Transitioning into Adulthood

The Iowa Department of Human Services offers several options for youth that are preparing to exit the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Below you will find a brief description of the available resources and links to related sites.

Transition Planning Specialists

The Department has 5 Transition Planning Specialist (TPS), one in each service area, who focus on the overall transition process/protocol for older youth in foster care who are expected to age out of foster care.  The TPS are available to staff (DHS and JCS), care providers, and other key stakeholders to provide training on the components of transition planning, community resources available, and to consult with regarding experienced difficulties for youth to successfully transition from foster care into young adulthood.  As teens prepare to exit the foster care system at age 18, there are numerous issues that must be taken into consideration.  Transition planning should begin well before the youth prepares to exit the system in order to have a solid discharge plan when the time comes for the youth to be on their own.  Not only does the youth need to have developed life skills while in care, they need to have a plan for continuing education or employment, housing, access to health care, and maintaining a positive support system.  The TPS is prepared to assist with these issues and many more.  Please view the Iowa Map to locate the TPS in your area.

The Transition Information Packet (TIP) is a resource for youth preparing to enter adulthood. TIP contains information on Education, Employment, Money Management, Housing, Health and Transportation. Youth who are referred to a TPS will receive a copy of the TIP.


Achieving Maximum Potential (AMP) is Iowa's Youth Council for children in foster care and youth transitioning to adulthood. Local AMP youth councils are facilitated by local partner agencies subcontracted by lead agency Youth and Shelter Services Inc.  AMP offers leadership opportunities, service learning projects, speaking opportunities, and educational/vocational assistance to youth ranging from ages 13 through age 20 who have been involved in foster care, adoption or other out-of-home placements.  AMP partners with Iowa State Training School staff to deliver life skills training and leadership opportunities to youth placed at the facility. AMP provides the life skills youth need to become self-sufficient, independent adults.  AMP's youth engagement efforts can be summarized by the motto "nothing about us, without us." AMP involves young people as advocates for themselves and as a voice for system-level improvements in child welfare policies and practices.  Visit for more information. 


The purpose of Aftercare is to provide services and supports to youth aged 18, 19 or 20 who were formerly in foster care or Iowa's state training school. The primary goal of the program is for participants to achieve self-sufficiency and to recognize and accept their personal responsibility for the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Iowa DHS contracted a private agency to administer the Iowa Aftercare Services Network (IASN).  IASN is a network of private agencies across the state to assist youth as they leave foster care and enter adulthood.

PAL Stipend

Aftercare participants who attend college or a work training program, or who are employed, may be eligible for a PAL living stipend. 


While the PAL stipend will not start until the youth leaves state paid foster care, Pre-PAL services can start before youth age out to help build a relationship with the Self-Sufficiency Advocate or rent an apartment.  Pre-PAL consists of up to ten meetings with the Self-Sufficiency Advocate. 

Medicaid for Independent Young Adults

The purpose of the Medicaid for Independent Young Adults (MIYA) program is to provide continued health coverage to young adults transitioning to independency from state care and custody.

EMIYA Eligibility Definitions

EMIYA currently provides Medicaid coverage to eligible youth who are:

  • Living in Iowa
  • Under age 26
  • Who were in a foster care placement when they turned age 18
  • Who were receiving federal Medicaid when they turned age 18
  • Income requirements may apply

Youth covered by the EMIYA program receive covered services through existing Medicaid provider networks. 

To apply for EMIYA in person contact your local DHS county office or click  apply online to complete an application.

College Resources

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

There are several resources available that will assist youth with college expenses.  The first step in receiving any type of financial aid for college is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.  The FAFSA is the application for federal grants and scholarships (like the Pell Grant) and must be completed if the student is to receive any financial aid.  The results of the FAFSA determine how much financial aid each student will receive.

