Independent Living

Kids Central and its partners provide independent living services to youth and young adults in the foster care system.  These services prepare the youth for adulthood and life after foster care. It is a requirement that youth aging-out of the system (those turning 18 years old without returning to the care of their parents or being adopted) have the basic life skills to function successfully on their own.  Training includes but is not limited to: financial literacy training, household management, educational and career planning.

Many children in Circuit 5 age out of foster care without reunification or finding a permanent home.  Rather than leave these children cut-off and alone, Kids Central taps state, federal community and donated resources to provide them with critical tools for a successful transition to adulthood. Once a youth ages-out of the foster care system, there are several services that he or she can access if certain requirements are met.  These services include: transportation, housing and housing assistance, as well as emotional support.

Following recent legislation to improve the opportunities for success for foster care youth, beginning January 1, 2014 youth turning 18 years of age may continue to remain in extended foster care until the age of 21. As long as the youth is making progress toward an agreed upon plan, whether that is to continue their education or obtain a job, or participate in a program designed to give them job skills the youths are welcome to stay in foster care beyond their 18th birthday. Kids Central has identified host homes to provide extended foster care services to these youth.

The Independent Living Program at Kids Central Inc. exists to empower and encourage young youths aging out of the foster care to achieve their academic career and personal goals.  Through one-on-one coaching Kids Central’s Independent Living Coordinators are able to provide guidance and direction to our young people as they prepare to launch from the foster care system at age 18.  Starting at 17, Independent Living Coordinators begin the transition planning process with the youth.  This is a youth-centered approach in that the youth’s goals are the driving force of the transition plan.  As the youth approach adulthood, the Independent Living Coordinators ensure there is a realistic plan in place for the young adult.  The Independent Living Coordinators continue to work with these young adults until they finish their program or until age 23, whichever comes first.  High school guidance meetings, FAFSA applications, financial assistance, college tours, daycare assistance, and connections with job and leadership opportunities are just some of the many services the Independent Living Programs provides.

Young Adult Services

Extended Foster Care (EFC)

To be eligible, a young adult must meet the following requirements:

 Participation Requirements

  • Be living in a licensed placement on his or her 18th birthday.
  • Continue to live in a supervised setting after his or her 18th birthday – which means a family foster home, group home, or supervised independent living location.
  • Meet monthly with his or her case manager to discuss progress, issues, needs, etc. and to collaborate with them on Transition Plans, Case Plans, and Judicial Review Reports.
  • Sign appropriate and necessary releases to allow the case manager to verify participation in the qualifying activities.

Qualifying Activities

  • Be enrolled full-time in secondary school / GED program OR
  • Be enrolled in a post-secondary or vocational institution OR
  • Participate in a program or activity designed to promote or eliminate barriers to employment (such as job skills training; internships; substance abuse programs; other therapeutic programs; etc) OR
  • Be employed for at least 80 hours per month OR
  • Have a documented condition that does not permit full-time engagement in these qualifying activities

Age Limitations

Young adults may remain in EFC until their 21st birthday OR until their 22nd birthday if they have a disability:

Young adults may remain in Road to Independence until their 23rd birthday:

FS 409.1451(2)(5) reads that a young adult may remain in the Road-to-Independence program until he or she, “has reached 18 years of age but is not yet 23 years of age”

For young adults who were in licensed foster care at the age of 18 and had spent at least 6 months in licensed care during their lifetimes, there are two types of educational support available – regardless of their participation in Extended Foster Care.

 Post-Secondary Educational Services and Supports (PESS)

 PESS: The Post-secondary Educational Services and Supports (PESS) program provides $1,256 in financial assistance monthly for young adults ages 18 through 22 who meet the eligibility requirements below:

  • Has earned a standard high school diploma or its equivalent.
  • Is enrolled full time in a Bright Futures approved, post-secondary educational institution (college, community college, and vocational education programs).
  • Has spent at least 6 months in licensed care before reaching 18th birthday.
  • Was living in licensed care on their 18th birthday OR was adopted or placed with a court-approved dependency guardian after age 16 AND had spent at least 6 months in licensed care within the 12 months immediately preceding adoption or placement.
  • Has applied for other grants and scholarships for which he or she may qualify and has submitted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • Has signed an agreement to allow the department and the community-based care lead agency access to all necessary records, including school records.

ETV: Educational and Training Vouchers Program (ETV) for Youths Aging out of Foster Care are part of the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. ETV provides vouchers of up to $5,000 per year to a young adult for post secondary education and training.


Young adults who do not participate in either Extended Foster Care or PESS may receive services or funding from the state’s new After Care Program which went into effect January 1, 2014.

The After Care program is temporary in nature and intended to provide only a safety net; services should be designed to help transition the young adult either to independence or to help them return to Extended Foster Care or PESS. Services/supports that can be provided through the After Care program include, but are not limited to, mental health services and substance abuse counseling; life skills classes, including financial literacy skills training; assistance with enrolling in or continuing Medicaid and preventive health activities; parenting classes; job and career skills training; mentoring and tutoring; counselor consultations; and temporary financial assistance for necessities, including, but not limited to, education supplies, transportation expenses, security deposits for rent and utilities, furnishings, household goods, and other basic living expense.

The specific services to be provided, including financial supports, are to be determined by a case manager’s assessment of the young adult and delivered by the community-based care provider or through referrals in the community. An application will be available before January 1, 2014.

Staff Contact Information

Kevin M. Maloney – Director of Operations

Lindsey Tew, Independent Living Supervisor

Carol Wilcoxon, Independent Living Administrative Assistant

Louis New, Independent Living Coordinator

Kim Melocchi, Independent Living Coordinator

Bill Samples, Independent Living Coordinator

Lexi Mikedis, Independent Living Coordinator

Tina Emerson, Independent Living Coordinator

Toris Rutledge, Independent Living Coordinator

Dawn Ayala, Independent Living Coordinator






Pursuant to Section 286.26, Florida Statutes, any disabled person who may require accommodations to participate in any meetings or events, please contact Debra Wise-Velez or Shelly LaFrance with Kids Central at (352) 873-6332 at least 7 days in advance of the event.  If you are hearing or speech impaired, please use the Florida Relay Service 1-800-955-8771 (TDD) or 1-800-955-8770 (Voice)

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