Independent Living

Independent Living programs help current and former foster care kids, ages 14-24, develop the life skills they'll need to successfully live on their own and transition to adulthood.

In Allegheny County, your CYF caseworker will make the referral for IL services at age 14. You will start by discussing your plans for your future and then you will receive services that will help you achieve your goals. You'll also receive an Educational Liaison who can help you with your plans for furthering your education.

Where do I get independent living skills?

When you turn 14 you are assigned a transitional caseworker that will help you to begin planning for your future.  If you're over 16 and living in a supervised independent living (SIL) program, you will receive your IL services at your placement and be assigned a YOUTH COACH from the 412 Youth Zone.  If you live with a relative, other than you parents, or in a foster home you will also be assigned to work with a YOUTH COACH from the 412 Youth Zone. Everyone over the age of 16 should be referred to an Educational Liaison who will help you obtain school records, research educational options after high school, take you on college tours and to college fairs, assist with college applications and help you fill out financial aid applications. 

THE 412 YOUTH ZONE

The 412 Youth Zone welcomes young adults, 16-24 that are transitioning out of the foster care system and are eligible for independent living services or are experiencing unstable housing. 

The 412 Youth Zone is a safe and welcoming one-stop center where programming focuses on life skills, medical and behavioral health, education, housing counseling and workforce development.

The 412 Youth Zone is a place where you can feel a sense of fun and belonging.  The 412 Youth Zone goal is to help youth become independent, self-sufficient adutls. 

The 412 Youth Zone is located at 304 Wood St (Wood Street Commons), Pittsburgh, PA 15222. 

Get directions to the 412 Youth Zone

CURRENT DROP-IN HOURS

  • Mondays through Thursdays 11am-7pm
  • Fridays 11am-5pm
  • Saturdays 11am-3pm

Please call 412-902-4068 for additional information. 

Where can I find out more information about Allegheny County Independent Living Services and Educational Liaisons (EL)?

You have the right to receive independent living services!

In Allegheny County the transition program manager is:

JoAnn Hannah
Phone: 412-350-7153 or 412-225-6213
Email: JoAnn.Hannah@alleghenycounty.us

If you left care on or after your 16th birthday, you're still eligible for IL services-and you can continue to receive IL services until your 24th birthday. Sometimes this is referred to as aftercare or aftercare IL services. If you've moved to (or are going to move) to a different county or state, you can receive IL services in those areas. If you live in Allegheny County call JoAnn Hannah, transition program manager, to see if you're eligible for aftercare services and to reconnect with those services. Phone 412-350-1184 or 412-225-6213; email JoAnn.Hannah@alleghenycounty.us


Transitioning Out Of Care

Before you leave care you should FIRST decide if you want to continue in care until you're 21 and SECOND have a concrete and realistic transition plan (also called a discharge plan) before you leave care.

What's a transition plan?

A transition plan is designed to explain in detail the transition services you'll need as you move-"transition"-from the foster care system to life outside of the system as an adult (at age 18, or up to 21). In Pennsylvania, it must be documented on your Transition Plan that you have been informed of your right to request to remain in care until age 21.

Youth are eligible to request to remain in care until age 21 if they are:

  • Completing high school or an equivalent program
  • Enrolled in a post-secondary or vocational program
  • Participating in a program that will help you get a job or
  • Working at least 80 hours per month.
  • If you are unable to do any of the above activities because of a medical or mental health condition, you may still be eligible to remain in care.

Your child welfare agency should work with you to develop your plan, but you should be the one leading the process. Your transition plan must include specific options on housing, health insurance, education, local opportunities for mentors and continuing support services, work force supports, and employment services. The law requires that your plan be made at least 90 days (about 3 months) before you leave care, but it's best to begin work on your transition plan a year or two before you think you'll leave substitute care.

What you need to have in hand before you leave care

You'll need your transition plan, which should contain as much detail as you want to ensure that you're prepared when you leave care. It's also a good idea for your transition plan to include assurances that you'll have the following before you leave care:

  • Copy of your credit report, if you are over 18
  • Your Social Security card
  • Information about the process for accessing your child welfare file
  • Original or certified copy of your birth certificate
  • Driver's license or state ID card
  • Documentation of the dates that you were in care (which will be needed to determine your eligibility for federal financial aid for college or training)
  • Your educational records
  • Your health and mental health records and any information about treatment that will continue after you leave care
  • Proof of your citizenship (if you were born in another country) or legal residence
  • Information about how to get health insurance and local health care centers for the uninsured
  • Termination of Parental Rights orders, if applicable

