Frequently Asked Questions

Personal Rights

How often will I meet with my social worker/probation officer?

Your social worker has to meet with you at least once a month. Meetings with your social worker/probation officer should be private (away from your caregiver) and you have the right to request to meet away from your placement.

How can I contact my social worker/probation officer or attorney?

Your social worker/probation officer or caregiver has to give you the names and contact information for the following people:

  • my social worker/probation officer,
  • attorney
  • service providers
  • foster youth advocates and supporters
  • Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)
  • Education Rights Holder
  • Tribe (if I have one)

You have the right to talk to or write them in private and to tell them about any concerns that you have in your placement.

Where should I be placed?

You have the right to be placed in the least restrictive (most family-like) placement possible regardless of your age, physical health, mental health, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, court records, or status as a pregnant or parenting youth, unless a judge says that you should be placed somewhere else.

This means that your social worker or probation officer has to try to place you with relatives first.
Then, if no relatives are appropriate or available, your social worker should place you in a foster home.
You should only be placed in a group home or short term residential therapeutic program (STRTP) if you need more support that you can get with relatives or in a foster home.

How should I be treated in my placement?

You have the right to live in a safe, healthy, and comfortable home where you are treated with respect. This includes having a private and safe space to keep your personal stuff.

You also have the right to have healthy food and enough clothes that fit and are in good condition. 

You have right to have grooming and hygiene products that respect your culture, ethnicity, and gender identity and expression in your placement.

Your caregiver has to make sure you have these things.

What if my caregiver wants to search my personal stuff?

You have the right to keep your personal belongings private. Your caregiver can only search your personal belongings if there is a valid (good) reason to do so.

What if my caregiver abuses or neglects me?

No one has the right to abuse you. This includes physical, sexual, emotional, or any other abuse, and no one can exploit you.

No one can lock you in a room, building or any other part of the placement, unless you are placed in a treatment facility, like  Starview or a detention facility.

If you feel that you are being abused or neglected, you should immediately contact your social worker and lawyer.

Can my caregiver spank or hit me?

No. No one can use physical discipline with you while you are in foster care.

Do I get an allowance in while in foster care?

Yes. You have the right to receive an allowance while in foster care, and your caregiver has to give you an allowance that is appropriate for your age.

Sogie

Does my caregiver, social worker/probation officer, and attorneys, have to understand me and be supportive of my sexual orientation and/or gender identity?

Yes. Your caregivers, social workers, probation officers, and attorneys, have to be trained to provide care and support that is inclusive and understanding of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

What if my caregiver, social worker/probation officer, or someone else involved with my case doesn’t like me and treats me badly because of my sexual orientation and/or gender identity?

You have the right to be treated fairly and with respect.

No one can mistreat you or treat you differently because of your sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression while you are in foster care.

Can I express my gender identity through my clothes, hair, etc., no matter what my birth certificate, court, and child welfare paperwork says?

Yes. You can wear clothes, hairstyles, and use products that you feel express who you are no matter what is said on your birth certificate, court or child welfare paperwork.

Can I use the name and/or gender pronoun that I choose?

Yes. You have the right to be called the name and/or gender pronoun(s) that you choose to use, regardless of what is said on your birth certificate, court or child welfare paperwork.

Gender pronouns are words like he, she, him, or her.

Can anyone make me hide or change my sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression to get support, receive services, or be placed?

No. You do not have to hide or change your sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression for any reason.

Where should I be placed if I was born one gender, but identify as a different gender?

Your social worker or probation officer has to place you in a placement according to your gender identity, no matter what your birth certificate, court, or child welfare paperwork says.

What if I don’t want to share my sexual orientation and/or gender identity?

You have the right to keep your sexual orientation and gender identity private. You do not have to share information about your sexual orientation or gender identity if you don’t want to,  and no one can share them without your permission, except for a few reasons.

Health and Mental Health Care

Do I have a right to health care?

Yes. You have a right to timely health care, including medical, dental, vision, mental health services, reproductive and sexual health care, and drug treatment.

