Foster Youth Bill of Rights
Wat to learn about your rights in foster care? Learn about the Foster Youth Bill of Rights and what to do if your rights are being violated.
File a Youth Complaint
Do you feel like your foster youth rights are being violated? Are you having issues with your care, placement, and services?
Request a Verification Letter
Are you a former foster youth who needs a verification letter or ‘ward of the Court’ letter for college, a housing, or other program?
Take the Foster Youth Survey
Take the confidential survey and tell us about your caregiver. Your story can make an impact and change foster care for the better.
How to Use the Page
This directory of resources is organized according to the categories listed in the Foster Youth Bill of Rights.
Foster Care Q&A
What is Foster Care?
Foster care is where you live while your parents are working on fixing safety concerns. When you are in foster care, you have a social worker/probation officer that will help find you a safe home either with a relative, a resource family (foster parent), or, if needed, a Short Term Residential Therapeutic Program (STRTP). Where you live while in foster care is sometimes called a placement. The people you live with are responsible for taking care of you and making sure your rights are not violated. When you are in foster care, you also have a lawyer who is there to tell the judge and others what you want and need to be healthy and safe.
What is the Child Welfare System?
Your county’s Child Welfare Department (sometimes called Child Protectives Services [CPS] or Department of Children and Family Services [DCFS]) and Probation Department are responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of youth in foster care in your county. To do so, DCFS investigates reports of child abuse and neglect. If they determine that abuse or neglect has occurred, a social worker will work with you and your family to create a case plan, identify the services that are needed to stop the abuse or neglect, and prevent it from happening again. Many times, the youth and their family will receive services while the youth is living at home, but when there are concerns about the youth’s safety, they may need to be removed from the home and placed in foster care. If a youth has to be removed from their home, the goal is to help the family “reunify” or get back together as soon as possible.
When a youth is accused of committing a crime, they have contact with the juvenile justice system, which includes the delinquency court and Probation Department. The judge may order the youth into foster care while receiving rehabilitation services (services to improve their behavior). When that happens, the youth’s probation officer is responsible for working with the youth and their family to ensure that the youth is placed in a safe and healthy foster home or treatment program and that they receive all the services needed so the family can get back together.
If you ever feel like your rights are being violated or if you are having problems with your care, placement, or services, you can always contact our office!
Call us at 877-846-1602, email us a firstname.lastname@example.org, or file a complaint online.
Child Protective Services (CPS) Hotline
No one has the right to abuse you. This includes physical, sexual, emotional, or any other abuse, and no one can exploit you. You should tell your social worker/probation officer, attorney, or a trusted adult if you feel that you are being abused or neglected. You should also contact the Child Abuse Hotline if you feel that you are being abused. You can also call our office.
Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD)
If you are having problems with how your caregiver or a staff member is treating you, contact our office and the Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD). CCLD is the division of the State Department of Social Services that licenses and oversees foster family agencies, daycares, group homes, short-term therapeutic residential facilities, foster homes, and residential care for children (and adults) throughout California.
You can call them at 1-844-538-8766 or email them at email@example.com.
Everyone has a sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE). As such, each person’s journey of self-awareness and expression is unique and individualized according to their culture, environment, and lived experiences. CDSS created a guidebook and a webpage to provide helpful resources and information to assist and support you and other youth in foster care with varying/diverse SOGIE. Check out the webpage below.
Exploring Your SOGIE
You have the right to be treated fairly and with respect, no matter your sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE). You also have the right to keep information about your SOGIE private unless you allow the information to be shared. Even if you don’t know your SOGIE, you still have the right to explore your identity and discover it for yourself. If you want to learn more about how to map your own identity, check out Trevor Project’s Coming Out: A Handbook for LGBTQ Young People.
Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program (FYSCP)
Each county has a Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program (FYSCP) that gives you support while you go to school. It can give you services, like counseling or tutoring, if you need them. Your school district has a person who helps plan these services. You can contact your county’s Foster Youth Services Coordinator to learn more.
If you decide to go to college or vocational school, you can get help paying for school through federal grants, state grants, university grants, and private scholarships.
Apply to the FAFSA and the CalGrant to know how much you will be eligible for, and if applicable, you can also apply for the Chafee. If you need help on how to get the most financial aid, check out the Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth.
If you decide to attend a California public college, you may be eligible for your school’s foster youth education program. Each California college system has one to help you succeed:
If you are currently or ever were incarcerated, there are also programs that can connect you to higher education opportunities such as Rising Scholars (CCC) and Project Rebound (CSU).
Check out California College Pathways for more education opportunities.
Are you a experiencing issues with your Medi-Cal enrollment and dis-enrollment? Are you having issues with your managed care health plans? Do you have questions about Medi-Cal in general? Contact the Medi-Cal Managed Care and Mental Health Office of the Ombudsman.
Sexual and Reproductive Rights
You have sexual and reproductive health rights, like the right to be given medically accurate information about reproductive health and the right to get birth control. You also have the right to be in safe, consent-centered, and healthy relationships. You can learn more about these rights in the Foster Youth Bill of Rights and learn resources in the CDSS Healthy Sexual Development Project.
Mental Health Services
If you need Mental Health services, you can contact your social worker/probation officer or your county’s Mental Health Plan (MHP) to get an assessment. They can direct you to the right place to get services.
CA Youth Crisis Line
The California Youth Crisis Line (CYCL) is the 24/7 statewide emergency response system for youth (ages 12-24) and families in crisis. They can listen without judgment on many topics such as suicide, depression, bullying, health and identity questions, trauma, human trafficking and more.
Contact Your Lawyer
Your lawyer must:
- keep what you tell them private
- have special training on ICWA and SOGIE
- make sure you are safe and have the services and supports you need
- tell the judge what you want to have happen
- answer questions you have about court, foster care, and other laws
If you don’t know your lawyer’s contact information, you can contact your social worker/probation officer or call our office at 877-846-1602.
