Resources for Youth & Foster Parents

Education and Employment

Scholarship Program DEADLINE MARCH 31

This selective award-based program provides a tuition waiver to any community college or any of the nine Illinois state universities,* a monthly stipend for up to four years, a medical card until age 23, and reimbursement for books not covered by financial aid to former or current DCFS wards age 16 to 21.  The student must maintain full time status (12 or more credits), at least a “C” average each semester, as well as adhere to program deadlines and requirements to maintain their eligibility.  Applications are available beginning in January each year and must be received by March 31st to be considered. Contact the Office of Education and Transition Services at 217-557-2689 for more information.

*Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Western Illinois University, Northeastern Illinois University, University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University.

Youth in College/Vocational Training Program

This program provides a monthly stipend for up to four years, a medical card until age 21, and reimbursement for books not covered by financial aid. Current DCFS youth who attend/will attend vocational school, community college or a four-year college program are eligible for the YIC/VT Program. Youth participating in the program at age 21 when their case is closed are allowed to continue in the program through the semester he/she turns 23 years old; however the medical card ends at case closure.  The student must maintain full time status, at least a “C” average each semester, as well as adhere to program deadlines and requirements to maintain their eligibility.  Call the Office of Education and Transitional Services at 312-814-5959 for more information.

Education and Training Vouchers

The Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program assists youth with certain post-secondary education related expenses not covered by financial aid grants. Youth for whom DCFS is legally responsible or who aged out of care at age 18 or older, or youth who went to guardianship or adoption placement at age 16 or older are eligible. Youth must attend a program listed as accredited by the U.S. Department of Education and make academic progress while in the program. If enrolled in a post-secondary program before age 21 and making satisfactory progress toward completion of the program, funding is available until age 23. Call the Office of Education and Transitional Services at 309-671-7969 or email the program coordinator at for more information and an application.

Community College Payment Program

DCFS provides four semesters of paid tuition, books, fees and required supplies for current DCFS wards up to age 21 at an in-district community college. Youth must complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) annually, maintain a “C” average, and finish the semester to maintain eligibility. A Community College Payment Program (CFS 407-3) form must be completed each semester with the caseworker. This form includes a service agreement that must be read and signed by the youth. Call the Office of Education and Transitional Services at 309-671-7969 or email the program coordinator at for more information and an application.

Introspect Program for DCFS Clients

Introspect is a program for DCFS clients only. The program is recommended for high school seniors and includes college, technical, and trade school tours, assistance with financial aid forms, and assistance with application packets. The caseworker must complete a DCFS Transition Services Referral Form. For information, ask your caseworker or contact the program at 773-287-2290.

For more information about these programs and other programs funded by DCFS Click here

Helpful Websites


Employment Incentive Program

The Employment Incentive Program (EIP) provides a monthly stipend for a maximum of 12 months, a medical card and a one-time, need-based start-up fund for work related items for current DCFS wards ages 17 to 21. To qualify for EIP, wards must be involved in job training through a certified job skills training program (i.e. Job Corps.) or are employed for at least one month prior to applying for the program and working a minimum of 20 hours per week. In addition, youth must have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate, complete the Ansell Casey Living Skills Assessment and not be participating in any other DCFS stipend program. For more information, contact the DCFS Office of Education and Transition Services at 217-557-2689.

Housing, Skills, Health and Recreation

Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth

If you are a former foster youth from Illinois, still reside in Illinois, and are under the age of 26, you qualify for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”). If you think you qualify, you can apply for coverage now! To apply, go to: or call the toll-free telephone number for completing an application: 1–800–843–6154.

Youth Housing Assistance Program

The Youth Housing Assistance Program helps youth who have aged out of DCFS care or are aging out within 6 months obtain and/or maintain stable housing by providing housing advocacy and/or cash assistance.  Housing advocacy provides assistance in obtaining and/or maintaining stable housing. Cash assistance may be authorized to help pay for items necessary to secure housing that the youth cannot afford if the youth has a balanced budget.  Typical items approved include a security deposit, beds, utility deposits and appliances. A partial housing subsidy may also be approved for a period of 1 year following emancipation. For more information, contact your caseworker or Youth Housing Assistance Coordinator at 312-814-5571.

For additional program information click here

Life skills

Life Skills Program

The Life Skills Program assists DCFS wards ages 14 to 20 gain independent living skills while promoting economic and social self-sufficiency.  The Ansell Casey Life Skills Assessment is used to help create individualized transition plans, goals and timelines that include the youth, caregiver and caseworker.  Life skills training can consist of group and/or individual instruction.  For more information, contact the DCFS Office of Education and Transition Services at 217-557-2689.
For additional program information click here


Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth

If you are a former foster youth from Illinois, still reside in Illinois, and are under the age of 26, you qualify for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”). If you think you qualify, you can apply for coverage now! To apply, go to: or call the toll-free telephone number for completing an application: 1–800–843–6154.

