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If you feel that your rights are being violated or if you do not agree with decisions that are made about you while you are in care, you should advocate for yourself. You should first speak with your caseworker to try and resolve the issue. If you are not satisfied with the result you could go up the chain of command and speak with your caseworker’s supervisor. You could also call your attorney or Guardian ad Litem. Another option is to file a grievance. If you need help with this, you can ask anyone at the agency for a grievance form and ask anyone you trust to assist you in filling it out. The agency is required to review the Grievance Policy and Procedure when you come into agency custody and every 6 months there-after.
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Westmoreland County Children’s Bureau Independent Living is not a placement. It is a program that is offered to all youth who meet eligibility criteria. Some youth can be placed in different types of placement settings where the youth can enhance their independent living skills and utilize those skills in a less structured environment. Specific placements are based on a number of things including caseworker recommendation and the final decision is made by a Court Master or Judge.
NO! Neither the agency nor the IL program will pay for tuition no matter what. The best way to get help with paying for college is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid at fafsa.ed.gov. This application must be filled out, before any grant assistance with funding for college will be available to you, whether you are in WCCB care or not. You could also and should apply for scholarships. The IL program can assist (as long as it is approved and funds are available) with one-time expenses such as housing deposits or books, if all other funding is exhausted.
Once you are eligible for IL services you continue to be eligible for IL services no matter where you live or what your permanency goal is. The goal of the agency should always be to help you find permanency. Permanency requires a person and a place. There is no person or place attached to an APPLA goal. If your goal is adoption, SPLC, placement with a fit and willing relative, you could still live in an IL placement or apartment if your caseworker is in agreement with this or if a judge or hearing officer decides that you can. Even if you are in your own place, the agency should still be assisting you in finding permanency and permanent connections!!!! This is so important!!!! YOU should also be working to build positive relationships with supportive adults.
YES! There are Aftercare Services available to you if you are eligible for IL services and have left agency custody. You can still attend IL Groups (as long as you can get there on your own), and can work one-on-one with a Social Worker if you keep in touch and are willing to develop an Aftercare Plan and work towards goals. If you move to another county or state, you should contact the local CYS agency and ask for Aftercare services. If you are not sure where to find their number, contact the IL Coordinator of Westmoreland County (724) 830-3301, and ask for assistance with finding the correct phone number in your county.
While WCCB encourages you to participate in IL services if you are eligible, it is a voluntary service. If you choose not to participate, you can fill out a refusal of services form. While you are in the custody of WCCB, an IL Social Worker will still be available to meet with you once every 6 months, or so, in conjunction with the development of your Child Permanency Plan, to offer you information and help you plan for a successful transition to adulthood, if you or your caseworker request to meet. Your WCCB caseworker will need to schedule this with the IL Social Worker, since your case will not be active in IL. It is very important that YOU, with the help of the agency, plan for your discharge from care. Your CPP should say who will help you with your transition and how those people will help you. Make sure you take your CPP and Transition Plan seriously, and that you participate in the development of both. Don’t forget, you have the right to invite some permanent connections to these meetings.
NO! You can purchase a car if you are able. The IL Program offers a Savings Match Program that can assist you in saving up for a car or other car related expenses such as car insurance or maintenance. If you plan to drive a car, you will need to get car insurance and be responsible. Please see WCCB’s Driving Policy. Other transportation options can be explored as well, such as use of public transportation and use of the medical taxi, if appropriate.
NO! Sometimes youth in agency custody are responsible enough to live in their own apartments, or other independent settings. Neither WCCB, nor the IL program provides youth with an apartment. There is an SIL placement program that can assist with this, as well as community resources that are available to assist such as the WCHA, but ultimately the youth is responsible for finding and securing their own apartment. IL Social Workers can be available to assist with reviewing leases, and discussing good housing choices. Sometimes the IL program can assist with limited expenses and in furnishing your apartment, depending on the availability of funding, if you are working towards IL goals, and with the approval of the IL Coordinator.
YES! Once you are eligible for IL services you continue to be eligible until you turn 21. So you can say no now, but call us if you change your mind and want to participate up until you turn 21. You can also continue to participate if you have left agency custody in Aftercare Services until you turn 21. Aftercare Services are similar to services you receive while in care. A major difference is that assistance with transportation will not be offered to you during Aftercare Services. This does not apply to 14 and 15 year olds who were eligible for the Life Skills for Younger Youth Program, who were then discharged from care prior to age 16. You must have been in care on or after age 16 and Dependent in order to be eligible for Aftercare Services.
No! IL can assist you in job readiness services, including helping you prepare a resume, gathering and filling out job applications, practice interviewing, proper dress, getting your work permit, and referrals to community resources such as Careerlink, Auberle Employment Institute, and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, etc., but you have to get your own job.
Ultimately decisions about entering or remaining in care are up to a judge. However, there is nothing in the current law that prevents this.