Each of the 3,000-plus children and young adults KidsVoice represents every year has unique needs. On this page, we have compiled a list of resources for our clients, care givers, and all those who want to learn about organizations, programs, and benefits that can help provide a safety net of care, stability, and support for youth in Allegheny County.
How to use the search function
- select a topic from the dropdown menu to see all items in that category (i.e. - Child Care and Parenting, Employment)
- enter a keyword into the search bar to search across all categories (i.e. - birth certificate)
- select a category AND enter a keyword to search within a category (remember to deselect the category at the end of the search)
KidsVoice enforces the rights of children in foster and group homes to remain in their home school district, or, when that is not in their best interest, to be immediately enrolled in an appropriate school setting. We also help with special education, school discipline, and other education issues.
If you're over 16 and living in a supervised independent living (SIL) program, you will receive your IL services at your placement and be assigned a YOUTH COACH from the 412 YOUTH ZONE. If you live with a relative other than your parents, or in a foster home, you will also be assigned to work with a YOUTH COACH from the 412 YOUTH ZONE.
Everyone over the age of 14 should be referred to an Educational Liaison who will help you obtain school records, research educational options after high school, take you on college tours and to college fairs, assist with college applications and help you fill out financial aid applications.
The 412 Youth Zone welcomes young adults, 16-24, that are transitioning out of the foster care system and are eligible for independent living services or are experiencing housing instability.
It is a safe and welcoming one-stop center where programming focuses on life skills, medical and behavioral health, education, housing counseling and workforce development. Its free health clinic offers physicals for work, school, and driver's licenses; women's health services; gender and sexual development; tuberculosis screenings; and treatment for cuts, colds, and more!
The 412 Youth Zone is a place where you can feel a sense of fun and belonging. The 412 Youth Zone goal is to help youth become independent, self-sufficient adults.
The 412 Youth Zone is located at 304 Wood St (Wood Street Commons) 6th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Please call 412-902-4068 for additional information. More information at auberle.org/the-412-youth-zone.
The Action Housing College Program offers site housing units to Transition Age Youth who are full-time students enrolled in post-secondary education. Students who need housing during the summer months also qualify. Learn more by reading the attached tip sheet.
Committed to the belief that every life is valuable, the mission of Angels’ Place is to provide single parents who are low-income, full-time students with early education support for their children so they can complete their education, secure satisfying employment, establish careers and become self-sufficient citizens. Locations in North Side and Swissvale.
Applying for financial aid to further your education is your responsibility, but there are a number of people who can help you through the process. Your Independent Living Initiative (ILI) educational liaison can sit down and help complete your FAFSA with you in person. Or you might work with your foster parent(s), school guidance counselor, ILI caseworker, or IL program worker.
The most important thing is that you complete your FAFSA by the deadline to maximize the amount of aid you're eligible to receive in order to go to school.
The FAFSA—Free Application for Federal Student Aid—is the form used to determine how much federal and state financial aid you're eligible for when you attend college or trade school. Your first step in applying for financial aid is to complete the FAFSA so that you can apply for all federal financial aid, including both grants and loans. Many colleges use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for their own scholarships and grants.
The FAFSA can be completed on paper or online. You can get a paper copy of the FAFSA in your guidance counselor's office or at any college admission or financial aid office. To apply online go to www.fafsa.ed.gov.
When do you submit the FAFSA?
The FAFSA is made available on January 1st for the school year beginning the next fall. You need to send in your FAFSA by May 1st of the academic year you intend to go to school to get the maximum amount of state and federal aid. At a minimum, you need to get the FAFSA completed by June 30 of that academic year to ensure that you'll get some federal aid to go to school in the fall. After June 30, you'll need to wait and apply again the next year—and this means no aid for the school year.
You must resubmit a FAFSA form every year while you're in college by May 1st of the academic year you intend to go to school (so the May before you start a new academic year in September of that same year). Make sure you report any changes in your mailing address so that you don't miss any deadlines.
If you need help filling out the application?
Call your Independent Living Initiative Educational Liaison. You can also contact your Independent Living (IL) caseworker or provider if you are assigned to one. If you are not sure who assigned to work with you on your case, call KidsVoice at 412-391-3100 and a member of your case team will be able to direct you to the right person!
Here is more information to help you get the most out of financial aid!
