Pay It Forward
Every foster child thinks about their 18th birthday, whether that date approaches with joy, excitement or fear. There is one thing every foster youth will do on this day: either leave foster care or sign themselves into Extended Foster Care (EFC). EFC is a relatively new program implemented in Washington state, and many youths have misconceptions about the program, including how placement works and how involved your social worker would be in your life. I’ve been in EFC for a year now, and will outline MY experiences while in the program, and what could potentially be offered to you if you choose to enter EFC.
The best way to sum up what EFC does is that it offers a safety net for up to three years. You can enroll in EFC any time up until your 19th birthday and stay in the program until you turn 21. Some people don’t know this, but you can exit the program at any point if you choose.
While in foster care, youth under 18 are often shuffled from place to place and are likely to experience a plethora of different placements. When you enter EFC, you will be prompted to find a place on your own or asked if you would like to stay in your current placement, depending on your situation.
If you choose to live on your own, you receive a stipend to help with the costs of living while you start your life and begin your road to independence. Children’s Administration (CA) only has some basic requirements for EFC, such as completing a walkthrough of your residence with your social worker. This walkthrough is to ensure your place has the basics — heat, a bathroom a kitchen, a bed, etc. Depending on the county you live in, you can get connected with resources to help with clothes, housing, and school. CA asks that you to keep them updated with your current address, but you have control over choosing where you live. Who knew that EFC could encompass so much more than just the normal foster homes or group homes?
The ultimate goal of EFC is to help youth gain independence and become productive members of society. This would be very difficult if your social worker stayed heavily involved in your life. The involvement of your social worker while in EFC can be very minimal. While in the program you must have a monthly health and safety meeting. Your social worker’s job is to make sure you are alive and healthy and connect you with resources to gain independence. In my experience if you are trying to better yourself, your social worker will not interfere with your life.
EFC is great! There is no reason why any foster youth should not be in the program after they turn 18. It helps you enormously with little to no infringement on your life. If you are in foster care and questioning whether or not to go into EFC, ask yourself this: Do I want to be successful? Do I need help to do that? If the answer is yes, talk to your social worker about Extended Foster Care or call the intake line, at 1-800-562-5624.