Protecting Foster Youth from Social Services' Pickpocketing
In some circumstances, children and youth in the foster care system may receive benefits such as Social Security income or survivor’s benefits if they have lost a parent. These benefits should be going directly to them or their caregiver. However, for decades, child welfare agencies have been pocketing much of this to reimburse the checks they send to the caregivers, effectively forcing the child in foster care to pay into their consideration. This is outright theft!
Children and youth who leave foster care without a permanent home are more vulnerable than those who have homes and families to fall back on. In the first four years after aging out of foster care, approximately 20% of former foster youth will experience homelessness. Without the aid of family to rely on, foster youth are potentially starting their early adult lives with an arm tied behind their back. That is why the financial benefits they should receive are essential. That money provides the equitable boost they need when paying for their early living expenses and higher education.
Some states, such as Arizona, Oregon, and New Mexico, have begun to stop this theft. The Social Security Administration has likewise encouraged states to ensure the foster youth or their caregivers receive the benefits directly. Despite this very sensible progression, it is all the more baffling to us when early last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the AB 1512 bill which would have stopped the social service pickpocketing.
Last year, the Los Angeles DCFS alone used $5.4 million of children’s SSI and survivor benefits toward defraying foster care costs. While the state may have a $30 billion budget shortfall this year, stealing from its youngest and most vulnerable citizens should not be considered a remedy. These stolen funds have little impact on deflating the state’s budget, but they would significantly impact in the hands of its intended recipients.
We implore Newsom and the government of California to reconsider this decision. Likewise, we implore other states to follow in the lead of Arizona, Oregon, and New Mexico and ban their child welfare agencies from the continued financial theft from the children and youth in their care. Caring for them is not just about the immediate, but also helping towards their future. Stealing their money is a cruel and unnecessary handicap that is placed on them that can severely impact their life after leaving foster care.