What if I need to see a doctor? (responsibility of care provider, etc)

Talk to your foster parent or group home staff member or your social worker.

Can I choose my doctor/dentist/therapist?

Yes, you can choose your own doctor, as long as it is covered by your insurance.

Can I talk to my doctor about my treatment?

Yes, you can communicate with your healthcare provider about your treatment and your questions.

What if I want to get treatment for a drug or alcohol problem? Do I have to get permission?

No, you can arrange for help without permission.  You may want to talk with the important adults in your life about this, so they can support your recovery, but you can seek help on your own.

How will I get to my doctor appointments?

You have the right to get transportation to your appointments. Your care provider must help you with transportation arrangements.

What if I don’t understand what my diagnosis is and what services or treatment or medicine I need?

Information about your health condition and health services must be explained to you in a way that you understand.

Can I have a say in making decisions about my treatment/services?

Yes. Decision-making about your treatment includes your voice.

If I need a major treatment, can I get a second opinion?

Yes. Before a major medical, dental, or psychiatric treatment, you can get a second opinion.

What about side effects of medicine that is prescribed for me?

You have the right to be told about the side effects and benefits of any medicine (drugs) that are prescribed for you.  If the side effects are bothering you, or you don’t want to take the medication, you can tell your caregiver and your doctor.  You can also tell your social worker or lawyer.   

Do I have to take psychotropic medicine if I don’t want to?

The judge has the power to decide who can make medical decisions in your life.  You can tell the judge how the drugs are making you feel and ask the judge to order changes.

What if I want to stop taking psychiatric drugs?

You can work with your doctor to safely stop taking psychiatric drugs.

Can I refuse to take medications?

You can refuse to take any medication, vitamin or herbs, unless a judge says that you can’t.  And no one can give you consequences for refusing.

What if I feel my doctor/counselor doesn’t understand/accept my gender identity?

Your healthcare should be provided in a way that supports your gender identity.  If you do not feel accepted or supported, you can talk to your caregiver or your social worker about seeing a different doctor or counselor.

Can I keep my medical and mental health records private?

Yes, you can keep these records, including HIV status, drug use history and treatment and sexual and reproductive care private.  There may be some exceptions to this.

Can I still get Medi-Cal when I leave foster care when I turn 18?

If you leave foster care on or after your 18th birthday, you can continue to receive Medi-Cal until you turn 26.

Case Plan

Do I get to help develop my case plan?

Yes, you have the right to help develop your case plan, your foster care placement plan, and your plan for permanency. This includes the parts of the case plan that relate to the placement and gender-affirming health care.

Do I get a copy of my case plan?

If you are 10 years or older, you can read, sign, and get a copy of your case plan, your plan for out-of-home placement, and your plan for permanency.

What if changes are made to my plans?

You have the right to be told of any changes to your plans.

If I am an Indian youth, are my Tribal relations protected in my case plan?

Yes, your case plan has to include protection of important Tribal relations by helping you to form and continue political, cultural, and social relationships with your Tribe and Indian community.

Family and Community Connections

Can I visit my parents, grandparents and other relatives when I am in foster care?

Yes. You have the right to visit and contact family members and relatives the judge says you cannot. Your social worker should include a plan for visitation in your case plan.

What if I want to see my family more often or change the visitation plan?

You should talk to your social worker and your attorney. You can also tell the judge at your next court hearing.  Depending on how well your parents are doing and what your needs are, you might be able to see them more often.

Can I visit with my siblings if we’re not placed together?

Yes. You have the right to visit and have contact with your siblings, including any who are in foster care but are not placed with you, unless the judge says you can’t. Your social worker should include in your case plan the visitation plan for you and your siblings. You have the right to ask the judge to set up a visitation schedule with your siblings.

Can I contact or visit my friends or other people who are not in foster care?

Yes. You have the right to contact people who are not in the foster care system, like friends, mentors, teachers, religious members and others, if they are safe and appropriate. If you have people who are important to you, you should tell your foster parents, social worker or lawyer that you would like to see them.  Visits or contacts can be denied if the visits are not in your best interest.