Report Your Lawyer
Do you think your lawyer is not doing their job to represent you? You have the right to ask the judge to appoint a new lawyer if you do not think that your lawyer is doing their job of telling the court what you want and what is in your best interest. This is called a Marsden hearing. It is important to know that the judge could say no to your request for a new lawyer.
You can also file a complaint with the State Bar of California. The State Bar has jurisdiction over the licensing, regulation, and discipline of lawyers.
Request Your Case Files
You have the right to see and get a copy of your court reports, child welfare records (though some information that is confidential may be taken out), and education records. You have a right to get copies of these records for free until your 26th birthday. You can contact your social worker/probation officer for these records, your county, or request them from your county’s court.
Request a CASA
A court-appointed special advocate (CASA) or guardian ad litem (GAL) is appointed by a judge to advocate for your best interest in court. You can ask for a CASA by contacting your social worker, your attorney, or even requesting one during your Court hearing.
iFoster Free Smartphone Program
Do you need a phone to stay connected to family, friends, and other loved ones? iFoster is offering free cell phones for former and current foster youth aged 13-26! If you were in foster care on your 13th birthday, you are eligible. Just fill out an application, provide verification of your foster youth status (ask your social worker/probation officer if you are still in care or request a verification letter from us if you are no loner in foster care), and email it to iFoster at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Register to Vote
If you want to make an impact in your community, let your voice be heard and exercise your right to vote in elections!
- Online registration deadline: 15 days before Election Day
- Register by mail deadline: Must be postmarked 15 days before Election Day
- In person registration deadline: Available up to and including on Election Day
Get a State I.D. or Driver's License
Your social worker/probation officer can sign your driver’s license application without taking personal responsibility. You can also have your application signed by a grandparent, sibling over the age of 18, aunt, uncle, or the foster parent you are living with. However, if any of these people sign, you will both be held responsible if you get in an accident. Ask your caregiver and social worker/probation officer or your ILP program if they can help pay for driver’s education and driver’s training.
File Your Taxes for Free
Did you know that you can file your federal and California state taxes for free? No service fee required!
If you make under $72,000 per year, you can file your federal taxes for free with IRS Free File. You can file your California state taxes for free with CalFile.
If you want resources related to preparing your taxes, check out the Tax Prep Checklist for Transition Age Youth.
Credit Report Issues
If you are age 14-17, your social worker/probation officer must get a copy of your credit report from the three major credit agencies (Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union). They must give you these reports each year and help you understand them and fix any problems, like someone else getting credit cards or other accounts in your name and not paying the bills.
If you notice a problem with your credit report, you can get help from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or check out the list of federally approved credit counseling agencies.
Independent Living Program (ILP)
The Independent Living Program (ILP) can give you training, services, and benefits to help you successfully transition into adulthood. The programs serves current and former foster youth who meet the eligibility requirements.
Contact the TAY Unit
Do you want to learn more about Independent Living Program (ILP)? Contact the Transition Age Youth (TAY) Policy Unit.
Phone: (916) 651-7465
You are eligible for ILP services from age 16 to the day before your 21st birthday if you meet at least ONE of the following requirements:
- You were/are in foster care at any time from your 16th to your 19th birthday.
- You were placed in out-of-home care by a tribe or tribal organization between your 16th and 19th birthdays.
- You are a former dependent who entered into a kinship guardianship at any age and receiving/received Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payments (Kin-GAP) between the ages of 16 and 18.
- You are a former dependent who entered into a Non-Related Legal Guardianship (NRLG) after you turned 8 years old and receiving/received permanent placement services.
Want to participate?
Are you interested in participating in your county’s Independent Living Program (ILP) or want to know if you are eligible? Contact your county ILP Coordinator! You are or were on probation, you can find your county Probation ILP Coordinator here.
Extended Foster Care (EFC) or AB12
Extended Foster Care (EFC) Program allows eligible youth in the child welfare and probation systems to remain in foster care until age 21. You can leave extended foster care and later choose to re-enter the program up to age 21. To remain eligible for EFC, you must meet at least one of five participation criteria. AB 12 also extended Kin Guardianship Assistance Payments (Kin-GAP) and Adoption Assistance Payments (AAP) up to age 21 for youth who meet certain eligibility requirements.
Contact the TAY Unit
Do you still need help understanding Extended Foster Care? Contact the Transition Age Youth (TAY) Policy Unit.
Phone: (916) 651-7465
You must meet at least ONE of the following requirements:
- You are finishing high school or getting your GED.
- You are enrolled in college part-time or in a vocational school.
- You are working a job at least 80 hours per month.
- You are in an employment program that will help you get a job.
- You are unable do one above requirement because of a medical condition.
Also, you must:
- Sign an agreement to live in an eligible placement
- Meet with your county social worker or probation officer monthly
- Attend a court hearing or administrative review every 6 months
- Agree to meet the goals of your Transitional Independent Living Case Plan
Want to apply?
Are you interested in applying to Extended Foster Care? You can contact your county’s EFC coordinator, ILP coordinator, or CPS Hotline for help filling out the necessary paperwork. Or you can fill out the paperwork yourself and submit it to the court clerk of your county’s dependency court.
The paperwork needed is the JV-466. The JV-464-INFO explains the instructions on how to fill it out. Remember: A judge is responsible for determining if you are eligible for Extended Foster Care, not the county. The county’s responsibility is to help you fill out the paperwork.
The California Office of the Foster Care Ombudsperson is dedicated to serving
foster youth in California by investigating and resolving complaints
about foster youth rights, care, placement, and services.
Foster Youth Rights