FAFSA Changes and Tips for Completion
If it's been a while since you have filled out the FAFSA, you may notice some changes. The tip sheet attached below will help you fill out the current FAFSA!
Students in Unique Situations: Tips for Completing the FAFSA
Are you in foster care, a dependent child/ward of the court? Did your CYF case close to Subsidized Permanent Legal Custody (SPLC) with a family member? Are you a parent?
This Unique Situation tip sheet may further help you figure out how to answer some of the difficult questions on the FAFSA form.
Fostering Independence Tuition Waiver
The Fostering Independence Tuition Waiver Program, created by Act 16 of 2019, seeks to remove barriers in accessing a postsecondary education for youth who are or have been in foster care. This will allow eligible foster youth to complete their studies, graduate with less debt, and have the opportunity to build a network of support. Read the Fostering Independence Program Brochure, attached below, for more information.
Grants and Scholarships
There are quite a few school grants and scholarships that are available for kids currently in care or who have been in substitute care. For more information about any of these grants and scholarships, contact your Independent Living Initiative (ILI) educational liaison or read the descriptions in the Know Your Rights Manual. Each scholarship or grant has its own specific requirements, its own application process, and its own due date(s).
Foster Care College Scholarships
See below for a downloadable list of college scholarships for youth currently or formerly in foster care, plus websites to research other scholarships.
Pittsburgh Promise Scholarship
The Pittsburgh Promise promotes high educational aspirations among urban youth, funds scholarships for post-secondary access, and fuels a prepared and diverse regional workforce. It has given out more than 10,000 scholarships to local youth. Apply and learn more at pittsburghpromise.org
PA Chafee Education & Training Grant Program
This federally funded program offers grants to Pennsylvania undergraduate students aging out of foster care who are attending an eligible postsecondary institution. Please see the Cheat Sheet and FAQ documents attached below for more information.
Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA)
PHEAA is a national provider of student financial aid services, serving millions of students and thousands of schools through its loan guaranty, loan servicing, financial aid processing, outreach, and other student aid programs. More information at www.pheaa.org.
- FAFSA Tip Sheet for Out-of-Home Youth (PDF)
- Unique Situations FAFSA Tip Sheet (PDF)
- Fostering Independence Program Brochure (PDF)
- Foster Care Scholarship List (PDF)
- Chafee Grant Program Cheat Sheet 2021 (DOC)
- Chafee Frequently Asked Questions 2004 (PDF)
College scorecard is run by the Department of Education. It contains a database of colleges that can be easily searched. It is more visual than College Navigator, but does not include cohort default rates, and some of the information available on college navigator. The website does include average annual cost of each institution, graduation rates, salary after attending, average student debt, typical monthly loan payment. More info at collegescorecard.ed.gov.
If a judge decides your parent or legal guardian is not able to make decisions about your educational needs (such as decisions about school and learning programs), then the court will appoint someone else to make educational decisions for you.
If there are no other adults (foster parents, relatives...) available, KidsVoice can act as an Educational Decision Maker in certain cases, when appointed by a judge.
Contact the KidsVoice Education Team at 412-391-3100 if you have questions.
You are eligible to receive the services of an educational liaison if you are an adjudicated dependent who spent 30 or more days placed outside of the home after your 14th birthday. Your liaison will help you obtain school records, research educational options after high school, take you on college tours and to college fairs, assist with college applications and help you fill out financial aid applications. You can receive these sevices until your 24th birthday.
Find out all of the things that Educational Liaisons do, what types of education meetings they will attend, what resources they can provide, and who to contact in different parts of the region, in the attached document.
If you need to reopen your case, please contact your KidsVoice team.
Information on enrolling a child in school, the Fostering Connections Act (for children in out-of-home care) and The McKinney-Vento Act (for children that are awaiting foster care placement or are homeless), including:
- How to enroll a child in school
- Documents needed to enroll a child in school (and documents NOT required)
- What to do if a school refuses to enroll a student
- School placement information
- Additional useful educational stability resources list
Pennsylvania’s Early Learning Resource Centers (ELRCs) provide a single point-of-contact for families, early learning service providers, and communities to gain information and access services that support high-quality child care and early learning programs. Learn how an ELRC can help you in the attached brochure or visit elrc5.alleghenycounty.us.
There are 3 basic steps you need to take to enroll in school:
- You must give the school four specific enrollment documents (listed below)
- The school district MUST enroll you within 5 business days after receiving the enrollment documents, but should allow you to start attending the next business day if at all possible.
