SFCASA Advocacy Areas
Education & Career, Placement & Housing, Independent Living Skills, Permanency
Why We Advocate
Non-Minor Dependent (or “NMD”) is the title given to a foster youth who has opted to remain in care beyond their 18th birthday. In California, foster youth may remain in care until their 21st birthday.
Foster youth who have aged out of the system without legal permanency are more likely to be underemployed, have unplanned pregnancies, and experience poverty and the adult criminal system. When a foster youth opts into extended care, they have a safety net of support while experiencing increasing independence in a secure living environment. These extra years of support can better prepare a youth for successful transition into adulthood.
In order for an NMD to have a CASA, the NMD must sign our consent form! Find the form here. Make sure that your Case Supervisor receives a copy.
How to Advocate
A CASA supporting an NMD:
Empowers them to take ownership and control over their lives and futures;
Supports them in building personal and professional networks and achieving permanency;
Models and imparts adult skills required to be fully independent and stable; and
Stays present to help them celebrate their triumphs and recover from their slip-ups.
Encouraging their autonomy is especially important because many young people
who have spent time in foster care, especially in group homes, might have lived under rules that constrained their ability to develop independent living skills.
Give your youth the space to make their own decisions, but offer yourself as a sounding board in the process. Let them try things out on their own, which may succeed or fail, but remain consistently present and encouraging of their efforts.
Extended Foster Care Participation Requirements:
Extended foster care is an “opt-out” program. The presumption is that the youth will stay in care unless they affirmatively choose to have their case dismissed. However, there are requirements for remaining in care:
1) Complete high school or work toward your diploma equivalency,
2) Attend college or vocational school,
3) Be employed at least 80 hours a month,
4) Participate in a program to remove barriers to employment (for example a job training program, substance abuse treatment, driver’s ed, mental health treatment, or many other possible programs), or
5) Have an inability to do 1, 2, 3, or 4 because of a documented medical condition.
Extended Foster Care Process for Enrollment
At the six month hearing prior to youth turning age 18, the social worker/probation officer must have a plan in place with the youth for what will happen when they are 18. If they choose to remain in care, the non-minor dependent must sign an agreement to reside in an eligible placement location and agree to work with a social worker to meet the goals outlined in their Transitional Independent Living Case Plan.
Youth who are otherwise eligible for Extended Foster Care benefits can leave foster care – and as long as they meet the conditions – can petition the court to re-enter foster care at a later time. They would need to enter into a Voluntary Reentry Agreement, and move into an approved placement. A youth may leave and re-enter as often as they choose.
Appropriate language to use as a CASA
A youth who is thinking about remaining in foster care past their 18th birthday has a lot to think about. Think for a moment about your own path to adulthood. Was it an easy one? Did you know you were going to college? Did you have a family to support you? Now think about your youth. What options do they have? Are they eager to get out of the foster care system? They may be, especially if they had a difficult experience in foster care. Taking advantage of Extended Foster Care benefits may not be their first priority.
Asking ( instead of telling), shows that you respect the young adult, and empowers them to articulate their ideas, goals, and plans. It also helps you to listen and resist the temptation to guide them toward what you may think is best. Oftentimes, people have clear ideas in their heads about what they want out of life, but they may fear that they are not worth mentioning, or not developed enough, or are too ambitious. By asking questions of young adults, you show that you believe in them and value their own perspectives about their lives above all others.
First, understand that the youth may have been “dreaming” about getting out from under the foster care system for a long time. Ask them about their dreams- and listen. Don’t assume you know what they are thinking. Ask questions, and listen.
Have you thought about what you want to do when you turn 18?
What do you want to do?
What are your dreams?
Have you considered staying in foster care until age 21?
What about doing _____________ ?
What are your concerns and/or fears – about staying in care, or about being on your own?
Your thinking should include an understanding of the existing family connections, significant others, and important people in the youth’s life. The youth may not know how to maintain relationships with loved ones if they were to move or go to college far away.
SFCASA recommends employing a strengths-based approach of celebrating the youth’s ability to bounce back from hardship, and the maturity they have gained from struggle. This can help young adults to shift their focus from challenges to opportunities.
Surviving the dependency system is itself a triumph, and if your young adult seems to feel defeated about the future, remind her that she is resilient, and that most people (yourself included, possibly) could not handle as much as she is at her age.
Find things your young adult does well and praise her for them, helping her to explicitly connect her skills to paths to successful adulthood.
You can help your young adult build self-esteem and equip her for self-advocacy by being a consistent and encouraging presence. Remind her that you are invested in her independence and success. Support is essential to self-esteem and self-efficacy!
Please refer to this resource from California CASA for more tips on how to navigate Extended Foster Care conversations with the youth that you serve.
Remember, this is an exciting but stressful time for your youth!
*Much of the preceding information was drawn from a 2013 California CASA NMD training. If you would like access to the full training, please ask your Case Supervisor!*
When a youth turns 18, they assume the same adult rights as any other 18-year-old. They can opt to leave school, their placement, or the dependency system. They may (and should!) register to vote.
Learn more about healthcare rights and responsibilities and how they change when a youth turns 18 on our other Resource Pages:
Non-Minor Dependents have several options for where to live. They may remain with their current caregiver, live by themselves, live in an apartment with other foster youth, or live in a different foster home. If the youth is living in a group home, they can stay until they turn 19 or finish high school, whichever comes first. Find out more about each option here.
Is your youth without a high school diploma, or its equivalent (GED, hiSET)? Are they interested in completing their K-12 education? They have options!
Is your youth interested in college or vocational programs? Check out SFCASA’s Educational Advocacy page for information on how to best support their higher education journey.
NMDs are eligible to be direct recipients of public benefits. Teaching your CASA youth how to navigate the benefits bureaucracy is an incredibly important piece of working with an NMD. Benefits advocacy and empowerment should include the enrollment process, setting calendar reminders for payments/re-enrollment (if necessary), and tips for how to represent themselves if/when a problem arises with the receipt of the benefits.
Resources/links to learn more
None at this time.