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Adolescent Services - Frequently Asked Questions

What services are available to help runaway or at-risk youth and their families?

What specialized services are available to dependent, adolescent youth?

What services are available to adolescent youth in foster care?

What if I don't agree with the decision made by DSHS?

Family Reconciliation Services (FRS)

FRS is a voluntary program serving runaway adolescents, and youth in conflict with their families. The program targets adolescents between the ages of 12 through 17. FRS services are meant to resolve crisis situations and prevent unnecessary out of home placement. They are not long term services. The services will assess and stabilize the family's situation. The goal is to return the family to a pre-crisis state and to work with the family to identify alternative methods of handling similar conflicts. If longer-term service needs are identified, FRS will help facilitate getting the youth and his/her family into on-going services.

FRS services may include, but are not limited to:

  • Short-term family counseling;
  • Crisis Residential Center (CRC) services
  • Referrals for substance abuse treatment and/or counseling
  • Referrals for mental health services
  • Short-term placement
  • Family Assessments in conjunction with juvenile court services.


The HOPE Act legislation, passed in 1999, created two new programs to address street youth; HOPE Centers and Responsible Living Skills Programs.

HOPE Centers provide temporary residential placements for street youth under the age of 18. These are homeless youth living on the street or other unsafe locations. Youth may self-refer to a HOPE Center for services. Entering a HOPE Center is voluntary. While residing in a HOPE Center, each youth will undergo a comprehensive assessment to include:

  • The youth's legal status;
  • A physical examination;
  • A mental health evaluation;
  • A chemical abuse evaluation;
  • An educational evaluation of their basic skills, along with any learning disabilities or special needs.

The purpose of the assessment is to develop the best plan for the youth. The plan will focus on finding a permanent and stable home for the youth. This plan might include reunifying the youth with his or her parent(s) or legal guardian and/or getting the youth into a transitional living situation and off the streets.

Responsible Living Skills Program (RLS)


Crisis Residential Centers

Crisis residential centers (CRC's) are short-term, semi-secure facilities for runaway youth, and adolescents in conflict with their families. Youth cannot remain in a CRC more than 15 consecutive days.

Counselors at the CRC (typically, in collaboration with an FRS Social Worker) work with the family to resolve the immediate conflict. Counselors will also help the youth and family develop better ways of dealing with conflict in the future. The goal is to reunite the family and youth wherever possible. The family will also be referred for additional services if other needs are identified.


Secure Crisis Residential Centers

The "Becca Bill" (named after a runaway youth who was subsequently killed) established secure crisis residential centers for runaway youth. The Becca Bill authorizes law enforcement to pick up runaway youth, or youth found in "dangerous circumstances", and place them in these physically secure, short-term residential facilities. Youth may not remain in a SCRC longer than 5 consecutive days in a detention based facility or 15 days in a non-detention facility. Youth may transfer between a SCRC and a CRC, but the total length of stay may not exceed 5 consecutive days. SCRC counselors work with families to resolve the immediate conflict, facilitate a reconciliation between parent and youth, and provide referral to additional services.


Preservation Services

Preservation Services include Family Preservation Services (FPS) and Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS).

Family Preservation Services (FPS): Available to families whose children face substantial likelihood of being placed outside of the home or to reunify a child with their family from out-of-home care. FPS is available to families within 48 hours of referral and is offered for a maximum of six months by a contracted service provider. FPS are designed to support families by strengthening their relationships with a variety of community resources.

Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS): When a family has a child who the department believes is at imminent risk of foster care placement, the family can be referred for Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) through a contracted community agency. IFPS is a voluntary services that provides up to 20 hours of in-home therapist time each week, for about a forty (40) day period of time. Services are available seven (7) days a week, twenty-four (24) hours a day. Interventions are focused on improving the ability of the family to overcome a crisis situation and to remain together safely.


What services are available to adolescent youth in foster care?

Independent Living Services: Young adults in foster care can receive Independent Living Services to help prepare them for independence before they must leave foster care because they have reached legal adulthood. Throughout the state, community-based agencies and Federally recognized Tribes contract with DCFS to provide skills-based services in the areas of education, employment, housing and life skills to youth 15 and older.

Transition to Independence Programs: Former foster care youth ages 18 through 21 who have at least one documented Independent Living Skills plan prior to leaving care may now receive services designed to assist the youth in achieving self-sufficiency. Services may include assistance in employment, education and/or housing.