If you are an Indian child enrolled in a federally recognized tribe, you have the right to have contact with members of your tribe and tribal community in a way that respects your tribe’s culture and way of life.

Can I make phone calls or have other people call me?

Yes. You have the right to get and make calls unless a judge limits who you can talk to. If the judge says there are people you cannot talk to, your social worker must tell your caregiver in writing. Your social worker or caregiver cannot make a list of people you can and cannot talk to unless there is a court order from the judge. Your caregiver can temporarily take away your right to make phone calls as a punishment (except calls that are part of court orders).

You can never be restricted from making calls to your lawyer, social worker, CASA, Ombudsperson’s Office and Community Care Licensing.

Can my caregiver listen to my phone calls?

No.  You have the right to make and get confidential calls and to make or take a call somewhere where you have privacy and no one else is listening to your conversation.  Your caregiver can only listen to your calls if there is a court order from the judge. Tell your lawyer if someone is listening to your calls.

Can I have my own cell phone?

You do have a right to own a cell phone unless there is a court order from the judge stating you cannot.  Your caregiver does NOT have to pay for your cell phone.

Can I write to anyone?

Yes.  You have the right to send and receive unopened mail unless the judge says you cannot.

Can I attend religious activities?

Yes. You have the right to attend religious services and activities of your choice. You should talk to your caregivers and social worker so they can help you to arrange transportation to and from your place of worship if it is within a reasonable distance.

If you are an Indian child enrolled in a federally recognized tribe, you have the right to participate in traditional Native American religious practices.

Can my caregivers make me go to their church, mosque, temple or religious activities?

No. You do not have to attend any religious services that you do not wish to and you cannot be punished for not wanting to go.

Can I participate in extracurricular or social activities?

Yes. You have the right to participate in extracurricular, cultural, racial, ethnic and social activities, including but not limited to access to computer technology and the internet that are appropriate for your age and maturity, including activities that support your sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Can I be treated differently?

No.  You should not be treated unfairly because of your race, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, mental or physical disability or HIV status. You have the right to have fair and equal access to all available services, placement, care, treatment and benefits related to being in foster care.

My Responsibilities

How should I behave in my placement?

You should follow the rules, use good judgment and self-control, and be responsible for your own actions.

What if I get really emotional and upset in my placement?

You have the right to be placed with caregivers are trained and will try to safely calm you down if you are upset, but you have to do your part by trying to control the way you express your emotions.

Can my caregiver call the police on me if I am upset?

Your caregiver should only call the police if you are threatening your own safety or the safety of others around you.

Your caregiver cannot use law enforcement as a threat or a way to retaliate against you.

Do I have to stay in juvenile hall until my social worker/probation officer finds a placement for me?

No. Your social worker/probation officers have to find a placement for you when it is time for you to be released. 

Family and Community Connections

Can I visit my parents, grandparents and other relatives when I am in foster care?

Yes. You have the right to visit and contact family members and relatives unless the judge says you cannot. Your social worker should include a plan for visitation in your case plan.

Can I visit my parents, grandparents and other relatives when I am in foster care?

Yes. You have the right to visit and contact family members and relatives unless the judge says you cannot. Your social worker should include a plan for visitation in your case plan.

What if I want to see my family more often or change the visitation plan?

You should talk to your social worker and your attorney. You can also tell the judge at your next court hearing.  Depending on how well your parents are doing and what your needs are, you might be able to see them more often.

Can I visit with my siblings if we’re not placed together?

Yes. You have the right to visit and have contact with your siblings, including any who are in foster care but are not placed with you, unless the judge says you can’t. Your social worker should include in your case plan the visitation plan for you and your siblings. You have the right to ask the judge to set up a visitation schedule with your siblings.

Can I contact or visit my friends or other people who are not in foster care?

Yes. You have the right to contact people who are not in the foster care system, like friends, mentors, teachers, religious members and others, if they are safe and appropriate. If you have people who are important to you, you should tell your foster parents, social worker or lawyer that you would like to see them.  Visits or contact can be denied if the visits are not in your best interest.

