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 Process

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 department is committed to ensure teens who exit the foster care system at or around their age 18 are prepared for adulthood. 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 to leave foster care.

Principles of Transition

  • Youth-centered meetings start at age 14 and continue every 6 months
  • Transition Plans become part of the Case Permanency Plan at the child’s age 14.
  • Local Transition Committees review all foster care cases prior to the child’s age 17.5
  • “Health care proxy” tool, provided to youth age 18
  • Birth Certificates, state identification and Social Security Cards provided by age 18
  • Referral to adult services and Aftercare Services Program at the child’s age 17
  • Include Aftercare provider in transition meetings at age 17

Transition planning for an individual in foster care is coordinated by the case manager of the child in foster care. If you have questions about the process of transition planning, please contact the aTransition Planning Specialist in your area, identified in the current Iowa TPS Map.

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.

Click Youth Transition Decision-Making model for more information on transition to adulthood meetings.

Videos: Building a Foundation for Adulthood:

AMP - The Iowa Foster Care Youth Council

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 for more information.

More information and the application process can be found at AMPIOWA (

Aftercare Services Program

The aftercare program provides each participant support and guidance through regular, individual meetings with a self-sufficiency advocate (at times this can be the same worker the youth had while in foster care). Advocates help participants to develop a self-sufficiency plan, setting goals and objectives leading toward specific outcomes, develop important life skills, connect to community resources, and develop lifelong, healthy relationships. Financial assistance is available to support youth achieving their self-sufficiency goals. Aftercare partners with the Iowa Finance Authority for an Aftercare Rent Subsidy Program which promotes housing stability for transitioning youth.

The Iowa Aftercare Services Program can help if you are:

  • Age 18 through 20 (or 21 through 22 and participated in aftercare at any point prior to age 21), and
    Are no longer in foster care, and
    Are residents of Iowa, and
    Meet any one of the following requirements:
    • Were in foster care when they reached age 18, or 
    • Exited foster care between age 17 ½ and 18 and have been in care for at least 6 months immediately prior to exiting care, or
    • Were adopted from foster care or exited foster care with support from the Subsidized Guardianship Program on or after age 16, or
    • Were in the State Training School (STS) or court-ordered detention when they reached age 18, or exited STS or court-ordered detention between 17 ½ and 18 and had been in care for at least 6 months immediately prior to exiting care.
    • Note: Foster care is defined as a court ordered placement (family foster care, relative care, QRTP, shelter, or other approved arrangement), regardless of license or payment, when DHS or JCS had responsibility for supervision of the child 

Medicaid For Independent Young Adults

The purpose of the Enhanced Medicaid for Independent Young Adults (EMIYA) program is to provide continued health coverage to young adults transitioning to adulthood from state care and custody.

Eligibility Criteria

EMIYA currently provides Medicaid coverage to eligible youth who are:

  • Living in Iowa
  • Under age 26
  • Who were in a foster care placement when they turned age 18
  • Who were receiving federal Medicaid when they turned age 18
  • Income requirements may apply

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

How to Apply:

To apply for EMIYA in person contact your local DHS county office or click apply online to complete 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 the question 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.) If you are in need of a Ward of Court Letter or proof that you were in foster care beyond age 13 for your financial aid office for your college, you can contact your former case worker, JCO, local TPS or your ETV Coordinator for this letter. The state you aged out of will have these records.

The FAFSA should be completed in October 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) provides awards of up to $5,000 per year to students who age out of foster care or students who are adopted or exited foster care with support from the Subsidized Guardianship Program after age 16. 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. 

Click here to download and/or print an ETV Informational Flyer. 

Eligibility Criteria

You may be eligible if you are under age 26 and:

  • Exited foster care at age 18 or older or in the 30 days prior to turning age 18, or
  • Exited foster care with support from the Subsidized Guardianship Program at age 16 or older, or
  • Were adopted from foster care at age 16 or older,  and
  • Have not received ETV in more than five school years.   

* A student's age will be determined by student's age as of July 1 each year.

How to Apply:

Iowa Financial Aid Application

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

FAFSA Tips for Foster Youth

All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship

The All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship (AIOS) provides awards to students who age out of foster care, students who are adopted after age 16, or students who age out of the Iowa State Training School. The award amount for the 2017-18 school year was $4,383 (award amount is determined in the spring). 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

You must be/have been:

  • An Iowa resident, and
  • Attending an eligible Iowa college or university, and
  • Graduated from an eligible Iowa high school or completed a high school equivalency diploma within the last 2 years, and
  • Be a first-time college freshman (unless you are renewing your scholarship award), and
  • Have an eligible Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on the FAFSA equal to or less than the average tuition and fee rate. (The 2018-19 eligible EFC won't be determined until Spring 2018. For reference, the 2017-18 eligible EFC was $0 - $8,766).

How to Apply:

Important Dates

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