Responsible Living Skills Program: The RLS program is intended to provide permanent residential placements for youth who are dependent (in the legal custody of the Division of Children and Family Services) aged 16 to 18 who have not found success in other, traditional, state placement. These youth have been living on the streets or other unsafe locations. Occasionally, youth age 14 or 15 may qualify for residence in an RLS program. Many of these youth will have been placed into RLS programs after living in a HOPE Center.

RLS programs will help the youth develop independent living skills in a number of areas:

  • Basic education, e.g., GED;
  • Job skills;
  • Basic life skills
    1. Money management
    2. Nutrition/Meal preparation
    3. Household skills
    4. Parenting
    5. Health care
    6. Access to community resources
    7. Transportation and housing options

Intensive Resource Services

These services include Behavioral Rehabilitation Services, Children's Hospitalization Alternative Program, Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care. The administration contracts with community agencies for intensive services for children and youth with serious emotional, behavioral difficulties who cannot be adequately served in regular foster care. These services provide a higher level of care and services for children and youth with the most severe needs. These services are provided in a facility, treatment foster home or in the child or youth’s own home.


Educational Advocacy Program

The Educational Advocacy Program provides direct advocacy, consultation, information, and referral services to foster youth. All youth in out of home care with unmet educational needs are eligible. The Children's Administration social worker or CHET screener must make the referral to the program. Want more information about the program? Please email


Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program

The Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program is a national program for youth who qualify and are likely to age out of the foster care system. The ETV program was implemented in Washington State in 2003. ETV offers financial help to current and former foster youth to attend colleges, universities, vocational or technical programs. The ETV program aims to help students’ in their own efforts to secure financial aid to enroll in postsecondary programs.

The ETV program has up to $5,000 in funds available to eligible students; ETV awards are unique to each student and are based on the cost of attendance formula established by their college of choice and any unmet need they may have within their financial aid award. The total ETV award cannot exceed the cost of attendance, so not every student will receive a full $5,000. ETV awards may help fund tuition, fees, books, housing, transportation and other eligible educational costs. The ETV application priority deadline is January 1 to April 30th each year. All applications submitted after April 30th will be placed on a waiting list and will be awarded on a funds available basis.

Want more information about the program? Please email or call (877) 433-8388.


Extended Foster Care Program


The Extended Foster Care program provides an opportunity for young adults in foster care at age 18 to voluntarily agree to continue receiving foster care services, including placement services, while the youth completes a secondary or post secondary academic or vocational program, or participates in a program or activity designed to promote employment.

The dependency action will continue if the eligible youth elects to participate in the program on their 18th birthday. Eligible youth who do not elect to participate in the Extended Foster Care program on their 18th birthday will have until their 19th birthday to voluntarily request to participate in the Extended Foster Care program.

Services may include:

  • Foster Care placement or Supervised Independent living setting placement (shared living, apartment, college dormitory).
  • Medical (including mental health).
  • Dental.
  • Transitional Living services (if available).
  • Case management by CA.
  • Referrals to community resources (as appropriate).
  • See for further services.


To be eligible for the Extended Foster Care program, youth must meet the following criteria on their 18th birthday:

  • Dependent;
  • In foster care; and
    • Enrolled in high school or GED program; or
    • Enrolled in, applied for or can demonstrate that he or she intends to timely enroll in a college or vocational education program; or
    • Participate in a program or activity designed to promote employment

Continued participation in Extended Foster Care is subject to continuing eligibility in one of the three categories listed above. Participants can transition between categories.

How to Apply

  • Contact your assigned social worker.

Extended Foster Care Services Description/Guidelines

For questions regarding the Extended Foster Care program contact: Christine Kerns at (360) 902-0250 or email at


What if I don't agree with the decision made by DSHS?

A primary concern of the Children's Administration is to assure that all persons dealing with the agency are treated fairly and with respect. There is a formal complaint process that outlines the method for assuring that concerns are addressed in an orderly, fair, and timely manner.

The complaint or concern should first be expressed to the assigned social worker. If that fails to solve the problem, the worker's supervisor can be contacted directly. If the issues cannot be resolved by the supervisor, the Area Administrator then the Regional Administrator can be contacted. Individuals who need help to resolve problems and to understand the formal complaint process may call the Children's Administration Office of Constituent Relations at 1-800-723-4831.

The Family and Children's Ombudsman is an independent office within the Governor's Office with the mission to protect children and parents from unreasonable agency action or inaction. If you need help with an unresolved complaint or concern, you can call the Children's Ombudsman at 1-800-571-7321.