If you are an Indian child enrolled in a federally recognized tribe, you have the right to have contact with members of your tribe and tribal community in a way that respects your tribe’s culture and way of life.

Can I make phone calls or have other people call me?

Yes. You have the right to get and make calls unless a judge limits who you can talk to. If the judge says there are people you cannot talk to, your social worker must tell your caregiver in writing. Your social worker or caregiver cannot make a list of people you can and cannot talk to unless there is a court order from the judge. Your caregiver can temporarily take away your right to make phone calls as a punishment (except calls that are part of court orders).

You can never be restricted from making calls to your lawyer, social worker, CASA, Ombudsperson’s Office and Community Care Licensing.

Can my caregiver listen to my phone calls?

No.  You have the right to make and get confidential calls and to make or take a call somewhere where you have privacy and no one else is listening to your conversation.  Your caregiver can only listen to your calls if there is a court order from the judge. Tell your lawyer if someone is listening to your calls.

Can I have my own cell phone?

You do have a right to own a cell phone unless there is a court order from the judge stating you cannot.  Your caregiver does NOT have to pay for your cell phone.

Can I write to anyone?

Yes.  You have the right to send and receive unopened mail unless the judge says you cannot.

Can I attend religious activities?

Yes. You have the right to attend religious services and activities of your choice. You should talk to your caregivers and social worker so they can help you to arrange transportation to and from your place of worship if it is within a reasonable distance.

If you are an Indian child enrolled in a federally recognized tribe, you have the right to participate in traditional Native American religious practices.

Can my caregivers make me go to their church, mosque, temple or religious activities?

No. You do not have to attend any religious services that you do not wish to and you cannot be punished for not wanting to go.

Can I participate in extracurricular or social activities?

Yes. You have the right to participate in extracurricular, cultural, racial, ethnic and social activities, including but not limited to access to computer technology and the internet that are appropriate for your age and maturity, including activities that support your sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Can I be treated differently?

No.  You should not be treated unfairly because of your race, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, mental or physical disability or HIV status. You have the right to have fair and equal access to all available services, placement, care, treatment and benefits related to being in foster care.

Court

What if I don’t understand what’s happening at Court?

At court hearings, the judge learns how you and your family are doing and makes decisions about your case. Your lawyer, the judge, and others have to give you information about what is happening in court in a way that you can understand. It is okay for you to ask questions about things you don’t understand.

Can I talk to the judge at court?

Yes. You have the right to talk to the judge about anything that is important to you while you are court.

How do I know when there is a court hearing, and can I go to court?

You have the right to be notified about court. Your social worker has to tell you about all court hearings and make sure you attend. 

What is a court report, and can I get a copy of my court report?

A court report is a report that provides details about your case and how you and your family are doing. Your social worker has to give you a copy of your court report before every court hearing.

What is my lawyer’s job?

You have a right to have a lawyer represent you in court. Your lawyer has to tell the judge and others what you want to happen, and to make sure that you are safe and have the services and support that you need to be okay.

Can I only talk to my lawyer about court-related issues?

No. You can talk to your lawyer about other issues, and he or she has to look into and address all of your needs, even if they are not about court. You should tell your lawyer about any problems you have while in foster care.

Can my lawyer tell others what I tell him or her?

You have the right to speak to your lawyer in private and everything that you tell him or her to should stay between the two of you. This is called confidentiality. The only reason your lawyer can tell others what you talk about in private is if he or she believes that telling the information will prevent death or serious harm to you or others, or to prevent a crime.

What if I don’t think my lawyer is doing a good job?

You have the right to tell the judge if you are unhappy with your lawyer, and to ask the judge to appoint a new lawyer to represent you.

Can I see my court paperwork?

Yes. You have the right to see and get a copy of your court paperwork, child welfare paperwork, and educational paperwork.

Can anyone else see my court paperwork?

Usually the answer is no. You have the right to keep your court paperwork private, unless the judge has a good reason to let someone else see it.

