California Advocacy

Social Security Benefits for Children and Youth in Foster Care

July 20, 2021

The Marshall Project recently published a compelling article Foster Care Agencies Take Thousands of Dollars Owed to Kids that led to a resurgence of discussion around the ongoing issue of how children and youth in foster care receive the social security benefits they are entitled to. The Child Welfare Policy Roundtable c0-hosted by the Assembly Select Committee of Foster Care and Children Now, facilitated a robust panel of speakers that took a closer look into the  into the ways in which Supplemental Security Income, SSI, benefits and other programs that can support children and youth in foster care that meet the eligibility requirements.

All youth aged 15 and above are screened to see if they qualify for the SSI benefits. The agency is required to apply on behalf of eligible youth, however, they are not required to go through the appeal process. Foster, kinship, guardian, and adoptive caregivers should follow up on the application process to ensure that youth receive the benefits they are entitled to, and to ensure the benefits are used to support the needs of the youth. They should know where youth stand in the screening, application, and appeal process. Youth may qualify for SSI or SSA based on their own disabilities, or if their biological/first family is deceased or disabled. 10-20 percent of foster youth are eligible for SSI and/or SSA.

To support the mission of creating more disability advocates for youth, AB 1331, introduced by Assembly member Jacqui Irwin, would establish a position at the Department of Health Care Services that specifically focuses on initiating and supervising a system that ensures that Californians are receiving the most efficient and effective care. This bill this would ensure that youth receive the appropriate benefits owed to them by the state.

The policy recommendations that will ensure a seamless transition for youth to get the benefits they need include:

  1. Incorporate SSI screening into existing processes
  2. Improve screening & application support for young adults in care
  3. Invest in SSI Advocacy
  4. Improve data Collection and Transparency

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took an extraordinary step to ensure that social security benefits make it into the hands of eligible foster youth. They passed a unanimous motion that tells the county child welfare agency to “ensure” that an interest-bearing bank account is set up for all foster youth who get Social Security benefits so that they can have access to the money “upon exit from foster care.””

By LaNaya Blackwell, Policy Assistant, California Alliance of Caregivers

Webinar Recording – June 4, 2021

Diana Boyer, Director of Policy for Child Welfare and Older Adult Services,
County Welfare Directors Association of California,

Disability Benefits Advocacy for Youth (Compliance with AB 1331 and 1633)
Steven Weiss, Regional Managing Attorney, Social Security,
Bay Area Legal Aid,

  • Materials were not provided

Social Security Benefits for Non-Minor Dependents (Challenges Faced by NMDs in Accessing Benefits and Recommendations for Improving Access)
Rachel Stein, Supervising Staff Attorney, Children’s Rights,
Public Counsel,

  • Materials were not provided

Policy Recommendations for Stability and Successful Transitions
Sabrina Forte, Director of Policy and Impact Litigation,
Alliance for Children’s Rights,