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, the federal/state health insurance program for people who cannot afford to pay for their own health insurance. As long as you are in foster care, your health care will be paid for by Medicaid until you turn 18. In fact, even after you turn 18, you may be covered by Medicaid until you turn 21 as long as you are continuing to receive Independent Living services and you meet certain income rules.

Do I have the right to refuse medical treatment when I am in foster care?

Yes. Regardless of your age, you have the right to decide whether to receive the following types of health treatment: treatment for venereal diseases or any other infectious/contagious disease that must be reported to the State Board of Health; medical or health services related to birth control, pregnancy or family planning; and treatment for substance abuse, mental illness or emotional disturbance. However, if the medical treatment does not fall under one of those categories, it is up to your biological parent, foster parent or the social services agency to decide what treatment you get.

If you are found to have a mental illness that makes you a danger to yourself or others, or that makes you incapable of caring for yourself in an age-appropriate manner, you could be hospitalized for mental health treatment even if you don’t consent to the treatment.

What can I expect in terms of 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 that you are in foster care.

What right do I have to get birth control pills or other contraceptives while I am in foster care?

You have an absolute right to obtain and use contraceptives. Most local departments of social services will provide information to foster youth on how to on obtain birth control, so you should 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 about them, you can call or go to your local planned parenthood center. A list of these 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? What if I don’t want to have a baby yet but I get pregnant anyway?

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 guardian ad litem, going to your local planned parenthood clinic (see 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 that you cannot safely care for your child. If your caseworker or someone else at DSS tells you your child cannot stay with you, you should 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.

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. You should contact your local planned parenthood clinic for more information on these options.

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

Medicaid or FAMIS health insurance may be available until you turn age 19. Medicaid should not be automatically terminated if you leave foster care at age 18. You may have a very difficult time finding health insurance if you do not find a job that offers you health insurance as a benefit. Some adults over age 19 are eligible for Medicaid, but to qualify for the programs you must fall into a certain category. For example, adults who are disabled or who are pregnant and have low incomes may qualify for Medicaid.  If you choose to remaining the foster care system by continuing to receive foster care services until you turn 21, you will be eligible to continue to receive Medicaid if your income is very low.