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Questions for Youth in DCYF Care

<see also: Children's Bill of Rights>

  1. Did I do something wrong?
  2. What are my rights as a child within the Department of Children Youth and Families?
  3. What can I do if my rights are violated? Who can I call?
  4. What is the Child Advocates Office?
  5. What should I expect from my Social Worker?
  6. What is a Case Plan?
  7. What happens when Case Plan goals are not met?
  8. What is a Transitional Living Plan?
  9. What is a Discharge Plan?
  10. Does everyone involved with DCYF go into placements?
  11. Do I get to have visits with my parents? Siblings?
  12. Do I have any choice about placements?
  13. What are the different kinds of placements?
  14. What is CASA?
  15. What will my CASA volunteer do?
  16. What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
  17. What is an ARU? (Administrative Review Unit)
  18. Should I attend the ARU? Why?
  19. What is a Permanency Hearing?
  20. What can I expect from my Probation Counselor/Probation Officer?
  21. What is the Training School like? Who goes there?
  22. What is the DCYF Chain of Command?
  23. What is confidentiality? Can DCYF tell my business?
  24. Can I ever see my records? How can I get them?
  25. What happens if I get pregnant while involved with DCYF?
  26. How can I find out what DCYF policies are?
  27. What about money - do I get an allowance?
  28. Do I get to keep the money I earn?
  29. Who buys my clothes?
  30. Can I go to college?
  31. Who pays for college?
  32. What are the Teen Grant Programs?
  33. What is the Life Skills Program?
  34. What is the Youth Advisory Board?

CHILDREN'S BILL OF RIGHTS

The Children's Bill of Rights protects the legal and civil rights of all children in state care. It provides in part:

No child in DCYF care shall be deprived of any personal property of civil rights without due process.

Each child shall receive humane and dignified treatment with full respect for his or her personal dignity and right to privacy.

Each child may communicate with any individual, group or agency, consistent with the child's treatment plan.

Regarding children in secure facilities, DCYF shall specify when restraint and seclusion may be used, and when and how communication by mail or phone may be restricted.

Each child in a secure facility may receive visitors, including his or her attorney, guardian ad litem, special advocate, Child Advocate, physicians, mental health professionals, and members of the clergy.

A child is entitled to a free and appropriate education immediately upon being placed.

A child is entitled to a free and appropriate education immediately upon being placed.

Child victims as witnesses are afforded statutory protections.

A child cannot be denied drug treatment solely because of DCYF placement.

Violations of the Children's Bill of Rights are handled exclusively by the Family Court.

The Children's Bill of Rights must be posted in a conspicuous place in all secure facilities and /or residential placement facilities.

1. Did I do something wrong?

Every child or youth entering state care questions whether or not it is their fault that they are there. The answer is NO!!!! Children are not at fault if the situation that they are born into was a harsh one or if their family had problems that made it impossible or unsafe for them to care for their children. It may sometimes feel like it is your fault, but it is not. Children are not responsible for the injustices brought upon them by adults.

It is also important to remember, that even though you could not control all of the past, you can control your future. There are lots of things in your life that will be within your control, like the education you get, the friendships you nurture and the future you build for yourself.

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2. What are my rights as a child within the Department of Children Youth and Families?

There is a state law (RI General Law 42-72-15) that spells out specific rights for children involved with DCYF. This law is posted in all placements except some foster homes. It is called the Children's Bill of Rights. 

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3. What can I do if my rights are violated? Who can I call?

Depending on whom you believe violated your rights; you can call your DCYF Social Worker, their Supervisor, your CASA volunteer or the Child Advocates Office at 222-6650.

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4. What is the Child Advocates Office?

The Child Advocates Office is a legal office that advocates for Particular children whose legal, civil, and special rights in the DCYF system and/or Family Court proceedings are not being met. The Child Advocate has the right and power to:

To communicate privately, by mail or in person, with any child in DCYF care;

To inspect, copy and /or hold records held by the clerk of the family court, law enforcement, agencies and institutions, public or private, where a particular child has been placed within or outside the state of Rhode Island;

To subpoena persons with whom a particular child has been placed for care or has received treatment; and

To take whatever steps that are appropriate to publicize the services for the Child Advocates Office, its purpose, and how it can be contacted.

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5. What should I expect from my Social Worker?

