The following terms are commonly used in relation to foster care and aging out of the system.

Aging Out: Aging out is the process of a youth transitioning from the formal foster care system to independent living. Youth age out of foster care on their 18th birthdays (although some states allow them to remain in foster care until they turn 21). An estimated 30,000 adolescents age out of foster care in the United States each year.

Case Management Agency: Case management agencies provide supervision of children’s placements in foster homes to ensure safety and stability.

Dependent Child: A dependent child is a child who is in custody of the child welfare system.

Foster Care: Foster care is full-time substitute care of children outside their own home by people other than their biological parents or legal guardians. Children can be placed in foster care in a variety of settings: the care of relatives, non-relatives, therapeutic or treatment foster care, or an institution or group home. Children are removed from the biological home in cases where they have suffered abuse or neglect, or have parents or legal guardians who are unable to take care of them. In all foster care cases, the biological parents or legal guardians temporarily give up legal custody of the child.

Foster Parent: Licensed adults who provide a temporary home for children whose biological families are unable to take care of them. Foster parents must undergo a rigorous screening and training process, and the home must pass a health and safety inspection. Foster parents take responsibility for feeding and clothing the children, getting the child to school and appointments, and any other functions that would usually be filled by the parents or legal guardian. Foster parents do not become the legal guardians of foster children; guardianship remains with the case management agency.

Guardian Ad Litem: A person, often an attorney (but may be a volunteer), appointed by the court to represent the interests of a foster child in a particular court case.

Independent Living: A placement or case management services that provide life-skills training to youth aging out of foster care, to help them to acquire the skills they will need to live independently as adults.

Permanency Planning: The systematic process of carrying out (within a brief, time-limited period) a set of goal-directed activities designed to help children live in permanent families. The goal is to provide the child continuity of relationships with nurturing parents or caretakers and the opportunity to establish lifetime family relationships.

Placement: A placement occurs when a child is sent to live in a foster home.

Reunification: The returning of a foster child to the custody of his/her parent(s) after placement outside the home.

RTI: The Road to Independence Scholarship is an educational stipend provided by the State of Florida to youth who age out of foster care and are enrolled full-time in an approved educational program. Individuals must show sufficient educational progress to maintain eligibility for this scholarship.