Even though you're 18, we've got your back. That's the message the New Jersey Department of Children and Families is hoping to convey with its very first hip new video aimed at youth aging out of its system.  DCF Commissioner Allison Blake says since May is National Foster Care Awareness Month, they're hoping to use it as an opportunity to encourage the youth in its system to keep their cases open until they're 21.

"We're trying to get a message to youth who've received services from our system in the past, that even though when they turn 18 they're now legally free and they're recognized as adults, that they still are eligible to receive services from us until they're 21 years old. And so rather than close their case and kind of go off on their own, we really would like them to consider continuing to work with us and benefit from the services that are out there, so that we can help them make that transition to adulthood."

Blake says they really got the idea by talking with youth in its Leadership Council. She says "You know YouTube is a tool for them. So it was suggested that maybe if we used YouTube that might be a way to reach them through a medium that was more appealing to them and something they were more likely to encounter than just a flier or a handout."

Blake says the YouTube video titled: "Keeping your DYFS Case Open Until 21: The Experiences of Young People Like You" was actually produced by a man who aged out of the system. 23-year-old Rutgers Student Terek Pierce, who'll soon be graduating with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies, put the video together in conjunction with DCF's Office of Adolescent Services and Rutgers University. She says Pierce strongly believes in the services that can be provided during the transition to adulthood and is hoping the creation of the video gets the message out to kids like himself.

Blake says the video is about five different youth who are are involved in the system in different ways. "They really talk about how they've benefited from the services that are available and even though when you turn 18 and you want to be free, there are really so many advantages to continuing to access services."

The department services include mentoring, health, permanency, housing, educational and financial assistance to name a few.

DCF also wants 18-year-olds who have closed their cases to know that they can request to have their cases reopened by DYFS to access these voluntary services. Blake says "we want to work with these youth to help them achieve their goals."

The video can be found on YouTube at http://youtu.be/bnX6olTnPck. It can also be found through a link on our web site: http://www.nj.gov/dcf/divisions/adolescent.html

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