Health care rights

during Foster Care

Do I have health insurance while I am in foster care?

Yes. Most children in foster care are covered by Medicaid, a program for people who cannot afford to pay for their own health insurance.

» As long as you were in foster care and had Medicaid coverage at age 18, you may have your health care paid for by Medicaid until you turn 26.

Do I have the right to make my own decisions about medical treatment when I am in foster care?

Sometimes. Regardless of your age, you have the right to make decisions about receiving the following types of health treatment:

1) treatment for sexually-transmitted infections or contagious diseases that must be reported to the Board of Health;
2) medical services related to birth control or pregnancy; and
3) treatment for substance abuse, mental illness, or emotional disturbance.

▪ If the medical treatment does not fall under one of the above categories, your biological parent, foster parent, or the social services agency will decide your treatment until you are 18.
ASK about your medication. Why is it being prescribed? What are the side effects? When can you stop taking it?
▪  If you are found to have a mental illness that makes you a danger to yourself or others, or makes you incapable of caring for yourself, you could be hospitalized for treatment even if you don’t consent. A judge will decide.

What about doctors’ visits while I am in foster care?

You should get a full medical examination no later than 60 days after you enter foster care.  After that, you will go to the doctor for a full physical examination every year you are in foster care. You also should receive regular eye exams and dental care.

I think I am depressed, or may have a medical or mental health condition that has not been diagnosed. What do I do?

Tell your foster parents, social worker, school counselor, teacher, or GAL, or another trusted adult. You have the right to be tested for medical conditions and receive appropriate treatment. If you have a mental health condition, you have the right to make decisions regarding the treatment, unless a judge has determined you are not competent to do so.  If you are depressed, it is important to get help as soon as possible, as depression may affect other areas of your life. Ask to see a therapist.

What if I have questions about my sexual or gender identity?

Tell a trusted adult, whether a teacher, school counselor, your foster parents, GAL, or case worker.  You have the right to be treated respectfully, to be given the space you need to learn who you are, and, if you want it, to receive counseling to help you understand your concerns and how to cope with others’ reactions.

Can I get birth control pills or other contraceptives?

You have an absolute right to contraceptives.  Most local departments of social services will provide information to foster youth on how to on obtain birth control, so feel free to talk to your case worker about this.  However, if you are not comfortable talking to your case worker or doctor about contraceptives and want more information, you can call or go to your local Planned Parenthood center.  A list of centers can be found at www.plannedparenthood.org.  You can also obtain birth control at your local health department.

What happens if I get pregnant while I am in foster care? Will my baby get to live with me if I choose to have it?

If you become pregnant while you are in foster care, you have the right to get as much information as you can about your choices.  You can do that by talking to your social worker, your GAL, going to your local Planned Parenthood clinic (see https://www.plannedparenthood.org/), or speaking with an adoption agency.  If you decide to have a child while you are in foster care, you have the right to keep and care for your child in your foster home.  Your child cannot be removed from your custody unless a judge determines you cannot safely care for your child.

If your caseworker or someone else at DSS tells you your child cannot stay with you, contact your GAL or your local legal aid office for advice and help.  You can find a directory of legal aid offices at www.valegalaid.org.

What if I don’t want to have a baby yet but I get pregnant?

If you get pregnant and are not ready to have a child, you have the choice to terminate a pregnancy in its early stages or give a child up for adoption. Contact your local Planned Parenthood clinic for more information on these options. If you are a minor, you will need to get permission before you can get an abortion. Talk to your social worker, school counselor, foster parents, independent living coordinator, or GAL. Learn more about all your options when pregnant: http://www.pregnantteenva.org/

How do I get health care after I leave foster care?

You are eligible for Medicaid health insurance until you turn age 26. As you transition out of foster care, talk to your social worker about all the benefits you may be eligible for. Learn more here: www.coverva.org/mat/Former_Foster_Care_Information.pdf