Can I decide who goes to my court hearings?

You have the right to ask for certain people to attend your court hearing. You also have the right to say that do not want certain people to attend your court hearing, but the judge can still let them stay if he or she thinks there is a good reason for them to be there.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Care

Can I get information about birth control or sexually transmitted diseases?

Yes. You have the right to factual, understandable information about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases.

Can I get tested or treated for a sexually transmitted disease without permission?

Yes. If you are 12 or older, you can get (or refuse) testing, care, or prevention related to sexually transmitted diseases.  You do not need permission.

Can I get birth control without the permission of my parents, or foster parents, or DCFS?

Yes. You can get or refuse birth control without permission.

What if I am pregnant? What are my options?

If you become pregnant while in foster care, you can decide what you want to do.  You can keep the baby, give the baby up for adoption, or have an abortion.  You do not need to get permission to get prenatal care or have an abortion.

What if I have been sexually assaulted? Can I get treatment/services without permission? Can I refuse treatment/services for sexual assault?

You can get (or refuse to get) services related to sexual assault without permission from any adult.

Child and Family Team

What is my Child & Family Team?

You have the right to a Child & Family Team (CFT).  The CFT is a group of people who come together to help make the best plans for your safety, your well-being, and your future. 

When do Child & Family Team meetings happen?

You should have a CFT meeting within 60 days of entering foster care, every six months, when your case plan is updated, when you move to a new placement, when you are having problems, when you want to talk about visits with your siblings, or when you are preparing to leave foster care. 

If you are placed in a Short Term Residential Therapeutic Program, or you are receiving Intensive Home-Based Services, Intensive Case Coordination, or Therapeutic Foster Care, you can have a CFT meeting every 90 days.

When can I ask for a Child & Family team?

You can request an additional CFT meeting to talk about your concerns, such as placement disruptions, changes in your service needs, and barriers to sibling or family visits.

Who is part of my Child & Family Team?

Your CFT includes both formal and informal support people (such as family members, caregivers, social workers, advocates, teachers, probation etc). You and your family have a voice in deciding who should or shouldn’t be included in your CFT.

What is my role at CFT meetings?

It is important for you to say what you are feeling and what you need and want.  You will be helping your team to make the best decisions about your life.

School

Do I have a right to go to school?

Yes. You have the right and responsibility to go to school every day, get help when you need it, have access to school supplies, and any other resources that you need to do well and succeed in school. You also have the right to the same school resources, services and activities as other students in your school.

Who can make educational decisions for me?

You have the right to have an “education rights holder”. An Education Rights Holder is an adult who understands your educational needs and makes decisions about your education. This may be your parent, or another person approved by the judge, like a relative, foster parent, or CASA.

Do I have to change schools if my placement changes?

No.  You have the right to stay in your “school of origin” if it is in your best interest. Your school of origin is the school you attended when you entered foster care, or before the placement change, or another school you have had a connection to within the past 15 months. You have the right to get transportation to your school of origin.  If there is disagreement about which school you attend, you should tell your lawyer immediately.  You have the right to stay in your same school until the disagreement is resolved. 

If I change schools, can my new school make me wait to start classes?

No. You have the right to immediately enroll in school and should begin attending classes, even if you do not have the paperwork you need for enrollment (birth certificate, transcripts, IEP, immunization records, etc.), uniform, or if you owe money, books, or other items to your last school, or if you did not check-out from your old school. You cannot be turned away.

Will I lose credit for the work I did at my old school if I change schools?

No. If you change schools during the school year, you have a right to receive partial (some) credits in all classes that you are passing when you left your school, even if you do not finish the entire class.

I have the right to get help with school if I need it. This help can include tutoring, mentoring, counseling, and a referral for special education services. My social worker, probation officer, caregiver, AB 490 liaison, or school counselor can help me get these services. 

Have more questions or concerns?

Toll-free hotline
1-877-846-1602
fosteryouthhelp@dss.ca.gov
 
MS 8-13-25
744 P Street
Sacramento, CA 95814