Financial aid for youth who were adopted

Q: I am working with a youth who has been adopted, and she is applying for financial aid for college. What age would this youth have to have been adopted after, to qualify for financial aid for foster youth?

A: For the Chafee Grant, which is the only form of financial aid dedicated solely for foster youth, a youth must have been in care on their 16th birthday. So if they were adopted after turning age 16, they would be eligible for the Chafee Grant.

For other forms of financial aid, such as the Board of Governors (BOG) Fee Waiver, the Cal Grant and the Pell Grant, the terms are different. Eligibility for these forms of aid is linked to financial need. Foster youth (and youth in guardianships) are entitled to independent status on the FAFSA, which means they do not need to report parental income, but if their own income exceeds the income standards, they will not get aid.

In order to qualify for independent status, a youth needs to have been in care on their 13th birthday. So, if they were adopted prior to age 13, they will have to report their adoptive parents’ income, which may or may not qualify them for these forms of aid, depending on the amount of the adoptive parents’ income.

List of counties that have opted into the THP-Plus extension

Q: I’m currently nearing the end of my 24 months in the THP-Plus program. I’m working on getting my AA degree, and would really like to stay in the program until I finish. I’ve heard that some counties allow youth to remain in THP-Plus for an additional 12 months if they are in school. How do I find out whether my county offers this?

A: You are correct. Senate Bill 1252 (Torres) established the option for counties to extend their THP-Plus programs for youth enrolled in school for an additional 12 months and up to the age of 25. This law went into effect January 1, 2015.

Currently, 19 counties have opted into the THP-Plus extension. These counties are listed, along with additional information about the THP-Plus extension on the THP-Plus website at the following URL: http://thpplus.org/thp-plus-extension-for-youth-enrolled-in-school/

This fall, the John Burton Foundation will be releasing an implementation report on the THP-Plus extension informed by interviews with providers and county representatives in the counties that have opted into the extension.

Counting Income for CalFresh in THP+FC

Q: I’m helping a Non-Minor Dependent (NMD) who is placed in our THP+FC program apply for CalFresh (food stamps). Does she include the monthly stipend our program gives her as unearned income, or the entire monthly foster care payment (THP+FC rate) we receive on her behalf?

A: When completing the unearned income portion of the application for CalFresh, a NMD in THP+FC should list the amount of money made available to the them directly, including any portion that is being put into a savings. They should not list the whole foster care payment the provider receives on the NMD’s behalf.

The California Department of Social Services clarified this in a recent CF24, stating “the actual amount of THP monies made available to the youth whether spent, held or put into personal savings shall be considered unearned income in the month receive for the CalFresh budget.”

THP+FC providers who utilize the single or remote site housing model currently receive $3,090 per youth per month (host family rate is $2,459). Providers pass a portion of this foster care payment to the youth, but this amount ranges across the state from roughly $400 to $1,200.

Citation: MPP Section 63-502.14, CF24 revised 6/29/16

 

Impact of cap on SIJS visas on foster youth

Q: I’ve heard that there is a cap on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) visas for minors from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico. What does this mean for youth from these countries who have entered the child welfare system and will soon turn 21?

A: Yes, there is a cap on the number if SIJS visas and according to the U.S. State Department, it has been reached for children from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico for FY2016. However, the Center for the Study of Social Policy makes the following recommendations for assisting youth who are impacted by the SIJS visa cap:

  • Continue to file for SIJS (Form I-360) on behalf of youth from these countries. The current cap on SIJS visas should not prohibit child welfare workers and practitioners, including attorneys and guardians ad litem, from moving forward and filing for SIJS.
  • Ensure the proper findings have been issued by the court and all forms (I-360 and I-485) have been filed. To be eligible for SIJS, the appropriate court findings and paperwork must be filed before the child or youth’s 21st birthday. It is imperative that practitioners and advocates continue to seek the necessary findings in court and file the appropriate forms to move forward with petitioning for lawful permanent residency once the cap is lifted in October 2016 (when the new fiscal year begins). It can be difficult to get a case in front of the court once a child or youth has exited the foster care system so having the appropriate findings issued during an open foster care case is imperative.
  • Ensure that SIJS eligible children and youth are granted Deferred Action while awaiting the availability of SIJS visas. The United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) has indicated that it is approving Deferred Action, which is temporary relief from deportation, for SIJS visa-eligible applicants. By obtaining Deferred Action, these children and youth will be exempt from deportation for two years and will be eligible to apply for Employment Authorization.
  • Inform children and youth petitioning for SIJS that a change to their circumstances can impact their eligibility for an SIJS visa. Despite having the appropriate finding and forms completed, youth may be found no longer eligible if they get married or are arrested.
  • Connect youth to community-based agencies that can provide support and specific guidance related to pursuing permanent legal residency once the cap is lifted.
  • Ensure youth have filed for health insurance under the ACA or other health care coverage.
  • Inform and connecting youth to adult education and higher education opportunities.
  • File all the appropriate forms to receive authorization for employment.

Citation: Special Immigrant Juvenile Status: A Critical Pathway to Safety and Permanence , Center for the Study of Social Policy

Immigration Status & Extended Medi-Cal Coverage for Former Foster Youth

Q: I understand that former foster youth qualify for full-scope Medi-Cal coverage up to age 26, but what about for youth who are undocumented immigrants?

