The lack of payment of Social Security survivor and disability benefits to foster children stirred a national controversy. A report released by the Children’s Advocacy Institute indicates that child welfare administrations throughout the United States confiscate the Social Security benefits of foster children to pay for foster care.
The children who are entitled to these benefits are often then thrown out of the system at age 18 with no financial support. Child advocacy groups say that the money should be managed to prevent the high rates of homelessness and unemployment among foster children who age out of the system.
The confiscated Social Security benefits come from two programs: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Social Security’s Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program (OASDI).
OASDI benefits are for disabled workers and their survivors and dependents. Many foster children with deceased parents may be entitled to OASDI benefits.
SSI benefits are available to foster children under the age of 18 who suffer physical disabilities that impair their ability to function and sociability. SSI benefits are also available to adults who are unable to work because of age, blindness, or other disabilities.
State administrations’ use of approximately $150 million in Social Security benefits ever year is not illegal however. There is a Supreme Court ruling from 2003 which holds that child welfare administrations have a right to use Social Security benefits in the best interests of a child, including the child’s care.
The Huffington Post reports that Foster Children Self-Support Act was reintroduced by Representative Pete Stark to help combat the practice of taking Social Security funds from foster children.
“This is their money,” Stark said at a Washington D.C. press conference. “And they should have this nest egg.”
Source: Huffington Post, “Fighting for Scraps: Foster Children Denied the Funding They Need,” Daniel Heimpel, 3/23/11