A recent Congressional Research Service report showed that, on any given day, between 24,000 and 400,000 children in the foster care system receive some form of Social Security benefits.
Youth in foster care and those transitioning out of the foster care system are an exceptionally vulnerable population in America. As a group, foster care children experience higher rates of teenage pregnancy, high school dropouts, homelessness, crime, and recidivism. They are also more likely to suffer from mental and physical disabilities.
Many of the people who age out of the foster care system find themselves in search of alternate means of financial support. Those who suffer from disabilities may qualify for Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Generally, these individuals do not qualify while they remain in the foster care system even if they meet the childhood definition of disability because the income of their foster parents exceeds the SSI limit.
If the income limitation in the foster care household is not exceeded, the child most likely will need to suffer from a genetic, developmental, or learning disability or disorder to qualify for SSI benefits. The child will need to provide medical proof, including lists of every medical professional who treated the child for the disabling condition with contact information.
Foster care children may qualify for benefits on one or more of his or her biological parents’ work records. If the child has a deceased biological parent with a qualifying work history, the child may be eligible to receive survivor’s benefits. If the child has a biological parent who is receiving Social Security disability benefits, he or she may be entitled to auxiliary benefits.
Are you a foster parent and currently receiving Social Security benefits of some kind? Under specific circumstances, the foster child may be eligible for auxiliary benefits on your record. The child must have lived with you for at least one year and meeting one of the following conditions: 1) the child’s parents are disabled; 2) the child’s parents are deceased; or 3) you legally adopt the foster child.
Additionally, if you are the foster parent of a disabled child eligible for Social Security benefits, the federal government requires the appointment of a representative payee to manage the Social Security payments received by the child. A representative payee can be an individual, an organization, or a government entity. If you decide to serve in that capacity, contact Social Security to make sure you understand the rules and regulations associated with representative payees.
For further information regarding Social Security and the foster care system, contact Social Security at 1.800.772.1213 or make an appointment at your local Social Security office.