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Helping Teens Make a Successful Transition from
Foster Care to Self-Sufficiency

General Information
Program Elements
Education and Training Voucher Program
Medicaid Expansion for 18, 19, and 20 Year Olds Who Aged out of NC Foster Care
NCReach Scholarships

The name of the North Carolina Foster Care Independence Program, NC LINKS, is not an acronym and therefore doesn't "stand" for anything.  Instead, it is a word that captures the purposes and intent of the John Chafee Foster Care Independence Act: build a network of relevant services with youth so that they will have ongoing connections with family, friends, mentors, the community, employment, education, financial assistance, skills training, and other resources to facilitate the transition to adulthood.

Older youth and young adults who have experienced extended time in foster care are at increased risk of negative consequences once they leave care, such as dropping out of school, unplanned parenthood, high rates of untreated illness, homelessness, criminal activity, depression and suicide. In order to help these youth and young adults have better outcomes, the NC LINKS program provides services and resources to all youth in foster care age 16 to 18 and to those young adults who are between the ages of 18 and 21 and are participating in a CARS agreement, as well as to young adults who aged out of foster care at age 18 and are not participating in a CARS agreement. For the purposes of this policy, “foster care” means that the youth was in DSS custody as a minor and lived either in a licensed foster care facility or lived with a relative (not the removal home.) County Departments of Social Services are required to offer LINKS services to these two populations if they have eligible youth or young adults who are or were in their custody. Counties are strongly encouraged to provide services to youth in foster care ages 13 through 15 and to youth and young adults who were discharged from their custody as teens but prior to their 18th birthday. Youth ages 13-18 who have been discharged from foster care as teenagers may request LINKS services from their local department of social services.

In order for a youth or young adult to receive LINKS services or funding, he or she must be a willing and active participant in the assessment, planning, and service implementation processes. Youth and young adults who refuse services may later change their minds so long as they are eligible.

The NC LINKS program is comprised of several elements:

  1. An assessment of the youth's strengths as well as their needs for further information and training. The assessment is completed by the youth and his or her caregiver.
  2. A plan that is based on the assessment and which includes the youth/young adult's interests and goals as well as their responsibilities for fulfilling the plan.
  3. Services outlined in the plan which are directed helping the youth or young adult to achieve positive outcomes.  Desired outcomes for all young adults exiting the foster care system are:
    • Sufficient income to meet daily needs;
    • A safe and stable place to live
    • Sufficient academic and/or vocational training that is in keeping with the youth's goals, interests and abilities
    • Connections to and emotional support from a variety of adults outside of the public child welfare system
    • Avoidance of High Risk Behaviors
    • Postponement of parenthood until emotionally and financially capable of parenting
    • Access to routine mental health, health and dental health care
    • Services are individualized but usually include group activities; participation in community activities that promote maturity; one-on-one instruction; volunteer activities; employment; specific life skills training; exposure to educational and vocational resources, etc.
  4. Funding is provided to each county Department of Social Services for program operations, based on the number of eligible youth and young adults served by the county.  In addition, limited funding is available to reimburse county Departments of Social Services for expenditures made on behalf of individual youth and young adults that help to fulfill the purposes of the program.

Undocumented alien youth/young adults and youth/young adults with personal reserves in excess of $10,000 are not eligible for LINKS funds nor can services be provided through the use of LINKS funds.  Ineligible youths may participate so long as their participation does not require the use of additional LINKS funds and so long as no LINKS-eligible youth are denied services due to their participation.

If you or someone you know needs this service, please contact your county Department of Social Services and ask for the foster care supervisor or LINKS coordinator

The Education Training Voucher Program (ETV) is also funded through the Chafee Foster Care Independence Act through a later provision.  This program provides grants of up to $5000 to apply toward costs of attendance for students who are eligible for the LINKS program and who either were in NC DSS foster care on or after their 17th birthday, or were adopted from NC DSS foster care after the age of 16.  Funds are available for up to four years of assistance, so long as students continue to make satisfactory progress toward completion of their educational program at a qualifying post secondary educational or vocational training program.  Students may apply directly on line at or can be referred by their local Department of Social Services. Funding is available on a first come, first served basis.

NC Reach

In July of 2007 the The North Carolina legislature approved funding to implement the North Carolina Post secondary Education Support Scholarship program (NC Reach). Students who were adopted from North Carolina foster care on or after their 12th birthday or who aged out of NC foster care are eligible for scholarship assistance to pay the cost of attendance at any branch of the University of North Carolina or any public North Carolina community college. Students who are eligible for the NC Reach scholarship may also be eligible for the ETV scholarship, as well as other federal grants such as the Pell Grant. The NC Reach scholarship will provide the balance of the costs of attendance for students who qualify for multiple sources of assistance.

Intensive case management support services are available to students participating in the NC Reach scholarship program in order to help the students deal effectively with issues that may be impeding their academic progress.

Medicaid Foster Care Expansion

The 2007 legislature approved funding to provide the state match for Medicaid coverage for youth who aged out of foster are at age 18, until the month of their 21st birthday, without regard to assets or income. Young adults ages 18-21 who aged out of foster care will need to apply for the coverage at the county Department of Social Services where they currently reside.

If you or someone you know require this service, contact your county Department of Social Services.



We strive to keep this information as accurate as possible. If information on this page needs to be updated, please Email us.


Page Modified 10/15/2012

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