Rights in foster care

Who Should Receive Social Security Benefits for Youth in Foster Care?

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Who Should Receive Social Security Benefits for Youth in Foster Care?

Casey Family Programs, the Children’s Bureau, and Lived Experience (LEx) Leaders shined a light on a social security benefits issue in a webinar hosted by American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) titled “State and Local Leadership Meeting on SSI/SSDI Payments and the Child Welfare System.”

When a parent of a minor dies, the child is usually entitled to a monthly sum of money paid by social security. This benefit usually goes to the surviving parent or caregiver to help cover the cost of raising the child.

But what happens when the child is in foster care? In many jurisdictions, the child welfare system takes the money. In theory, this is because it is now responsible for the cost of providing for the child. 

But some advocates are saying, “Not so fast!” and arguing that social security funds belong to the young person. 

Last month, two FosterClub Lived Experience (LEx) Leaders brought their insights to the webinar. 

LEx Leader Myla Garcia recalled her world changed overnight when her mother died and she entered California’s child welfare system at 14.

As someone in foster care who’d lost a parent, Myla was entitled to social security benefits.

“[But] to this day, I have no idea where any of that money went,” she explained to the audience of federal partners from the Children’s Bureau and the Social Security Administration, child welfare workers, and other child welfare workers. 

Though she attended college on scholarship, Myla couldn’t afford a full meal plan. 

“It should not have been that hard for my brother and I.”

— Myla, 28, PA

LEx Leader Faith Sharp spent five years in Missouri’s foster care system. Though she left her mother and step-father’s custody at 16, they continued collecting her government money from her father’s death.

“Nobody knew… how to get it. It took an entire village.“

— Faith, 25, MO

Myla’s closing observation resonated throughout the audience: “People in child welfare forget children grow up.”

For more information about this topic, check out:
CBS news: Foster children deprived of benefits: How a loophole affects the most vulnerable

NPR: New York City will stop collecting Social Security money from children in foster care 

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