#9: Limiting Child Welfare’s Use of Foster Youth Benefits
The Imprint is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program, a group of 11 former foster youths who have completed congressional internships.
The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each of the participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C.
Today we highlight the recommendation of Ian Marx, a law student at Emory University in Georgia.
Congress should act to limit a state child welfare agency’s ability to spend Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) it collects on behalf of youth who are in foster care. It should also require more transparency around the act of granting child welfare agencies the status of payee for those benefits.
States are already obligated to provide certain basic supports and services to youth in foster care, and received millions in assistance for that from the federal government through the Title IV-E entitlement. And yet, Marx writes, recent investigative reporting and research by the Government Accountability Office shows that many states claim benefits due to some of these children, and offset their own costs with it.
The majority of money paid under the benefits should either be spent on supports that go above and beyond the standard in foster care, or should be held in a trust to help these youth when they become adults.
In Their Own Words
“When I was 11 years old, I lost my mother and my father was arrested for second degree murder. With no relatives able to care for me, I was placed in foster care where I stayed until age 18. … Disabled and surviving foster youth, like myself, had no control over our circumstances, and it is unjust to have us pay for it for the rest of our lives.”
The Imprint’s Take
This issue is not a new one in child welfare. But as Marx writes, it was indeed brought front and center by reporting from The Marshall Project and NPR, and by a recent study by the GAO. In a nutshell, what we learned is that states draw about $165 million per year out of these benefits, which foster youth are eligible for due to severe disabilities or because of the death of a parent. And they use a lot of these funds to pay for food and housing, which they’d have had to pay for anyway.
Marx is right on the money in proposing that the use of youth’s benefits by any system should be very transparent, and that more should be held in trust for them to use themselves.