LOS ANGELES – Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion authored by Chair Hilda L. Solis, Supervisor to the First District and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, to ensure the provision of providing social security benefits for eligible youth in foster care.

“As long as there are children who navigate the County’s foster care system, it is imperative that the County provide the social and economic resources that can help them successfully transition out of the foster care system at the age of 18,” shared Chair Solis. “Transition-aged youth are more likely to experience homelessness upon leaving the system resulting from a lack of resources to help them secure a stable home and regular income. This motion is aimed at directly addressing this issue and ensuring that all foster youth can achieve financial stability upon transition.”

Social Security Administration program benefits, including but not limited to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP), and Survivors Benefits, can provide critical funding for children and youth in foster care, especially for transition-aged youth who are facing food insecurity or struggling to access safe and stable housing.  The years in which a young person is in foster care offer a critical time to establish eligibility for Social Security benefits as they tend to have more robust records to establish disability compared to adults because they have more consistent interaction with school and mental health providers. Additionally, certain important resources available to SSI recipients are available only if disability is established by a certain age.  Time is of the essence to coordinate services to link teenagers and young adults in foster care to these critical federal benefits, which fill a gap in our safety net.

“We need to do everything we can to build a solid foundation for every young person leaving our County’s foster care system,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “Today’s action ensures that our Departments of Children and Family Services and Probation set up individual social security accounts for all eligible young people while they are in County care, so that they can obtain SSI and other benefits when they are entitled to them.”

Under California Welfare and Institutions Code 13750 et seq., county placing agencies are required to fulfill certain duties to connect eligible young adults with SSI/SSP benefits when they are preparing to transition into adulthood and independence. They must screen all youth over the age of 16 ½ for potential SSI eligibility and apply on behalf of any youth who is likely to be eligible for SSI/SSP, with the goal of establishing eligibility by age 18.

“We applaud Supervisor Solis’ efforts to better support children and youth in foster care who receive, or should be receiving, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits due to their income and disability,” shared Senior Policy Attorney of the Alliance for Children’s Rights, Sarah Manimalethu. “Based on our clients’ experiences, we recognize the need for additional data and an examination of the resources that youth with disabilities need to successfully transition out of foster care. Youth who are exiting foster care face disproportionate rates of homelessness, housing instability, and food insecurity—issues magnified by the pandemic. Ensuring that all eligible youth have access to Social Security Administration program benefits (SSA benefits) is an essential component of providing a safe and supported transition.”

The motion further directs DCFS and the Probation Department, working with the Department of Health Services Countywide Benefits Entitlement Services Team, to ensure a no-cost, interest-bearing, bank account is created for each eligible youth in foster care to deposit social security benefits to access upon exit from foster care. This could include a CalABLE account. The motion also directs DCFS and the Probation Department, working with the Department of Health Services Countywide Benefits Entitlement Services Team, to ensure a minor youth’s caregiver or another appropriate person who is managing a youth’s finances when the minor youth exits care are made the representative payee and nonminor dependents, or a representative when appropriate, are made payee so that they can receive social security benefits when they exit care. This should include making nonminor dependents aware of their right to become representative payees while still in care.

To view the full motion, click here.