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Getting Ahead: Social Security and Foster Care

Posted Sep 27, 2023 9:03 AM
By Patricia Jones
 Alliance Community Task Force: Creating Opportunity

I recently listened to an interview with Nebraska Senator Megan Hunt about how children in foster care often are entitled to Social Security benefits, but those benefits are taken by states, under the guise of using those funds to pay for the expenses of caring for these youth. She introduced a legislative resolution in 2021 to find out the extent of this happening in Nebraska.

Most children in foster care do not qualify for Social Security benefits. About 10% do qualify; death of a parent or a disability entitles them to benefits. Many are diagnosed with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or PTSD, often related to the reason they are in foster care. This diagnosis also qualifies them for Social Security.

In 2021 NPR broadcast a series on this issue. They found that in at least 36 states foster care agencies comb through their case files to find kids entitled to these benefits, then apply to Social Security to become each child’s financial representative, a process permitted by federal regulations. Most states pay an outside firm to handle this. Once approved, the agencies take the money, almost always without notifying the children, their loved ones or lawyers.

This includes Nebraska.