Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Child and Family Services (PA-CFS) 21: Transition to Adulthood

Youth in out-of-home care are supported in their transition to adulthood through individualized planning and preparation that promote well-being, strong support systems, access to needed resources, and skill development.



 PA-CFS 21.01 through PA-CFS 21.06 apply to all youth in care who are approaching adulthood, regardless of their plans for permanency. In cases where youth will transition from the system without having achieved legal permanency, PA-CFS 21.07 and PA-CFS 21.08 will also apply.

NA  The agency does not work with children placed in out-of-home care.
2020 Edition




Child and Family Services promote child and family well-being, protect children’s safety, stablilize and strengthen families, and ensure permanency.
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions; exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement. 
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented.  
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.  
Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  
  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.   
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner. 
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.   
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.  
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Procedures for transition planning, including collaborating with other service providers
  • Procedures for assessing independent living skills
  • Independent living skills assessment tool
  • Procedures for developing shared living agreements
  • Informational materials provided to youth
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Parents served
    4. Youth served
    5. Resource parents
    6. Residential treatment providers
  • Review case records


PA-CFS 21.01

Preparation for adulthood begins well in advance of a youth’s transition and: 
  1. ensures maximum youth participation in all aspects of exploring and planning for the future;
  2. includes adults and peers important to the youth; and
  3. involves collaboration and coordination among all service providers.



For youth who will be transitioning into adult systems of care, planning meetings and discussions should include providers from the adult-serving systems that will be working with the youth.  This will be especially critical when youth have developmental disabilities or mental health needs. 
Examples: Adults and peers that are important to youth can include, for example, family members, friends, and natural mentors.



PA-CFS 21.02

Preparing for adulthood is a strengths-based process that promotes safety, permanency, and well-being by helping youth explore: 
  1. their family relationships, including the family’s readiness for healthy participation in the youth’s life;
  2. relationships with supportive peers and adults, including involved adults’ commitment to the youth;
  3. strategies for coping with and healing from stress and trauma associated with grief and life transitions;
  4. the range of housing options available, including tribal options for American Indian/Alaska Native youth, as well as the risks and benefits of different housing options; 
  5. their academic needs and interests and available educational paths; and
  6. their work interests and skillsets, as well as different career paths and employment supports.

Examples: Housing options may include the full range of living situations from supported living to fully independent living environments. 


PA-CFS 21.03

The agency works with youth, parents, and resource families or residential treatment providers to assess the independent living skills of youth 14 years and older, at regular intervals, using a standardized assessment instrument that includes the following areas:
  1. educational and vocational development; 
  2. interpersonal skills; 
  3. financial management; 
  4. household management; and 
  5. self-care. 



The first assessment should be completed as soon as possible after youths’ 14th birthdays to establish a benchmark for measuring progress in identified areas.  Systematic assessment normally reoccurs at six-or twelve-month intervals.


PA-CFS 21.04

The agency ensures that youth transition to adulthood with basic social supports, including:  
  1. strong, consistent relationships with committed, caring adults; 
  2. access to cultural and community supports; and 
  3. connections to positive peer support.


PA-CFS 21.05

The agency assists youth in obtaining or compiling documents necessary to function as an independent adult, including, as appropriate:  
  1. an identification card or a driver’s license, when the ability to drive is a goal; 
  2. a social security or social insurance number; 
  3. a resume, describing work experience and career development; 
  4. an original copy of their birth certificate; 
  5. bank account access documents;
  6. religious documents and information; 
  7. documentation of immigration or refugee history and status; 
  8. documentation of tribal eligibility or membership; 
  9. death certificates if parents are deceased; 
  10. a life book or a compilation of personal history and photographs; 
  11. a list of known relatives, with relationships, addresses, telephone numbers, and permissions for contacting involved parties; 
  12. information about places they have lived (previous placement information);
  13. educational records, such as a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, and a list of schools attended; and
  14. health and mental health records, including the names and addresses of youths’ doctors, as well as information regarding any special needs and appropriate treatment, including any needed medication, as applicable. 


PA-CFS 21.06

When youth will continue to live with foster families past the age of 18, shared living agreements are developed in advance of youths’ 18th birthdays to promote independence, clarify new roles, and establish mutually agreed-upon expectations.
Interpretation:  In a developmentally appropriate manner, every youth turning 18 should be engaged in a conversation, documented in the case record, that explores and determines the mutual expectations and responsibilities of the living arrangement now that the youth is not a minor.


PA-CFS 21.07

At least six months before they will transition from care, the agency helps youth who will transition from the system without achieving legal permanency develop individualized plans for transition, by addressing the following areas: 
  1. housing and transportation;
  2. education and academic support;
  3. employment and workforce support;
  4. finances/income, including public assistance, when available;
  5. health insurance;
  6. physical and behavioral  health care, including needed medical, dental, mental health, and substance use treatment services; 
  7. transitioning to adult systems of care for mental health or developmental disabilities, when applicable; 
  8. services and supports available to youth who were in foster care for education and independent living activities; 
  9. child care, when applicable;
  10. social, peer, cultural, and community supports, including support or mentoring available through community volunteers or individuals who have made a successful transition; 
  11. legal rights and requirements regarding consent to remain in care beyond the age of 18, if applicable; and
  12. how to contact the agency and what supports the agency can offer after case closing, including information regarding voluntary return to care, as appropriate.



When the agency is working with American Indian or Alaska Native youth, plans should identify how to maintain an ongoing relationship with their tribe and tribal community members to receive supports and services available from the tribe and engage in cultural activities.


PA-CFS 21.08

The agency provides youth who will transition from the system without achieving legal permanency with at least six months’ advance notice of the cessation of any health, financial, or other benefits that may occur at transition or case closing.