Your Right to Privacy
Your Right to Live in a Safe Environment
Your caregiver’s job is to keep you safe and healthy by making careful, sensible parental decisions that maintain your health, safety, and best interest while encouraging emotional and developmental growth. Caregivers in the foster care system are held to a “reasonable and prudent parent standard” when making decisions relating to your participation in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural and social activities. If you do not believe your caregiver is doing their job, you have the right to say so.
As a foster child, you have the right to live in a safe, healthy and comfortable home where you are treated respectfully. This means that you receive adequate and healthy food, enough clothing and, for youth in group homes, a monetary allowance. A safe home means that you live in a place where you are free from emotional, physical or sexual abuse. No one can punish you with physical force. It is important to know that no one has the right to lock you in a room or building unless you are placed in a community treatment facility.
In your place of residence, you should have a private place for your things. No one can look through your things unless they have a good/legal reason to do so. You should also be able to access a telephone to make confidential telephone calls and send/receive unopened mail.
Additionally, you have the right to have fair and equal access to all available services, placement, care, treatment, and benefits, and not be subjected to discrimination or harassment on the basis of actual or perceived race, ethnic group identification, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental or physical disability, or HIV status.
If you think any of your rights to a safe home are being violated, you can seek help:
California Youth Crisis Line: 1-800-843-5200
National Runaway Switchboard: 1-800-621-4000
Office of the Ombudsperson for Foster Care: 1-877-846-1602
Child Protective Services emergency response hotlines for your county:
or CALL YOUR LAWYER!
Your Right to Be Healthy and Receive Proper Medical Care
As a foster child, you have free medical insurance (Medi-Cal or Family Pact) until you are 26 years old. This free medical insurance covers vision, dental, mental health and hospital care. You also have the right to see a doctor privately in order to receive family planning and services, which includes confidential sex education, STI/HIV testing, pregnancy testing, and birth control. Furthermore, you have the right to confidential visits with a doctor about sexual abuse/rape and alcohol/drug treatment.
If you have any questions about health services or need assistance accessing medical care, you can contact:
Office of the Medi-Cal Obudsmen: 1-888-452-8609
Medi-Cal Hotline: 1-916-636-1980
Public Health Nurse Directory: www.dhcs.ca.gov; or 1-510-208-5930
Health Consumer Alliance Center: http://healthconsumer.org; 1-855-693-7285
Health Shack: www.healthshack.info
Your Right to Education
No one can prevent you from going to school. You have the right to go to school everyday, participate in after school activities, and finish the school year at the same school if you move (if geographically possible).
If you are facing suspension at your school, there are special rules that may apply to you as a foster youth. For example, you have the right to a hearing and present witnesses, evidence and an attorney if you are going to be expelled.
If you are 16 years of age or older, you have the right to access information regarding your educational options, including coursework necessary for vocational and postsecondary educational programs and financial aid for postsecondary education. You can obtain assistance from an Educational Liaison (AB-490 Liaison). Every school district must have someone whose job is to help foster youth keep track of their school records, enroll in the right classes, and answer any questions related to education.
To find your Educational Liaison, call Foster Youth Services at 1-916-455-5737. You can also find a list of all statewide contacts at www.cde.ca.gov/ls/pf/fy/ab490contacts.asp
Your Right to Plan for Your Future
Beyond receiving an education and obtaining assistance with vocational and postsecondary education to help better your future, you have additional rights with regard to planning your life when you leave the foster care system. For example, as a foster youth, you have the right to maintain an emancipation bank account and manage personal income unless you are prohibited in doing so by your case plan. You also have the right to work and develop job skills at an age appropriate level, consistent with state law. Furthermore, if you are aged 16-21, you can attend Independent Living Program (ILP) classes and activities. For more on ILP, please see Transitioning to Living Independently while still in Foster Care.
Your Right to Communications and Socializing
Unless prohibited by court order, you have the right to visit and contact your birth family (relatives, siblings, etc.) and have a case plan that specifies how you will keep in touch with your family. If you wish to, you can visit and contact your siblings and other family members (unless prohibited by court order) and communicate with social workers, attorneys, foster youth advocates and supporters, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), and probation officers.
Additionally, you have the right to have and maintain social contacts with people outside of the foster care system, including church members, mentors, and friends. With regard to religion, you have the right to attend religious services and activities of your choosing.
Communications include making and receiving confidential telephone calls and sending or receiving unopened mail (unless not permitted by court order). You may also contact the appropriate persons confidentially regarding violations of rights and have the right to be free from threats or punishment for making such complaints.