Eligibility requirements

To be considered for this grant, you must:

  • Be a Pennsylvania resident
  • Be eligible for services under Pennsylvania's John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood
  • Be identified as a youth who has experienced foster care at age 16 or older or, after attaining 16 years of age, exited foster care to adoption or permanent legal custodianship (PLC)
  • Have not reached the age of 26 by July 1 of the upcoming academic year for which Chafee ETG is received
  • Be enrolled as an undergraduate, at least half time in a college or career school that is approved by the U.S. Department of Education for Title IV student assistance programs
  • Demonstrate financial need for the grant (as determined by the postsecondary institution)
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress (as determined by the postsecondary institution)
  • Not be in default on a federal student loan or owe a refund on other Title IV aid.
  • Have not received Chafee ETG for 5 years (consecutive or not), defined as 10 semesters or the equivalent, for undergraduate study
  • Have graduated from high school or have received a Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma


Fostering Independence Tuition Waiver Program

The Fostering Independence Tuition Waiver Program, created by Act 16 of 2019, seeks to remove barriers in accessing a postsecondary education for youth who are or have been in foster care. This allows eligible foster youth to complete their studies, graduate with less debt, and have the opportunity to build a network of support. The program is being administered collaboratively by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) in conjunction with the PA departments of Education, Human Services, and Labor & Industry.

The Fostering Independence through Education Program, known as FosterED requires Pennsylvania postsecondary institutions award a waiver of tuition and mandatory fees for Pennsylvania resident youth who meet Chafee ETG eligibility requirements and have applied for all available federal and state grants.  Tuition and mandatory fee waivers apply to both public (state) colleges and universities, community colleges, private post-secondary institutions, and other eligible schools.  Youth are eligible to receive the waivers for 5 years as defined by 10 semesters, which need not be consecutive, or until age 26.  All ETG applicants will automatically be evaluated for FosterEd.  In addition to the waivers, each post-secondary institution must appoint a Point of Contact (POC) to assist youth with eligibility, technical assistance, and other resources that may be available to them on and off-campus.  County and private provider IL Caseworkers/Coordinators may be contacted by the POC to verify a youth's eligibility. This is a critical step in assisting youth with verifying their eligibility when entering post-secondary education and financial aid packages being awarded. Each postsecondary education institution is required to have their identified POC listed on their website. A list of POCs can be found on the Center for Schools and Communities at Foster Care Contact Directory (center-school.org).  Additional information about the tuition waiver can be found at PA Fostering Independence Tuition Waiver Program (pheaa.org)

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The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS), which is in part comprised of the Office of Children, Youth, and Families (OCYF) complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.