You should expect a face-to-face visit with your social worker on a monthly basis. Your social worker may also be attending school meetings, talking with therapists and medical personal, attending court hearings and placement meetings on your behalf as well as meeting with your parents to discuss case planning.

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6. What is a Case Plan?

The DCYF Case Plan/Agreement is time limited, goal oriented, and identifies the problem areas, and proposed services for parents and children. It spells out exactly what you, your parents and DCYF have to do to reach the goals in a timely fashion. It is a tool used to make sure that progress is happening in your case and that your case is moving in a direction towards the goals.

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7. What happens when Case Plan goals are not met?

Depending on who has not met the goals that were set and why, goals could be changed or placement may be extended. For example, if you, your parents, or guardians were supposed to do certain things before you would go home and you or they did not fulfill those goals then you may stay in placement longer.

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8. What is a Transitional Living Plan?

A Transitional Living Plan is part of the Case Plan, which gets developed for all youth age sixteen and older, starting shortly after their sixteenth birthday. It explains what the goals and activities are for older youth regarding Life Skills Classes (see #33 for information about this class), Higher Education (see# 30 & 31 for more information), Vocational planning. This plan also begins to identify skills and services that will be needed to successfully moves youth out of the Departments care to independence.

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9. What is a Discharge Plan?

The Discharge Plan is developed as part of the Case Plan for older youth who are expected to transition out of the Departments care to independence within six months. It is part of the final plan for youth while they are involved with DCYF and includes specific things like where the youth will be living, working, and their budget. It identifies any final medical or other needs that should be dealt with before the case is closed.

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10. Does everyone involved with DCYF go into placements?

No, many families work with DCYF through what is called in-home services. This means that the family has a social worker that works with the family to solve certain problems.

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11. Do I get to have visits with my parents? Siblings?

Yes, unless there has been a court ruling that says you cannot have visits with one of your parents or siblings. How frequently and where visits occur, and whether visits will be supervised will be determined in your Case Plan.

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12. Do I have any choice about placements?

There are several different types of placements and where you are placed to live will depend on many things.

Placement is written into the Case Plan , discussed at your Administrative Review Unit (see #17 for more information) , and/or court hearings. Most programs will assign a staff member, called a Case Manager to you, who will help you with scheduling appointments, school, visits and other needs. You may also attend counseling, either at your placement or somewhere in the community. The rules of each program are different, but all programs have written rules that you can ask to see. Foster homes are family homes that sometimes will not have written rules or case managers.

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13. What are the different kinds of placements?

Shelters - Generally, these placements are for up to 90 days while DCYF works with you, your family and program staff to figure out what the best next step is. It may be a longer program, a foster home or a return to family.

Group Homes are programs for about 6-8 youth and are usually located in neighborhoods. Youth living in group homes attend school in the community. The length of placement may be from a few months to a couple of years, depending on the situation.

Transitional Apartment Programs help youth age 16 and older gain the skills they will need to move into an independent living program. These programs are usually staffed in the evenings, at night, and on weekends.

Independent Living Programs are for older youth preparing for independence. They provide case management services and focus on teaching youth the life skills they need to become self-sufficient such as money management, job skills, and household management. Sometimes youth in this program will live with a roommate.

Residential Treatment Programs are very structured and usually provide school and counseling at the program. Some treatment programs, called Residential Counseling Centers may allow youth to attend school in the community.

Staff Secure Programs are very structured and freedoms are very restricted. Usually, youth who are placed in staff secure programs are unable to function at home, school, or in other kinds of programs. The program goal is to stabilize behavior so that the youth can move to a less restrictive program or return home.

Foster Care is placement with a family. It may be a single parent or a couple and they may have other biological children or other foster children. Sometimes your foster parents may be significant adults in your life that want to have you live with them such as a teacher, coach, boss, or neighbor.

Relative Foster Care is a placement where the youth could live with a relative such as an aunt or uncle, grandmother or grandfather, or older sister or brother over the age of twenty-one that has room in their home for you. Relatives who qualify must become foster parents first and prove to be financially stable with no criminal background that is significant.

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14. What is CASA?

CASA is an abbreviation for Court Appointed Special Advocates. It is an organization of volunteers of people who come from all backgrounds, who speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courts. The telephone number for CASA is (401) 458-3330

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15. What will my CASA volunteer do?

