In August, Florida released a statewide memorandum regarding changes to their policies and practices for transition-aged youth and young adults in state care. Youth aging out of care face many issues associated with transition and often face consequences, such as homelessness, because of inadequate support and planning in the years before they turn 18 or otherwise age out. Florida’s plan implements new ideas and focuses for transition planning that may be helpful to advocates and policymakers in other states.
Florida’s new policy begins transition planning for youth at 13-years-old, with a formal transition plan required by age 16 and preparations for judicial review hearings starting at age 17. The transition plan is developed through collaboration between a youth or young adult and a Transition Facilitator, a staff person designated specifically for this process. The youth will lay out his or her goals and will decide which services will be needed for a successful entrance into adulthood. The youth will work with the facilitator to identify adult supports and what roles they will serve in the process. Florida utilizes a form that poses questions about short and long-term goals and practical concerns such as housing, health insurance, employment, education, financial literacy, and obtaining a driver’s license, and this information is used to create the official transition plan. Adult supports are invited to be involved in the planning meetings, and youth are provided with further professional support in areas such as independent living.
The vital changes in this policy involve the quality of the relationship between the youth and their assigned staff supports. Florida suggests that facilitators engage in varied formal and informal meetings with their youth, including home visits, scheduled meetings, court appearances, and events in the community or at school. A positive, open, and supportive relationship is seen as the cornerstone of a successful transition planning relationship, and youth are to be encouraged to think critically about their futures while the professionals assess how to serve the youth and their wellbeing as a whole. Florida uses a review of all records, including mental and physical health, education, and juvenile justice, and creates a strengths and needs analysis to best serve the youth. Staff are required to provide youth with access to all essential records and resources as appropriate at each age milestone during planning, such as how to monitor their credit, manage a bank account, and obtain health and car insurance. Assistance with financial aid, employment, and other post-graduate planning is also a part of the new procedures. Florida is also implementing strict filing requirements for the transition plan, with regular updates and provisions surrounding a youth’s attainment of the age of majority.
The memorandum provides detailed definitions and explanations of the new policy. Advocates may find this information of use when examining their own state agency’s transition planning policies and related law, as well as in representation of transition-aged youth who may require additional support in planning for their futures once they leave the foster care system.