How to get a copy of your birth certificate

In Person: 
The following people may request a birth certificate: 

  • Person named on the birth certificate, who is 18 years of age or older (if under 18, immediate family member must apply)
  • Legal representative
  • Parent / step-parent (A step-parent or step-child is required to submit parents' marriage record supporting their relationship)
  • Brother / sister / half-brother / half-sister
  • Grandparent / great grandparent (specify maternal or paternal)
  • The birth certificate may be requested in person (Monday-Friday 8:00am-4:00pm) at:

Division of Vital Records
411 7th Avenue, Suite 360
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-1973
(412) 565-5113

You will be required to complete an application for certified copy of a birth certificate available online http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/document/901670/birth_by_mail_pdf or at the office. You must present valid government issued photo identification. Examples of acceptable identification are a state issued driver's license or non-driver photo ID with requestor's name and current address, etc.  There is now a $20 fee for each certified copy of birth. Check or money order should be made payable to Vital Records.

By Mail:  For kids born in Pennsylvania, send completed application to:

Division of Vital Records,
101 South Mercer Street Room 401
P.O. Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16101

How to get your Social Security card

Complete an application for a Social Security Card and present a recently issued document to show your identity (a driver's license, passport, employer or school ID card, adoption record, military ID card, or other document that establishes your identity). You may bring your application with you in person, or send the application with identifying documents to your local Social Security office. There is no fee for obtaining a replacement Social Security card. To find the Social Security office nearest you call 1-800-772-1213.


Independent Living Resources Fair

KidsVoice and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) organize the Independent Living Resource Fairs. The goal of these fairs is to introduce kids who are either currently in care, or whose cases have closed, to the wide variety of programs and services available to connect youth to important and valuable resources for the transition out of care and into living independently as an adult.

These free events give kids the opportunity to hear presentations and talk with the people from organizations that provide important transition programs and services, such as:

  • Post-secondary education
  • Child care
  • Public assistance
  • Housing
  • Job training
  • Employment services

Who will be at the Fair?

Along with people from KidsVoice and the Allegheny County DHS Independent Living Initiative (Educational Liaisons), you'll also get to talk to Youth Coaches from the 412 Youth Zone, local schools like CCAC, training programs and apprenticeship programs, Just Harvest, Planned Parenthood and many more people and organizations who are all interested in helping you to be successful living on your own.


Conciliation Process

The conciliation process is a meeting where your KidsVoice case team sits down with representatives from the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Children, Youth and Families (CYF) law department to look at your individual situation. They'll determine what kind of support you need to succeed while you're attending your course of instruction full time. You should come and participate in the meetings! The conciliation process is not about CYF or DHS paying your tuition! Securing financial aid for your course of instruction is your responsibility.

Some examples of post-secondary education programs include:

  • traditional 4-year colleges (in state or out of state)
  • community college, two-year associate colleges, junior colleges
  • specialized post-secondary education programs for clients with mental health or intellectual disabilities
  • technical programs, trade schools
  • apprenticeship, job training programs

You'll also need to provide other relevant information about your current situation and what it is you think you need to succeed, so make sure to ask about this.


Re-Entering Foster Care

If you left foster care and your court case closed when you were 17¾ years old or older and you are currently under 21 years old, you may be eligible to re-enter care under certain circumstances. This is also referred to as "resumption of jurisdiction" or "re-opening" your case.

There are many reasons why a formerly dependent youth may want to re-enter foster care, including:

  • Youth is experiencing unstable housing (living on the street or in a homeless shelter, "couch surfing")
  • Youth has physical and/or behavioral health needs that are not being met
  • Youth is not able to meet his/her basic and daily living needs
  • Youth has no support system or resources

Re-entering foster care can give you a place to live, health insurance and other services you may need until you turn 21 years old or are ready to live on your own. This support can help you meet your goals for education, employment, saving money and even connecting or reconnecting with your family.

For the court to re-open your case or resume jurisdiction, you need to be doing or agree to do at least one of the following activities*:

  • Completing high school or an equivalent program
  • Enrolled in a post-secondary or vocational program
  • Participating in a program that will help you get a job or
  • Working at least 80 hours per month

* If you are unable to do any of the above activities because of a medical or mental health condition, you may still be eligible to re-enter foster care.

If you are interested in re-entering foster care and/or have questions about re-entering care, please contact your former attorney or child advocacy specialist at KidsVoice (412-391-3100), your former CYF caseworker, or your current and/or former Educational Liaison or your Youth Coach (also known as IL worker).


Resources

Resources for Independent Living

EMPLOYMENT

EDUCATION

LEGAL ISSUES