Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood is daunting for any youth.  In Connecticut, the age of mandatory emancipation is 18.  At that time, youth legally transition from adolescence to adulthood.  For foster youth committed to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), this transition is called emancipation.  Emancipation, commonly referred to as “aging out”, is the time when legal guardianship of a minor ceases.  Youth who “age out” have the sole responsibility of providing for their financial, medical, and educational needs.  Research supports that foster youth making this transition face significant odds and the challenges they experience increase when supportive adult connections decrease (Berzin et al, 2014).



Poor outcomes for emancipated foster youth include:

  • Homelessness and multiple moves

  • Lower educational attainment

  • Lower socio-economic status

  • Higher likelihood of drug use/abuse

  • Higher likelihood of teen pregnancy

(Berzin et al, 2011)


Transition Planning

Successful transitions for youth require advanced planning.  According to

DCF policy 42-1, it is mandatory that at age 14, all youth in care that are in

out-of-home placements be provided with adolescent planning, regardless

of their permanency plan.  DCF offers planning around education,

employment, and vocation.  Adolescent Specialists have the significant

responsibility of ensuring that these domains are being addressed, where

applicable, and proficiency in these areas is being met.


Parents or guardians, social workers, guardians ad litem, other supportive adults, and youth all have a role to play in preparing youth for a successful transition into adulthood.  At age 16, if one has not previously been developed, an adolescent transition plan should be designed by the DCF adolescent specialist with feedback from the youth.  This plan is unique, goal-oriented, measurable, should take into account the youth’s special skills and talents, and is to be reviewed at the first administrative case review (ACR) after the youth’s 16th birthday.  Guardian ad litem volunteers should encourage the youth to participate in these meetings.  Research shows that engaging youth in the decision-making process and assessment planning is a significant contributor to a healthy development (Voight, A., & Torney-Purta, J., 2013).


The adolescent transition plan should consider the questions:

  • What is the youth good at?

  • What does the youth want to be doing a year from now? Five years from now?

  • What are the youth’s hopes, expectations, and fears?

  • Does the youth have a support system which includes at least one responsible adult?

  • Is the youth motivated to accomplish their goals?

  • Does the youth believe they are capable of accomplishing their goals?


Beyond a list of tasks that need to be completed prior to emancipation, successful transition planning, at its core, should incorporate aspects that enhance a youth’s self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-advocacy.  It is often said that, “little successes lead to big successes.”  When working with youth, it is important to create opportunities for youth to experience success.  Daphna Oyserman and others found that an imagined positive future self positively affects a youth’s efficacy.  Conversely, they found the reverse to be true (Oyserman et al, 2015).  In order for youth to experience success, they first need to have a positive image of their future self.  In 2012, the National CASA Association developed Fostering Futures, a strength-based curriculum that incorporates Oyserman’s “Possible Selves” framework, to help prepare youth for transition into adulthood by conceptualizing their future goals and identifying their internal assets.  Additionally, concrete and challenging goals lead to higher performance among individuals (Baum and Locke, 2004). 


Internal assets that may support healthy development and anchor future success include:


  • self control

  • persistence (grit)

  • motivation

  • mindfulness

  • creativity

  • outgoing personality

  • friendliness

  • organized

  • helpfulness

  • curiosity

  • adventurous

  • hardworking

  • optimism

(Duckworth and Gross, 2014; McCaslin, 2009;

Baum and Locke, 2004; Hill et al, 2012)


Where to Start?

Transitioning out of foster care can be an exciting time, but where should a youth start?  Consider these main areas, and determine which categories are the most important according to the teen’s goals:

  1. Finances and Money Management

  2. Job and Career

  3. Life Skills

  4. Identity

  5. Permanence

  6. Education

  7. Self Care and Health

  8. Housing

  9. Trasportation

  10. Community, Culture, and Social Life


To explore these areas more closely, or download the entire FosterClub Transition Toolkit, click here.


College Bound

If college or post-secondary education is in a teenager’s future, there are specific preparations that the youth has to consider.  Similar to the process of aging out, the transition plan to college should begin years before graduation.  For all students, preparation begins as a freshman.  Lily Dorman-Colby, a 2010 Yale graduate and former foster youth, compiled a college handbook that guides the student through their four years of high school on a college track, through the daunting college application process, financial aid/ scholarships, and various waivers.


















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