Handbooks and Resources for Children and Youth in Foster Care

Youth in foster care are becoming increasingly aware of their own potential to effect change for themselves personally and within the system. One avenue that allows them to learn more about their own rights and responsibilities, and that can lead to empowerment for them, is the use of handbooks written for and about young people in care.


  • National Resource Center for Youth Development (NRCYD)
    Youth Port
    NRCYD has developed an online gateway to resources, information and tools for young adults who are currently experiencing foster care, those who are transitioning to adulthood, and those who have aged-out. This webpage is updated monthly.
  • Overview of Foster Care Handbooks
    The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) website contains an Overview of Foster Care Handbooks by Terry Harrak and Maria Garin Jones. This paper lists the components of effective handbooks and evaluates five publications on the basis of critical subject areas.
  • Adoption and Foster Care Tip Sheet – Spending Time in Foster Care – A Guide for Children
    This National Association of Social Workers webpage, by Kristen Humphrey, PhD, MSW, includes the following sections: When You Are in Foster Care; Kids’ Feelings About Foster Care; Why Foster Care?; What Happens Next?; If the Plan Is for You to Return to Your Biological Family; If the Plan Is for Adoption; What You Can Do to Make Things Better While You Are in Foster Care; You and Your Biological Family; You and Your Foster Family; Understanding the Agency and the Court; Letting People Know What You Want.
  • FosterClub: The National Network for Young People in Care
    Coloring Book
    FosterClub has created a coloring book designed just for kids entering the foster care system. With coloring pages and activities like puzzles and mazes, this book is a fun and interactive way to learn about foster care. This coloring book provides an introduction to foster care, decreases fears about entering care, empowers a child to ask questions, provides supportive adults with child-friendly answers and offers conversation-starters to help improve communication during a traumatic time. (2010)

    State Pages
    This FosterClub webpage provides a state-by-state breakdown of resources and events for foster youth of all ages and stages within care.

Resources from the States

  • Arkansas
    Be Your Own Advocate! A roadmap to your time in Arkansas foster care
    This handbook addresses the following questions: Why am I here?; Is it normal to feel this way?; Who’s here to help me?; Where will I live?; When will I see my family?; Will just anyone know I am in foster care?; What are my rights?; What laws protect me and other youth in foster care?; What do I do when there’s a problem?; What if I need something?; Who else is here to help?; What are DCFS’s responsibilities to me?; What are DCFS’s responsibilities to my bio-family?; and, What responsibilities does my bio-family have?. It also includes the following sections: Court Process; Transition; Lifelong Connections and Permanence; and, Other Helpful Stuff. (September 2010)
  • California
    Fight for Your Rights: A Guidebook for California Foster Youth
    This guidebook from the National Center for Youth Law was authored by a former foster youth who is also an attorney with the NCYL. Its goal is to inform foster youth, former foster youth, and advocates about the services and issues that are important to youth preparing for the transition from foster care to self-sufficiency. (2004)
  • District Of Columbia
    It’s Time to Take Matters into Your Own Hands: DC Foster Youth Handbook
    This handbook, created by the Young Woman’s Project is written by youth for youth. It provides information and resources that can help guide and support youth while in the DC child welfare system. This book presents explanations, steps, advice, contacts and phone numbers in order for youth to better understand and navigate the system. (2008)
  • Illinois
    Putting it All Together, A Handbook for Youth
    This DCFS handbook can help youth by: answering questions they may have; describing what may happen after placement; describing what they can do in different situations, such as in court or DCFS care; describing the responsibilities of the people involved at this time; providing phone numbers and names of people they can call for help; providing definitions of terms they may hear while in DCFS care and in court. (Rev. May 2003)
  • Maine
    Answers Handbook
    This handbook, by youth in foster care, serves as a guide to youth and adults, addressing many of the issues and questions that youth may have about the foster care system.