- You begin attending school!
Only 4 = In the Door
Only four pieces of paperwork (also called enrollment documents) are required to enroll in school:
- Proof of your age
- Proof that you've had the immunizations required by law
- Proof of where you live ("residency")
- A notarized parent registration statement ("Act 26 Statement") signed by a person that has care or control of you
What kind of school will you go to?
The school district must place you in the most appropriate educational program based on what they know about your school background at the time of your enrollment.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a federal law that helps ensure educational stability for children in foster care.
- When you enter foster care or change placements while in foster care, you are entitled to remain in your home school (school you were attending when you entered foster care or the school you were attending when your placement in foster care changed), unless it’s determined not to be in your best interests through a Best Interest Determination.
- You are entitled to prompt, appropriate transportation to continue at your home school.
- If it is not in your best interests to remain in your home school, you are entitled to be immediately enrolled in the new school of residence even if you do not have the normally required enrollment documents.
NEED is a full-service college-access program. They provide college preparatory enrichment services including scholarship support, annual Historical Black Colleges and University (HBCU) Tours, Access to College & Career Education training programs, the AAMMI mentoring program, to name a few. More info at www.needld.org.
The Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) has compiled a very helpful resource list to assist those with disabilities to locate colleges, financial aid resources and other transitional resources. On it, you can find websites and resource names that will be helpful for those with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, autism, and more. Visit the OVR website for more useful resources.
Each year, Project Prom gives eligible high school students the opportunity to choose free formal attire from a selection of currently styled formal gowns, shoes and accessories. Young students served by the Department of Human Services in need of a prom tuxedo are invited to participate in Project Prom for Gentlemen. Up to date information can be found on the Project Prom website.
The school district has different ways to hold you accountable for your actions at school. For example, you may be given detention, you may be suspended either in and out of school, you may be moved to an alternative education school, or you may be expelled. This is a complicated area, and you should contact a member of your KidsVoice case team at 412-391-3100 to discuss more.
Different rules apply if the school is seeking to expel you. You may be expelled if you had a weapon on school grounds, at a school activity, or even going to and/or from school. School law defines “weapon” very broadly and the consequences are serious. The school must hold a formal hearing before you can be expelled. You can bring your own witnesses and lawyer to the hearing. You can ask people who support you — for example, your parents, your guardian, a mentor or coach—to speak on your behalf at the hearing. You should also tell your KidsVoice case team. At the hearing, you should try to present as much positive information as you can about your behavior or anything else that may show that you're able to stay in your current school safely.
Special education has special rights within the discipline system
The law is very detailed when it comes to expulsion and your rights when you have an IEP. If you have questions about how this applies to your situation, contact KidsVoice at 412-391-3100.
What if you're placed in an alternative program when returning from placement?
No student should automatically be placed in an alternative school just because they are returning from a placement. If the school intends to do this, they must conduct an informal hearing and notify your parent, guardian or educational decision maker about the hearing. The school must show that you are currently disruptive in order to transfer you to an alternative education program.
If you are transferred to an alternative education program, the law provides a presumption that you will return to the general education program within 45 days of your placement in the alternative education program or sooner if your behavioral goals are met (“presumptive exit date”).
If you think you need assistance in school to learn or with behaviors that interfere with your learning, talk to your school, parent, guardian, or your KidsVoice case team about getting help. If needed, an evaluation will be conducted, and you may qualify for an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
You must make a request to the school if you are in need of a special education evaluation. Your parent, guardian, or educational decision maker can make that request. The request can be verbal, but the school will require that your parent, guardian, or educational decision maker sign a permission-to-evaluate form (PTE).
The evaluation will determine if you qualify for special education services. The evaluation process can take up to 60 calendar days and will consist of observations, teacher and parent input, and you meeting with a psychologist for testing.
Once the evaluation is completed, an IEP team meeting will be scheduled to review the evaluation report (ER). If you qualify for an IEP, then one will be developed with the IEP team's input. The IEP team can consist of teachers, other service providers, KidsVoice, parent, guardian, or educational decision maker, social worker, guidance counselor, and principal. Once the IEP is signed, the services /accommodations should begin within 10 days.
Your IEP will
- be specific to you
- be designed to meet your unique educational needs
- put you in regular classes as often as possible.