Extending Medicare Eligibility

Medicaid eligibility can be extended for wards ages 18 and under if their case is closed. The extension is either up to age 19, or for 12 months, whichever occurs first after case closure.  The medical card provided with the extension will cover any medical services covered by the Department of Public Aid’s medical program. In order to be considered for the extension, the DCFS ward must: 1) live in Illinois; 2) be under the age of 19; and 3) have been returned to a parent from foster care or be living independently and therefore no longer requiring DCFS services. After case closure, youth are responsible for informing the Technical Support Unit of any change of address. For more information, contact your caseworker or the Technical Support Unit at 1-800-228-6533. Direct Payment of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to Clients Age 18 and older

DCFS wards age 18 and older who are receiving SSI payments may be eligible to receive these payments directly. In most circumstances where wards are entitled to SSI payments, DCFS is the representative payee. Generally, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will pay SSI benefits for children under age 18 to a representative payee. SSI payments to persons age 18 or older only need to be paid to a representative payee if it is in the recipient’s best interest (based on their age and whether they are capable of managing their own funds). The decision on whether a recipient will receive payments directly is made by the SSA.  Direct payment of SSI benefits must be applied for at the Social Security Office. For more information, contact the DCFS children’s account manager at 217-524-1976, or contact your attorney/GAL.

Where to Apply for SSDI or SSI? The Social Security Administration local office in your area, or by calling toll-free 1-800-772-1213.

Who May Be Eligible? SSDI: Workers who become “disabled” (or who are at least 62 years old), and their spouses, and dependents of workers who are “disabled” (or retired or deceased). SSI: People of any age who are needy and are blind or “disabled” (or who are at least 65 years old).

For additional information click here

Recreation for Children in Foster Care Ages 3 to 18

Art & Recreation Program

DCFS has a free program called PROJECT SOAR that is geared toward providing children in foster care (ages 3-18) with weekly after school classes in music, art, media, dance and drama. There are two sessions held in the fall and spring. Typically, registration for fall is in late August. Registration for spring is held in late December. For more information, call 312-814-4145 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Post-Emancipation Services

Any youth in need who has or may have an open case in the Child Protection Division of Cook County and who is not sure of the name of the assigned attorney and guardian ad litem (GAL) can contact the Reception Desk at the Juvenile Division at (312) 433-4300 or leave a message toll-free at 1-800-461-6341. Youth represented by the Office of the Public Guardian will be connected to the assigned attorney/GAL to provide needed advocacy.

Know Your Rights

  • If you are not living with your brothers and sisters, you have the right to see them at least twice a month with some limited exceptions.
  • You have the right to be at every juvenile court date.
  • You have the right to a free public education that fits your needs. If you need support, you are entitled to special education services.
  • You cannot be deprived of planned visits to see or speak to your family as punishment.
  • You have other rights! Talk to your attorney/GAL to learn more.

DCFS Youth Hotline

Did you know that DCFS has a youth hotline available to older youth? The purpose of the hotline is to handle complaints, concerns, inquiries and suggestions made by DCFS’ teen clients. The hotline can be contacted when a youth is having trouble with his/her assigned agency. According to DCFS, the advocates working the hotline can help transfer a case from one agency to another, if doing so is in the client’s best interest, and assist in obtaining services from the current agency. The phone number is 1-800-232-3798. The hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Placement of Youth Age 18 and over with Unrelated, Unlicensed Caregivers

Children over the age of 18 may be placed with unrelated, unlicensed caregivers, if the caregiver passes a safety check conducted by the child’s caseworker. If the placement is approved after the safety check, the caregiver shall receive a monthly payment equal to what an unlicensed relative caregiver would receive. You may also be able to arrange with your caseworker a Placement Alternative Contract.  Contact your caseworker or attorney/GAL if you have questions.

Post-Emancipation Services

As of January 1, 2010, there may be a way for a youth whose case has closed to get assistance from DCFS.  Youth may be able to get help from DCFS if they are a former ward and not yet 21, and the youth’s case closed, or if the case closed before the youth turned 18 and the youth was legally emancipated.  In these situations, DCFS may be able to help with: housing; job training and career counseling; education, including college and specialized career courses; medical coverage and health care; counseling; and food, clothing and other basic needs.  DCFS also may be able to offer assistance without having the court case re-opened.  A youth may also be able to receive services from DCFS if the court re-opens the case.  For more information, contact the Office of the Public Guardian at (312) 433-4300, or the DCFS Supporting Emancipated Youth Services Program at (866) 459-6884.  More information is also available at the DCFS website.  Click the “Get Goal’d” box on the right side of the home page, and then click the “Supporting Emancipated Youth Services Program” link on the top of the page.

Many DCFS youth who age out of the system at age 21, and youth facing hardship after adoption or guardianship subsidies end at age 18, are faced with a lack of available resources and support. Additionally, many of these youth seek additional guidance in pursuing their individual goals, or need assistance on a variety of matters. Recognizing the needs of former clients, the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian has developed a network of agencies, individuals, service providers and other resources for those who need assistance after case closure. Although resources are extremely limited, at times, just having someone available to answer questions, help problem solve, and point young people in the right direction can improve an individual’s long term outcomes.