    Influencing Public Policy in Your State: A Guide for Youth in Care
    This guidebook from the Maine Youth Leadership Advisory Team helps young people who are in custody (through foster care or juvenile justice) gain the skills and confidence they need to testify at hearings or meet with public officials. (2001)
  • Maryland
    A Handbook For Youth: Out of Home Placement - Foster Care

    This Handbook explains Out-of-Home Placement Services for youth between the ages of 14 and 21 and what you can expect while in foster care. The Maryland Department of Human Resources hopes that this handbook is helpful in telling you about some of the important things you need to know about being in foster care and what you can expect when you leave foster care. (2005)
  • Michigan
    A Handbook for Youth in Care
    This handbook was written collaboratively by the Michigan Department of Human Services and Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI) to help youth understand the foster care system. It provides youth with information about important key people, documents, and ways to maneuver though the foster care system. (2011)
  • Missouri
    What's It All About?
    If you are a teenager who lives in a DFS “placement” outside your own home, this handbook should help answer some of your questions. It deals with subjects that may be of special interest to you, such as school, money, clothing, and preparing for your future. (Originally written in 1992; revised in 1996 and 2001.)
  • New York
    Handbook for Youth in Foster Care
    This handbook, in both English and Spanish from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services is for youth placed in foster care through local departments of social services (DSS). It was written for youth entering foster care for the first time as well as youth already in foster care. The handbook describes youths' rights and responsibilities while in foster care. It also describes what happens when they are older and leaving foster care. It represents minimum New York State requirements, but specific counties or agencies may have some additional rules. (September 2010)

    A Medical Guide for Youth in Foster Care
    New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services has developed this 28-page booklet to guide youth in care through the health care system. The booklet covers informed consent, rights to privacy and to refuse medication, and information about how to get and pay for medical care. (2011)

    Youth in Progress: Need to Know Series
    Youth in Progress, New York State Office of Children and Family Services Statewide Youth Leadership Team, has developed the following informational booklets for youth as part of the Need to Know Series:

    Youth in Progress also invites you to watch short videos that they helped to create on the following topics: Handbook for Youth in Foster Care; Clothing Allowance for Youth in Foster Care; Confronting Stereotypes of Youth in Foster Care; and, A Guide for Maintaining Sibling Connections. The videos are available on the Youth in Progress website.

    You Are Not Alone: Your Rights in Foster Care
    This handbook includes the following sections: Introduction; Lawyers; Court; Placements; Visits; Getting Out of Foster Care: Your Permanency Plan; Aging Out of Foster Care; Problems in Your Placement; School; HIV/AIDS; Having a Baby in Foster Care; Sexual Orientation – Gays and Lesbians in Foster Care; A List of Your Rights in Group Homes and Treatment Centers; A List of Your Rights in Foster Homes. This resource is available through Lawyers for Children, a not-for-profit organization in New York City dedicated to representing children in foster care.

    You Are Not Alone: Aging Out of Foster Care
    This handbook includes the following sections: Introduction; Know the Basics Before Leaving Foster Care; Your Lawyer; Permanency Planning; Discharge from Foster Care; Housing; Education; Financial Aid; Employment Programs and Referral Services; Allowances; Public Assistance; Becoming a Parent; Other Issues to Consider Before Leaving Foster Care; Abuse and Violence; and, Quick Reference Guide: Foster Care and Family Court Terms. This resource is available through Lawyers for Children, a not-for-profit organization in New York City dedicated to representing children in foster care. (2007)

    The Rights of Pregnant & Parenting Teens
    If you’re a pregnant or parenting teen, you have the right to stay in school, the right to consent on your own to all health care for yourself and your child, and many other important rights and liberties. This booklet from the New York Civil Liberties Union is designed to help protect those rights. (2006)

  • Ohio
    For Youth From Youth
    Produced by the Ohio Youth Advisory Board, the purpose of this handbook is to provide a resource for teens involved in Ohio’s child welfare system. If you are a youth under the custody of a Public Child Serving Agency, this handbook should answer some of the questions you may have about your experience. This handbook covers topics related to Ohio’s child welfare system, such as: Overview of Foster Care, Rights & Responsibilities, and, The Dos and Don’ts of Foster Care.  (2009)

    Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio YAB
    The OHIO Youth Advisory Board blog contains resources for Ohio youth “aging out” of foster care related to employment, food, education, healthcare, housing, legal assistance, mental health, parenting, phone bills, self advocacy, and social security.
  • Oregon
    A Teen's Legal Guide to Foster Care In Oregon

    This guide from the Juvenile Rights Project is intended to answer some of the questions foster youth might have about legal rights, foster care, and about going to court. (September 2002)
  • Pennsylvania
    Know Your Rights: A Guide for Dependent Youth in Pennsylvania
    In cooperation with KidsVoice and members of the Pennsylvania Youth Advisory Board, Juvenile Law Center issued this guide, which is based on Pennsylvania law. It provides youth with information about their legal rights in the substitute care system and about how they can advocate for themselves. The guide is presented in a question and answer format and covers many of the issues that are important to teenagers in care.
  • Tennessee
    Tennessee’s Foster Youth Handbook: A Handbook to Empower Tennessee Youth in Their Transition from Foster Care
    This handbook was prepared by the Tennessee Citizen Review Panels. It covers must know issues identified by youth who have been through the system. This handbook offers many resources and websites to help you navigate life—both during and after foster care. It will answer some questions and concerns about leaving care such as negotiating your way through the world of work, paying for school, finding housing, and health care services. (2011)
  • Texas
    Texas Foster Care Handbook for Youth
    This handbook was written collaboratively by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the DFPS Youth Leadership Committee. It covers the following topics: What Does It Mean to Be Placed in Foster Care?; Separation and Loss, The Right to Feel Sad; Youth Perspectives About Foster Care; CPS Rights of Children & Youth in Foster Care; Family Service Plan; Child Service Plan; Medical Health Passport; Education Portfolio or “Green Binder”; Youth in Foster Care Responsibilities; Foster Parent and Kinship Caregiver Responsibilities; Caseworker Responsibilities; Definitions of Different Kinds of Foster Placements; Relative and Kinship Care; Where to Turn for Help: CPS Chain of Command; Life Skills Activities for Youth 14-15 Years Old; Transitional Living Services for Youth 16-22 Years Old; Preparation for Adult Living (PAL); Transition Centers; Receiving Your Personal Documents at Age 16 and 18; Extended Care; Return to Care; Additional Resources Available to You; The National Youth in Transition Database; Common Terms and Phrases; and, Frequently Asked Questions.  (2010)
  • Vermont
    A Guide for Children & Youth in Foster Care
    This booklet was produced by the Vermont division of the Casey Youth Advisory Board. It aims to shows youth some of the issues that they will be involved in when a part of Casey foster care. This resource can serve as a tool for further discussion with foster parents and social workers. (2003)
  • Washington
    Your Rights, Your Life: A Resource for Youth in Foster Care
    This handbook was written by The Mocking Bird Society in collaboration with the Washington Department of Social and Health Services for youth 12 and older. Is has been designed to inform youth of their statutory rights, encourage youth to be involved in their own dependency process and advocate in positive ways for their own successful future. (2009)
  • West Virginia
    What’s Next? Navigating the Foster Care System in West Virginia
    The purpose of this handbook is to help address issues and questions that youth may have about the foster care system, and hopefully, make it easier for youth to under­stand what the system is like. It was devel­oped with help from youth who know what it is like to be in the foster care system. (2004)
  • Wyoming
    YOUR RIGHTS: A Guide to Juvenile Court in Wyoming for Children and Youth
    This handbook, developed by the Wyoming Children’s Justice Project will give youth the information they need to empower themselves. This book explains the steps throughout the court process and the roles of the people involved in a case such as CASA, the Guardian Ad Litem, the Judge and the Department of Family Services caseworker. (2009)


Last updated 3/6/12