The CASA volunteer will:

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16. What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

The phrase means guardian at law. A Guardian Ad Litem is an attorney or other adult appointed by the court during the court case to represent the interests of a minor or a person with special needs during the judicial proceedings. It is the function of the Guardian Ad Litem to make your feelings known to the court and to see that you are afforded the fundamental fairness and due process required by law. Required by the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act if the state is to qualify for certain federal funds every child must have a Guardian Ad Litem representing them in any abuse or neglect case that results in a judicial proceeding (goes to court).

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17. What is an ARU? (Administrative Review Unit)

Every six months the Case Plan for youth living in out of home care must be formally reviewed in a meeting called the Administrative Review. The purpose is to make sure the services that you and your family need are being provided.

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18. Should I attend the ARU? Why?

Yes. Especially if you are over 12 years of age. This meeting is when a lot of decisions about your life are being discussed. It is important for you to participate in these decisions. Youth over age 12 also must sign their own Case Plan. You can ask your Social Worker to request a review meeting to be scheduled after school hours. The meeting usually lasts about 30 - 60 minutes.

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19. What is a Permanency Hearing?

A Permanency Hearing is a yearly court hearing to review the progress made towards your Case Plan goals.

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20. What can I expect from my Probation Counselor/Probation Officer?

Your Probation Counselor will provide supervision to be sure you remember the agreements you made when you went to Court and that you follow the orders that the Judge made when you were placed under the supervision of Probation. He or she will meet with you to explain the Conditions of Probation, and to conduct an interview to determine risks and needs. The counselor will then set up a reporting schedule with you which will include face to face meetings, phone calls, and visits in order to provide you with supervision and counseling. Your Probation Counselor will also have contacts with your parents, school, employer, and other people that may be working with you.

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21. What is the Training School like? Who goes there?

The Training School is the jail or correctional facility for youth under the age of 21. Youth can sometimes be sent to the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI) for very serious crimes, if they are tried as adults. You may be sent to the Training School for a brief period of time, usually weeks, following an arrest until your court hearing.

If you are ordered (sentenced) to the Training School by a Family Court judge you are going to be there for a while. You might be there for months, years or you might just be there until you are 21. It is up to you whether your term is going to be relatively easy or very hard. The Training School staff advises youth, that, since they are there, they should make the best of it. They suggest that youth set short and long terms goals and participate in all of the programs, pay attention in school, work hard, and get out.

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22. What is the DCYF Chain of Command?

(Starting with the highest)

Governor

Department Director

Executive Director

4 Regional Directors

Assistant Administrator

Supervisor

Social Worker

Every child, youth or family is assigned to a Social Worker. Every Social Worker has a Supervisor who reports to an Assistant Administrator. Assistant Administrators report to one of the four Regional Directors who report to the Executive Director. The Executive Director reports to the Department Director who reports to the Governor.

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23. What is confidentiality? Can DCYF tell my business?

Confidentiality means that no information can be shared except with supervisors or the courts without written consent. Some information will be shared with placements or other agencies that you are being referred to for assistance.

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24. Can I ever see my records? How can I get them?

When you are a legal adult, (18), you can request in writing a copy of your records. You can ask your social worker for a copy of the policy for more specific information. If your social worker is not available, you can address your letter to the Chief of Legal Division Services at DCYF 101 Friendship Street, Providence, RI, 02905.

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25. What happens if I get pregnant while involved with DCYF?

It is important to make sure that you find services to support you. If you are a female and pregnant and not sure what to do and you are involved with DCYF you should contact your case or social worker. Your worker will explore the situation, options, and services with you. If you are a partner of a female who is pregnant and you are involved with DCYF you should contact your case or social worker as well so they can help you explore your options.

While your worker cannot make the decisions for you, they can be supportive of you and point you in the direction of agencies and services to assist you in making your decisions. Your worker can help to identify services like the ones offered by Planned Parenthood of RI, where you can discuss options such as: continuing with the pregnancy and locating appropriate prenatal health care, making adoption plans; or terminating the pregnancy. The decision is yours to make, but it is a good idea to discuss it with people who are objective, can assist you in exploring all of your options and can direct you to the services you will need. Your worker can help you identify agencies and services that meet your needs and can support you in your decision.

