Secretary Malhotra
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DHR Service: Independent Living

Maryland Independent Living Services

Maryland independent living services or Ready By 21 Services are transitional services available to youth ages 14 to 21 in out-of-home placement (commonly known as foster care) to prepare them for successful adulthood. The goal of the Ready By 21 Services is to assist youth in making a successful transition from an out-of-home placement program to self-sufficiency. Youth are provided basic living skills in partnership with their resource provider and case worker. Together the youth, caregiver and caseworker assesses the youth’s proficiency in life skills. Youth utilize the outcomes of the assessment to begin service planning, determine transition goals, and identify areas of improvement toward their life skill development on their Maryland Youth Transitional Plan. Ready By 21 Services encourages youth to take an active role in planning the activities and services that they need with their caseworker and supportive adults.

Each of Maryland’s twenty-four local departments of social services has an Independent Living Coordinator. The Independent Living Coordinator is trained on the independent living service delivery model. Independent Living Coordinators are responsible for conducting all independent living service activities within their respective jurisdiction and assisting foster care youth in accessing services to prepare for independent living. The following services are provided by the local independent living coordinators:

  1. Assistance in accessing education or training programs that are appropriate to the youth’s skills and future plans
  2. Assistance in securing and maintaining employment;
  3. Assistance in developing a community support network; and
  4. Assistance in locating appropriate living arrangements while in foster care, and for when independence is achieved.
  5. Training in daily living skills which includes:
    • Budgeting
    • Managing Checking Accounts
    • Money Management
    • Locating and Maintaining Housing
    • Physical and Emotional Health Care
    • Physical Hygiene
    • Leisure Activities
    • Conflict Resolution
    • Healthy Dating and Social Relationships
    • Sexuality
    • Abstinence
    • Proper Nutrition
    • Consumer Awareness
    • Apartment Hunting
  6. Problem solving and decision making.
  7. Individual therapy or counseling related to specific issues that pose as barriers to reaching and maintaining independence.
  8. Group therapy of counseling related to issues that are endemic to the population.
  9. Financial support to assist youth in establishing a semi- independent living arrangement. This may include:
    • Furniture
    • Transportation
    • Security Deposits
    • Assistance in Developing a Community Support Network by Identifying:
      • Social Support Systems
      • Medical Services
      • Legal Services


Semi-Independent Living Arrangement

Semi Independent Living Arrangement (SILA) provides youth an opportunity to learn and practice independent living skills and activities. The youth is placed in an approved setting, such as an apartment and receives monitoring and supportive independent living preparation skills. Specific tasks should be included in the independent living service agreement and transitional plan of the youth while they receive services from the local department of social services and/or the service provider contracted through the State.

Youth are eligible to receive a SILA through the local department of social services (LDSS) when the caseworker and youth agree that a SILA is in the youth’s best interest. The youth is eligible to participate in a SILA if the youth meets the following criteria:

  • Between 16-21 years old (Youth ages 18-21 can only be considered for IV-E eligibility);
  • Continually enrolled in and regularly attending school or vocational training or is working at least 80 hours per month;
  • Agrees to the requirements of the independent living service agreement;
  • Needs help in transitioning to self-sufficiency; and
  • Is capable of contributing to the cost of living through:
    • Earned income through employment
    • Income through scholarships, stipends, grants, work study, Social Security, or any combination.

Youth not meeting the requirements listed above may be eligible for participation in a semi-independent living arrangement if the youth has a documented disability in living skills and the youth’s case plan documents how the youth’s disability can be accommodated in a semi-independent living arrangement.

Independent Living After Care Services

Independent Living Aftercare services are available on a voluntary basis to youth 18 to 21 years old who were in out-of-home placement on their 18th birthday and exited care after their 18th birthday. Youth are not eligible who left foster care prior to their 18th birthday, nor are they eligible after they reach age 21. Independent Living Aftercare services are designed to support former foster care youth ages 18 to 21 years old in their effort to achieve self-sufficiency.


  • Exited out-of-home placement after their 18th birthday, but have not attained the age of 21 or exited via adoption or relative guardianship after their 16th birthday;
  • Need continued help in making the transition to self-sufficiency; and
  • Participate in the development of a service agreement and sign and comply with its terms.


Enhanced Aftercare Services

Enhanced After Care Voluntary Placement Agreement allows former Maryland foster youth to re-enter out-of-home placement through the signing of a voluntary placement agreement. Enhanced After Care Voluntary Placement Agreement Services specifically provide services to former foster youth that exited Maryland DHR foster care after age 18. Youth in enhanced aftercare are eligible for all services provided to youth in out-of-home placement services.


  • Youth was in the care and custody or guardianship of a Maryland local department of social services on his/her 18th birthday;
  • Youth left foster care prior to age 21;
  • Youth is not older than 20 yrs 6 months at the time of application for enhanced after care voluntary placement services;
  • Youth cannot have exited foster care due to reunification, adoption, guardianship, marriage, or military duty; and must agree to enter into one of the following within 30 days of signing the agreement
    • Completing secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential; or
    • Enrolled in an institution which provides post-secondary or vocational training; or
    • Participating in a program or activity designed to promote or remove barriers to unemployment; or
    • Employed at least 80 hours per month; or
    • Incapable of doing any of the above described activities due to a medical condition.


State Youth Advisory Board

The State Youth Advisory Board (SYAB), also known as M.Y.L.I.F.E. (Maryland Youth Launching Initiatives for Empowerment), consists of foster youth from across the State of Maryland. The purpose of the SYAB is to builds on the concept that input from youth is essential to the effectiveness and success of programs designed to serve them. The SYAB plays a major role in program development and is comprised of a group of youth who are encouraged to contribute to the development of program planning. SYAB participants are viewed as valued partners in the development of the Maryland Transitional Living Services. The board serves to empower youth to have a positive effect in their communities, encourage youth to develop skills necessary for independent living and leadership development, assist in the planning of the annual teen conferences and review State and Federal legislation that may affect them.

Tuition Waiver and Education Tuition Voucher for Foster Care and Former Foster Care Youth

The Maryland Tuition Waiver for Foster Care Recipients is available to foster care youth who were in foster care at the time of high school graduation or successfully passing a GED and are enrolled as a candidate for an associate or bachelor’s degree or vocational certificate at a Maryland public institution of higher education. The purpose of Tuition Waiver for Foster Care Recipients is to provide financial assistance to foster care youth. Please contact your caseworker to apply for the Maryland Tuition Waiver. Youth are eligible if they are enrolled at the institution on or before the date that the recipient reaches the age of 25 years, is enrolled as a candidate for an associates or a bachelor’s degree, and has filed for federal and state financial aids by March 1st each year. Youth are also eligible if they resided in foster care home in Maryland on the individual’s 13th birthday and placed into guardianship or adopted out of foster care after their 13th birthday.

The Tuition Waiver Program is available to the recipient for a period of five years after first enrolling as a candidate for an associates or bachelor’s degree or vocational certificate at a public institution of higher education or until a bachelors degree is awarded, whichever comes first. Foster youth also qualify for the Education Tuition Voucher (ETV). The Education and Training Voucher provides foster youth up to $5,000 a year for college and vocational training.


Additional Information about Independent Living Services and Social Media Links: