Helping Teens Make a Successful Transition from Foster Care to Self-Sufficiency
The name of the North Carolina Foster Care Independence Program, NC LINKS, is not an acronym and therefore doesn't "stand" for anything. Instead, it is a word that captures the purposes and intent of the John Chafee Foster Care Independence Act:
...to build a network of relevant services with youth so that they will have ongoing connections with family, friends, mentors, the community, employment, education, financial assistance, skills training, and other resources to facilitate the transition to adulthood.
Older youth and young adults who have experienced extended time in foster care are at increased risk of negative consequences once they leave care, such as dropping out of school, unplanned parenthood, high rates of untreated illness, homelessness, criminal activity, depression, and suicide. In order to help these youth and young adults have better outcomes, the NC LINKS program provides services and resources to all youth in foster care aged 16 to 18 and to those young adults who are between the ages of 18 and 21 and are participating in a Foster Care to Age 21 Agreement, as well as to young adults who aged out of foster care at age 18 and are not participating in a Foster Care to Age 21 Agreement. For the purposes of this policy, "foster care" means that the youth was in DSS custody as a minor and lived either in a licensed foster care facility or lived with a relative (not the removal home). Moore County Department of Social Services (MCDSS) is required to offer LINKS services to these two populations if we have eligible youth or young adults who are or were in our custody. Counties are strongly encouraged to provide services to youth in foster care ages 13 through 15 and to youth and young adults who were discharged from their custody as teens but prior to their 18th birthday. Youth ages 13 to 18 who have been discharged from foster care as teenagers may request LINKS services from their local department of social services. Moore County elects to serve youth 13 until their 21st birthday if they were in foster care for even one day!
In order for a youth or young adult to receive LINKS services or funding, he or she must be a willing and active participant in the assessment, planning, and service implementation processes. Youth and young adults who refuse services may later change their minds so long as they are eligible.
The NC LINKS program is comprised of several elements:
- An assessment of the youth's strengths as well as their needs for further information and training. The assessment is completed by the youth and his or her caregiver.
- A plan that is based on the assessment and which includes the youth/young adult's interests and goals as well as their responsibilities for fulfilling the plan.
- Services outlined in the plan are directed to help the youth or young adult to achieve positive outcomes. Desired outcomes for all young adults exiting the foster care system are:
- Sufficient income to meet daily needs
- A safe and stable place to live
- Sufficient academic and/or vocational training that is in keeping with the youth's goals, interests, and abilities
- Connections to and emotional support from a variety of adults outside of the public child welfare system
- Avoidance of High-Risk Behaviors
- Postponement of parenthood until emotionally and financially capable of parenting
- Access to routine mental health, health, and dental health care
- Services are individualized but usually include group activities; participation in community activities that promote maturity; one-on-one instruction; volunteer activities; employment; specific life skills training; exposure to educational and vocational resources, etc.
- Funding is provided for program operations based on the number of eligible youth and young adults served by the county. In addition, limited funding is available to reimburse MCDSS for expenditures made on behalf of individual youth and young adults that help to fulfill the purposes of the program.
Undocumented alien youth/young adults and youth/young adults with personal reserves in excess of $10,000 are not eligible for LINKS funds nor can services be provided through the use of LINKS funds. Ineligible youths may participate so long as their participation does not require the use of additional LINKS funds and so long as no LINKS-eligible youth are denied services due to their participation.
If you or someone you know needs this service, please contact our LINKS Coordinator at 910-947-2436.