Your IEP is to be reviewed every year from the date that that the IEP was implemented. The annual IEP should address progress and update goals as needed. Your IEP should outline specially designed instruction that you need to be successful. If you are not making progress you can ask your parent, guardian, or educational decision maker to request that your IEP be reopened and that an IEP team meeting be convened to address any issues.
If you are 14 or older, your IEP should address transition planning. This is to ensure that you are receiving the appropriate skills to transition out of school, whether that be employment, post-secondary, or vocational.
You have special protections if you are facing discipline issues and are in special education.
Meeting Unique Learning Needs
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects children who have a disability that impairs a major life activity and requires accommodation(s) in the school setting. You may need an accommodation, but your disability does not affect your educational needs such that need specially designed instruction or an IEP.
For example, you may have ADHD and need to sit in the first row in the classroom or have a physical disability that requires a wheelchair-accessible bus and classroom.
You can request the school implement a 504 plan outlining the specific accommodation that you need to be successful in school. Your parent, guardian, or educational decision maker can make this request. You can contact your KidsVoice case team for help.
If I request an evaluation when will the evaluation be completed?
Your educational decision maker (EDM) must sign a permission-to-evaluate form and the school district must complete the evaluation within 60 calendar days (minus summer months).
Will I be in regular classes if I have an IEP?
To the greatest extent possible, you should be in regular classes (called the “least restrictive environment”) while still receiving your special education supports and services.
The conciliation process is a meeting where your KidsVoice case team sits down with representatives from the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Children, Youth and Families (CYF) law department to look at your individual situation. They'll determine what kind of support you need to succeed while you're attending your course of instruction full time. You should come and participate in the meetings! The conciliation process is not about CYF or DHS paying your tuition! Securing financial aid for your course of instruction is your responsibility.
Some examples of post-secondary education programs include:
- traditional 4-year colleges (in state or out of state)
- community college, two-year associate colleges, junior colleges
- specialized post-secondary education programs for clients with mental health or intellectual disabilities
- technical programs, trade schools
- apprenticeship, job training programs.
You'll also need to provide other relevant information about your current situation and what it is you think you need to succeed, so make sure to ask about this. We have included some documents below to help address our clients' most common questions:
Where Can I Live?
As a part of your conciliation consent order, the order will state where you are placed. Some clients will be commuting to school from their foster home or group home. Other clients will reside on campus and will return to a designated individual or placement during times when the dormitories are closed. See attached document below to find answers to common questions about living arrangements during conciliation.
Open Conciliation Order vs. Closed DHS Contract
What are the differences between an open conciliation order and a closed DHS contract? Find out what these terms mean, and the differences between the two, in the attached informative PDF.
Terms of Conciliation Consent Order
What are the terms of my conciliation consent order? Learn more details about what your order means in the attached document.
Terms of Department of Human Services Contract
What are the terms of my Department of Human Services (DHS) Contract? Learn more details about what your contract means in the PDF below.
- Where Can I Live? Common Questions and Answers (PDF)
- Open Conciliation Order Versus Closed DHS Contract Differences (PDF)
- Terms of Conciliation Consent Order (DOC)
- Terms of DHS Contract (PDF)
This network advances, protects, and advocates for the human, civil, and legal rights of Pennsylvanians with disabilities. They reach an average of 2,500 residents annually and can assist in areas such as:
- abuse and neglect,
- access to community services,
- ADA compliance issues
- assistive technology,
- voting access,
- access to Medical Assistance services
Their services help people with developmental disabilities, physical and sensory disabilities, brain injury, and people in mental health recovery.
More information available at www.disabilityrightspa.org
A statewide legal advocacy group whose mission is to ensure that all of Pennsylvania’s children have access to quality public schools. More information at www.elc-pa.org
Nervous about your first year of college? Don't worry, everyone else is, too! Learn what to expect and tips for success in the attached document!
GED stands for General Equivalency Diploma. Most colleges, universities, and other schools (like trade and career schools) will accept a GED in place of a high school diploma. Passing the GED test can be very difficult—only 6 out of 10 people who take the GED pass it on the first try. That's why it's a good idea to take a GED prep class.
If you take the GED before you're 18 or before your high school class graduates, you'll not receive your official certificate until you turn 18 or when your high school class graduates (whichever happens first). But you can get your scores before you're 18 if you need to show someone that you passed.
This cheat sheet offers information on some of the local and FREE GED test preparation programs.
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