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Help for youth aging-out of foster care

Help for youth aging-out of foster care

by Tonya Sams

(Plain Press, December 2021)                 Aging out of the foster care system can be a very challenging time for youth who are also navigating the transition from childhood to adulthood. Without a birth certificate, social security card, or other identifying documentation, it can be extremely difficult to get a job or a driver’s license. 

     Attorney Danielle Gadomski Littleton, and social worker Dani Lachina, both of The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, have several tips for people who are transitioning out of the foster care system.

     First, if you have a case worker, ask him or her for access to your documents or for help applying for new copies.

     Second, call the Identification Crisis Collaborative (IDCC). There are 29 community organizations in the IDCC that help people obtain birth certificates, proof of social security numbers, driver’s licenses, state IDs, and other important documentation. For more information on how IDCC can help you, call the West Side Catholic Center at 216-631-4741, ext. 300.

     Also, find out if you are eligible to receive help from Ohio Bridges. Ohio Bridges helps youth ages 18 to 20 who have aged out of the foster care system. The organization assists with issues regarding housing, education, employment, and mental and physical health. For more information, go to bridgestosuccess.jfs.ohio.gov. 

     Finally, call YWCA’s A Place 4 Me program. A Place 4 Me helps youths from 14 to 26 with issues regarding housing, jobs, and other areas to help create a stable and productive life. For more information, call Kate Lodge at 216-881-6878 or email her at klodge@ywcaofcleveland.org

     If you are unable to use the above resources, follow these steps to obtain your documentation: 

• First, get a copy of your birth certificate from the Ohio Department of Health. Picture IDs are not required to obtain birth certificates, which can be requested online or via mail for a cost of $25. Most offices are not accepting in-person visits due to COVID restrictions. To look up offices near you, go to the “Find Local Health Districts” page of the Ohio Department of Health’s website, odh.ohio.gov. 

• If you need more information, contact the Ohio Department of Health Issuance Unit at VS.Issuance@odh.ohio.gov or go to the “How to Order Certificates” page of the Ohio Department of Health’s website.

• Next, get your state ID or driver’s license from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). BMV locations are open to the public, but you need to bring the required documents with you. More information is available at bmv.ohio.gov. 

• Finally, obtain a copy of your Social Security Card. This is a free service that must be conducted online or via mail. For more information and to find the office nearest you, visit secure.ssa.gov. To apply online, visit faq.ssa.gov.

     Once you have your documents, be sure to store them in a secure place; you may want to give them to a trusted friend, mentor, or family member. Remember, these documents can be expensive to replace, and that process will delay everything from getting government benefits to finding an apartment. 

     Do you need more help? Attorneys at Legal Aid can help solve legal programs for youth aging out of foster care. Learn more about ways Legal Aid can help at www.lasclev.org. You can apply for help 24/7 on Legal Aid’s website or call 216-687-1900 during most business hours. And, watch Legal Aid’s website calendar for a list of 2022 in-person free legal advice clinics.

Editor’s Note: Tonya Sams is the Development and Communications Assistant at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

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