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.

Aftercare

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. 

Pre-PAL

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.

MIYA Eligibility Definitions

MIYA currently provides Medicaid coverage to eligible youth who are:

  • Living in Iowa
  • Under age 21
  • Who were in a foster care placement when they turned age 18
  • Income requirements may apply

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

Contact your DHS county office or visit online services for 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 question #53 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.)

The FAFSA should be completed in January 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:

  • Under the age of 18 and currently in licensed foster care under the care and custody of the Iowa Department of Human Services or Iowa Juvenile Court Services and will remain in placement to within 30 days of his or her 18th birthday.
  • Under the age of 18 and currently under Juvenile Court order to live with a relative or suitable person and will remain in placement to within 30 days of the students' 18th birthday.
  • Currently between the ages of 18 and 21 and was in one of the living situations described above until the age of 18. Student will have completed the annual Iowa Financia Aid Application and be eligible and awarded and be under the age of 21 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 on the day he or she begins college.

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
tsmith2@dhs.state.ia.us

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

All Iowa Opportunity Foster Care Grant

Youth must have high school credential (either a GED or diploma) and must:

  • Be an Iowa resident
  • Attend an Iowa college or university
  • Age out of care (leave care within 30 days of turning 18), or
  • Be adopted from foster care after the age of 16, or
  • Age out of the state training home or Iowa juvenile home (leave placement within 30 days of  turning 18)
  • Youth must be under the age of 23 the first time they participate in the All Iowa Opportunity Foster Care Grant program (youth must be attending class and receive a disbursement prior to turning 23).  Funding can continue until the age of 24.

Students must reapply each year and are required to meet the academic progress standards of the college/university or make satisfactory progress towards completion of the training program to renew this grant.

Students who age out of Iowa's foster care system, age out of the state training schools or who are adopted after the age of 16 may qualify for the All Iowa Opportunity Foster Care Grant program. This grant can be used for any college expenses including tuition, fees, books and supplies, dorms and off-campus housing, meal plans, transportation and personal living expenses. Grant amounts vary and usually range from $2,300 - $8,569 per year.

Priority Awards

Renewal applications, received by March 1, are considered for funding first.

New applications will be considered in date-received order.

Eligibility Criteria

Student must:

  • Be an Iowa resident.
  • Be under the age of 18 and currently in licensed foster care under the care and custody of the Iowa Department of Human Services of Iowa Juvenile Court Services, and will remain in placement to within 30 days of his or her 18th birthday.
  •  Be under the age of 18 and currently under Juvenile Court order to live with a relative or suitable person, and will remain in placement to within 30 days of the student's 18th birthday.
  • Be currently between the ages of 18 and 23, and was in one of the living situations described above until the age of 18.
  • Have completed the annual Iowa Financial Aid Application and be eligible and awarded and under the age of 23 on the day he or she begins college.
  • Have been in Iowa foster care and was legally adopted after the age of 16.
  • Be currently or previously under Juvenile Court order to reside at the State Training School or Iowa Juvenile Home until the age of 18 and will be under the age of 23 on the day he or she begins college.

Required Application

Important Dates

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

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.

AMP

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 ampiowa.org for more information.