Youth seeking post-emancipation support can contact the Office of the Public Guardian by calling (312) 433-4300 or toll-free at 1-800-461-6341, or by e-mailing

Resources for Foster Parents

Foster Parent Organizations

DCFS Advocacy Office

The Advocacy Office responds to complaints, concerns, inquiries and suggestions about the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).  Foster parents are welcome to call the Advocacy Office’s Toll Free Help Line: 800-232-3798 (217-524-3715).  The Advocacy Office is located at 406 East Monroe Street, Springfield, Illinois 62701.

List of Healthworks Contact Coordinators

Healthworks provides medical case management to children who are in the custody of DCFS.  Healthworks works with the DCFS caseworker and the foster parent to ensure that the children in custody are receiving appropriate medical care.  To find the Healthworks contact coordinator in your area, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions About Foster Children

I haven’t received services for these children since they’ve been in my home. Where can I get help?

If you believe your foster child is in need of services such as counseling or mentoring services, contact the child’s attorney and guardian ad litem (GAL). In Cook County, contact the Office of Public Guardian at 312-433-4300.  Be prepared to give the child’s name and date of birth. The child’s attorney/ GAL should be able to help.

Who can I talk to about an out-of-control teen?

An out-of-control teen usually means that the teen needs help. If the caseworker hasn’t been able to help you, the attorney/GAL may be able to recommend services to help get the teen back on track.

What can be done when a foster child becomes pregnant?

If you have a foster child who becomes pregnant, immediately contact the child’s caseworker. The caseworker will be able to help assist the child with choices that are available to pregnant teens. The teen should be enrolled in the Teen Parenting Network Program and a teen parenting coordinator who specializes in cases of parenting teens should be assigned to work with you and the teen.

My foster child was supposed to be in school but I didn’t have the right papers. Who can I talk to about getting the child in school?

Your foster child’s caseworker should be able to enroll your child in school. If you have a problem reaching the caseworker, contact the child’s attorney/GAL so they can assist you in tracking down the caseworker. DCFS has two days to make reasonable efforts to enroll your foster child and in no event shall this period exceed more than five days.

Questions About Money

Vouchers weren’t granted and I can’t afford the clothing the child needs. What do I do?

Foster parents are given vouchers for certain items when a child is first placed in foster care. If there are extenuating circumstances (your foster child has grown a great deal or there’s been a disaster such as a fire), then the child’s caseworker should be able to get you a voucher.

I didn’t get a check last month. What is the number I am supposed to call?

For all inquires relating to checks from DCFS, contact DCFS’ Central Payment Unit at 1-800-525-0499.

I have had a foster child in my home for three months and I haven’t received a medical card.  Who can I talk to about this?

All DCFS wards are entitled to receive a medical card through the Illinois Department of Public Aid. If you haven’t received a medical card, contact the caseworker immediately. The caseworker has the ability to fill out the necessary paperwork for an emergency medical card and then submit paperwork so that you will receive a medical card each month.

Questions about Placements

We are moving out of town and want to take our foster child with us. What is the procedure?

As soon as you believe you may be moving out of town, contact the child’s caseworker. The caseworker should complete the necessary forms to get permission from DCFS and the court to take your foster child with you.

My foster child wants and needs clothing and other personal possessions left at his/her last placement. Who should I talk to?

The assigned caseworker should be able to assist you in getting your foster child’s personal possessions. If your caseworker is not assisting you, contact the child’s attorney/GAL.

Questions about DCFS

Who do I talk to about getting another caseworker assigned?

If you are having great difficulty with the caseworker, contact that caseworker’s supervisor and tell the supervisor, in a calm and detailed way, your reasons for wanting a different caseworker. It is usually difficult to get new caseworkers assigned.  You can report inappropriate conduct on the part of caseworkers to the Inspector General at 1-800-722-9124.

Who do I call when I need help but can’t reach the caseworker?

At times caseworkers are unavailable, but there should always be a way to contact the agency in the event of an emergency. This may involve asking the receptionist at the agency to page the caseworker, or asking the receptionist to speak with the caseworker’s supervisor. Be sure to get emergency contact information from the caseworker at the time a child is placed with you (or as soon as you realize you don’t have it) so it will be available when you most need it.

Who can I talk to when DCFS calls to say they are coming to get the children?

DCFS has the authority to remove a child from a home. The caseworker should give you information about why the child is being moved and about appealing DCFS’ decision. Unless it’s an emergency, you should receive the information in writing.

Questions about Visitation

How can my foster child get visits with his or her siblings?

A foster child who has siblings in the system is entitled to visit them at least twice a month with some limited exceptions. The agency may be able to provide you with a special service fee for hosting sibling visits.  Contact the caseworker or the child’s attorney/GAL for more information.