Students who exit foster care at age 18 or older, can answer 'yes' to the question which asks, "At any time since you turned 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?"  By answering yes, the student will be treated as an independent student and no parental information or income is required. Students who answer 'yes' to this question should anticipate that the college/university will require proof of their foster care/ward of the court status.  Most colleges/universities will accept a copy of the court order placing them into the care of DHS or a letter from a social worker on DHS letterhead. (Please view the Iowa Map to locate the TPS Worker in your area or the nearest county office.) If you are in need of a Ward of Court Letter or proof that you were in foster care beyond age 13 for your financial aid office for your college, you can contact your former case worker, JCO, local TPS or your ETV Coordinator for this letter.  The state you aged out of will have these records.

The FAFSA should be completed in October for students intending to start college in August.  For assistance completing the FAFSA, please contact your Transition Planning Specialist.

The State of Iowa offers two programs to help pay for college:

Education and Training Voucher Grant

The Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Grant provides awards of up to $5,000 per year to students who age out of foster care and students who are adopted after age 16.  Grant awards are sent directly to the college or university and can be used to pay for tuition/fees, room/board, book/supplies and personal/living expenses. 

Eligibility Criteria

Student must be/have been:

  • The age of 18 or aged out of court ordered foster care and custody of the Department of Human Services.
  • The age of 18 or aged out of court ordered foster care and custody of the Department of Human Services and order to live with a relative or suitable person.
  • Between the ages of 16 and 21, as of July 1, and was in one of the living situations described above until the age of 18. Student will have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the Iowa Financial Aid Application annually, and be eligible and awarded prior to the age of 21, as of July 1, on the day he or she begins college.
  • Previously in Iowa foster care and was legally adopted after the age of 16. Student will be under the age of 21, as of July 1, on the day he or she begins college.

* Students who are enrolled and maintaining satisfactory academic progress toward degree completion at age 21 are eligible to receive ETV until the age of 23. A student's age will be determined by student's age as of July 1 each year.

Required Applications

Required Documents

Students applying for ETV and who will be attending an out-of-state college must:

  • Print the release and consent form and follow the instructions on the form.
  • Print the ETV enrollment verification and W-9 forms, and provide to your school's financial aid office to complete and return to Tonia Smith at the address or email below.  Please note that the enrollment verification form must be completed each term.
Tonia Smith
DHS-Child & Family Services
1305 E. Walnut St.
5th Floor
Des Moines, IA  50319

Important Dates

  • The Iowa Financial Aid Application will be available January 1 through December 1.
  • Priority application deadlines for renewal students is March 1.

All Iowa Opportunity Foster Care Grant

The All Iowa Opportunity Foster Care Grant will not exist for the 2017-2018 school year.  However, students in foster care can apply for the 2017-18 All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship instead.    Any student who has already applied for the 2017-18 Foster Care Grant AND has submitted a 2017-18 FAFSA will have their application automatically converted into an application for the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship; therefore, no additional action is needed from those students.

The official application for the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship is closed for the year, however, students in foster care can follow these steps by June 1, 2017, to apply for the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship:

·        Submit a 2017-18 FAFSA, then

·        Go to the Iowa Financial Aid Application

·        On the screen titled, Step 1:

o   Select the 2017-2018 school year in the dropdown

o   Choose “undergraduate” student

·        On Step 2, answer all questions presented

·        On Step 3, you will be eligible for the All Iowa Opportunity Foster Care Grant, click “Apply Now” button.

Iowa College Aid will use the information provided on the Foster Grant application to create an application for each student for the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship.

Students must complete these steps by June 1st.

For more information on the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship, please visit the Iowa College Aid website at the link provided below. Please note, the Education & Training Voucher (ETV) Grant is still available for the 2017-2018 school year.

Iowa College Aid website


Trio Programs

Almost all colleges and universities have a Student Services office on campus.  The Student Service office can offer:

  • instruction in basic study skills
  • tutorial services
  • academic, financial, or personal counseling
  • guidance on career options

Students should ask the college or university they are attending about services offered at that campus.

Additional Resources

For more information about education beyond high school as well as a listing of available resources please visit the Iowa College Student Aid Commission website at This page also provides downloadable forms in both English and Spanish.

For additional information please contact Tonia Smith at