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26. How Can I find out what DCYF policies are?

Your social worker can look up any DCYF policies in their computers and print a copy for you. The Youth Advisory Board also can access policies and sometimes review policies that need to be revised. The Youth Advisory Board can be reached at (401) 528-3790.

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27. What about money do I get an allowance?

This depends upon your placement. Foster parents do not have to provide an allowance but some do. Some residential programs provide allowances, which may depend upon your behavior or completion of chores.

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28. Do I get to keep the money I earn?

There is a policy that says that 2/3rds of all money earned must go into a savings account with your name on it. Your Social worker may be able to make exceptions for special purchases. Sometimes foster parents can have different regulations on savings accounts and allowances.

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29. Who buys my clothes?

Most residential placements, including foster homes, are provided with some money for clothing expenses. How much depends on several things, including the placement, your needs, and how long you live there. Sometimes youth are eligible for clothing vouchers for special needs.

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30. Can I go to college?

Absolutely! If you meet all of the requirements to be eligible for admission into college (which vary from school to school) and make plans for tuition and expenses, then you can attend college or a vocational program. It is very important to meet with your high school guidance counselor regularly, starting in ninth grade, to make sure you take all of the right courses in high school. You could graduate from high school, but not have the specific credits or courses you need to get into a four-year college like URI or RIC.

It is also a good idea to make an appointment with someone from the RI Educational Opportunity Center (455-6029). They provide free educational counseling and can help you find the right school, fill out applications and financial aid forms, and answer many questions you may have. It is also a very good idea to visit the school and contact the college admissions office in your junior year of high school. Also in your junior year you should take the SATs (Standardized Academic Test). Many colleges require them. Your social worker can help you to get the fee waived. You can take this test twice and use the best scores for your college applications. To sign up for SATs you can ask your school guidance counselor or look on the web at http://www.collegeboard.com.

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31. Who pays for college?

DCYF has money in a program called the DCYF Higher Education Opportunity Incentive Grant to help youth who meet the certain eligibility criteria pay for the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, or Community College of Rhode Island. To be eligible youth must, be involved with DCYF for at least two years, apply, be accepted into the school you apply to (CCRI, URI or RIC), and apply for federal financial aid. DCYF can then help to pay the difference between what you receive in financial aid and the cost of tuition, room and board, and books. To apply, or for more information, call the Independent Living Coordinator at 528-3764.

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32. What are the Teen Grant Programs?

Teen Grants are awards of money given to youth, age 16 and older, in foster care, which allows them to participate in an activity, learn a skill, purchase textbooks or buy an item(s) that will help them become more self-sufficient. Youth can obtain applications for Teen Grants by calling the Foster Parent Association at 738-9915 or by asking your DCYF social worker or the Independent Living Coordinator at 528-3764. Applications must be made in writing and are reviewed each month by a committee of youth and staff who make the final decisions about which requests to fund. Priority is given to grants, which will help a youth gain independent living skills and confidence.

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33. What is the Life Skills Program?

The Life Skills program is a sixteen-week course that teaches various topics important to becoming self-sufficient and living independently. The course includes budgeting, banking, credit, job skills, health, home management, housing, cooking, legal skills, car purchasing and insurance, fire safety, first aid, and consumer and shopping skills. The program assesses youths knowledge of these and other topics before and after the Program. Usually, classes are two times a week, after school and there is also a summer program. The Program provides transportation and supper. Youth age 16 and older, living in foster homes and group homes must complete the program. A graduation ceremony celebrates each class completion and youth receive a stipend of money (usually $200) for completing the Program. Your Social Worker can refer you or provide more information or you can call the Life Skills Center at 738-9915. Graduation from this course can open many other doors of opportunity for you as a young adult.

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34. What is the Youth Advisory Board?

The Youth Advisory Board is a diverse representation of concerned youth whose purpose is to listen, advocate, and offer advice to DCYF in order to assist in shaping and developing programs with the intention of helping youth to have a healthy and successful transition into adulthood. This group of youth have experienced DCYF first hand and know how hard it is to live in and transition out of the system. The group meets monthly and discusses what works and what does not work with DCYF programs and how they can help to make them better. If interested you can contact Kathi Crowe at (401) 528-3790.

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     All content © 2006 DCYF -- Last modified: May 11, 2011