Transitioning out of foster care

As a youth transitioning out of foster care, there are special programs available to help you. Learn about the programs and benefits that are available in Ohio.

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Understanding the Basics

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There are several ways to leave foster care:

  • Being reunified with your family. If your family completes your case plan’s requirements, the court may let you return home.
  • Finding kinship placement. Kinship placement means entering the legal custody of a friend or relative.
  • Being adopted. If the court or public children services agency (PCSA) decides that you will not be reunified with your biological family, the PCSA can receive permanent custody of you and find you an adoptive family. If you are adopted, you may request conditions like staying in contact with your siblings. If you are at least 16 years old, you can choose not to be adopted.
  • Emancipating from care. If you are at least 18 years old, you can emancipate from foster care. If you are working toward a high school diploma or GED, or if you qualify for certain developmental disability services, you may be allowed to stay in foster care after age 18.

Resources for teens

There are some choices and resources available starting when you are a teen in foster care.

  • If you are at least 14 years old, you are eligible for an independent living skills assessment. The assessment helps you make an independent living plan and receive independent living services. Services may include academic support, career preparation, employment training, money management, health education, marriage education, financial assistance and more. You should complete your independent living skills assessment within 60 days of turning 14 (or within 60 days of entering foster care if you are already at least 14 years old).
  • If you are at least 16 years old, you can choose not to be adopted. If you choose not to be adopted, you can create a planned permanent living arrangement (PPLA). If you have a PPLA, the agency keeps custody of you, and your parents maintain their parental rights.

Resources for young adults

If you are at least 18 years old, you may be eligible for help through different resources and programs, including:


Bridges is an optional program for young adults who leave foster care in Ohio at ages 18, 19 or 20, and who are in school, working, participating in an employment program or who have a physical or mental condition that prevents them from going to school or working. At least 180 days before your 18th birthday, your caseworker should talk to you about Bridges eligibility.

If you participate in Bridges, your Bridges representative meets with you once a month to help you reach goals like finding a place to live, paying rent, getting a job, learning life skills like money management, enrolling in college or vocational school, receiving healthcare and finding other resources.

For more information about Bridges, visit their website.

Food assistance

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps pay for your food. SNAP gives participants an Ohio Direction card (also known as EBT or “food stamps”) that works like a debit card or gift card to pay for food. To be eligible, you must meet SNAP’s income, health, child custody, employment or education requirements.

If you are at least 18 years old and enrolled in college, university, business, technical, trade or vocational school, you may be eligible for SNAP.

Read more to learn about eligibility and how to apply for food assistance.


Medicaid is a program that pays for your healthcare costs. All youth in foster care have Medicaid health insurance coverage. When you emancipate from foster care, you may be eligible to continue Medicaid coverage until you are 26 years old.

Before you leave foster care, you and your caseworker should complete the Medicaid application.

Read all the mail Medicaid sends you. If you move, share your new address with Medicaid. Medicaid reviews your eligibility every year.

Read more to learn about eligibility and applying for Medicaid.

Young adult services

You may be eligible for your county’s young adult services through PCSA after you turn 18 (even if you do not participate in Bridges). The young adult services may help you become eligible for Bridges if you want to join Bridges. The young adult services support your own efforts to be self-sufficient. Contact your local PCSA to learn more about what services are available in your county. You can find their information on this page under "Local Government and Community Resources."

Forms and Letters

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