A: Former Foster Youth qualify for Medi-Cal up to age 26 under the Medi-Cal program for Former Foster Youth (FFY) which provides full scope Medi-Cal , regardless of immigration status.

This, among other clarifications and updates, was stated in the errata to All County Welfare Directors Letter 14-41, released August 4, 2016 by the Department of Health Care Services. The errata clarifies that the FFY should be immediately enrolled into the FFY program and enrollment should not be delayed while additional information about immigration status, if needed, is gathered. Information about the FFY’s immigration status is for record-keeping purposes and does NOT impact the FFY’s eligibility for full-scope Medi-Cal.

For more information about extended Medi-Cal coverage for former foster youth, visit http://coveredtil26.childrennow.org/.

Citation: Errata to All County Welfare Directors Letter 14-41 (August 4, 2016)

AB12 Question of the Week: Post-Secondary Education Series  

Applying for Financial Aid

Q: I am working with a foster youth who is about to start community college next month and I just discovered that he didn’t apply for any financial aid. Is it too late to apply? Someone told me the deadline was all the way back on March 2nd.

A: It is not too late. Federal Pell grants can be applied for at any time by submitting a FAFSA and community college students can apply for the CalGrant through September 2, although availability is limited after the March 2nd deadline. If the youth hasn’t applied for a BOG fee waiver, this can also be applied for year round. If the youth meets the eligibility for a Chafee grant, there is no specific deadline, but grants are limited and so early application is encouraged.

Allowances in THP+FC: Is there a required amount?

Q: My organization is a provider of THP+FC. Is there a minimum or maximum amount that we are required to provide in allowance to the youth placed in our THP+FC program?

A: State law requires THP+FC providers to provide an allowance to each participant in the program. State law does not specify a minimum or maximum value amount, but instead indicates that in the case of a participant living independently, the allowance must be sufficient for the participant to purchase food and other necessities.

Licensing regulations require the procedures for determining the amount of allowance provided to each participant and the schedule of disbursement to be included in the provider’s Plan of Operation.

Citations:

Welfare and Institutions Code Section 16522.1(b)(7); 

Manual of Policies and Procedures: Transitional Housing Placement Program, Title 22, Division 6, Chapter 7, page 16

Questions about the New Infant Supplement

Q: I have a few questions about the new infant supplement. First, what date is it effective? I am working with a youth and her AB12 worker told her she would not be paid the infant supplement increase until January 1, 2017. Second, I heard that the $900 infant supplement is a loan and that youth participating in Extended Foster Care will be billed by the IRS once they are “self sufficient.”  Is that the case?

 

A: The effective date for the higher infant supplement rate of $900 is July 1, 2016. The California Department of Social Services has issued an All County Letter  that states this effective date. The youth you are working with may experience a delay due to local administrative issues. If that is the case, the youth is entitled to receive the increased rate retroactive to July 1, 2016.

Second, the infant supplement is not a loan. It is a supplemental rate paid to the caregivers of parenting dependents for the purpose of paying for child-related expenses, including the food, child care, transportation, clothing and housing. Like other foster care rates, the infant supplement is not counted as income. No youth who receives the infant supplement will be accountable for its repayment.

County Policies on Out-of-County Youth in THP-Plus

Q:  I’m 22 years old and currently live in a THP-Plus program in the county I exited care from in Southern California. I’d like to move to Northern California so that I can attend a community college that has a transfer agreement with the university I plan to ultimately attend up north. I have only been in THP-Plus for 7 months, and do not have much of a savings. I would like to find a THP-Plus program in the area where I plan to move so that I can afford to attend school without having to work full-time.

I’ve heard that some THP-Plus programs have stipulations about accepting youth who did not exit foster care from their county. Is there some sort of list that will tell me which counties will accept out-of-county youth in their THP-Plus programs?

A:  Yes, the John Burton Foundation has developed a list that includes almost all counties with THP-Plus programs’ policies on whether they accept out-of-county youth. This information was gathered from the THP-Plus contact at each county. The majority of counties do accept out-of-county youth, however some have stipulations, such as requiring that the youth reside in the county of the program, or that they have ties to the community and/or a purpose for residing there (i.e. a job, a school, family, etc.). The list is posted on the THP-Plus website at http://thpplus.org/county-policies-on-out-of-county-youth/.

FAFSA Now Available Starting October 1st

Q: I’m a CASA volunteer working with a high school student who is about to enter her senior year. She plans to attend college the fall after graduating. I want to make sure she receives the financial aid she is eligible for as a foster youth. I understand that completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step. Someone mentioned that starting this year, the FAFSA will be available at an earlier date. Is this true? If so, will the  Chafee application be available earlier too?

A: Yes, this is true. Previously, the FAFSA could be completed starting January 1st for the following fall semester or quarter. Now, the California Student Aid Commission will accept the FAFSA, the California Dream Act application, and the Chafee application for the 2017-18 school year starting October 1, 2016.

The deadline for completing the FAFSA has not changed. For maximum financial aid, it is very important for the youth you work with to submit the FAFSA no later than March 2, 2017. Consideration for priority funding is given to those whose complete application is submitted on or before this day as funding is limited and applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. If a student misses this deadline, he or she should still submit a FAFSA because additional financial aid is available.

You should work with your CASA youth to submit the FAFSA (or the CA Dream Act application if she is undocumented) and the Chafee application as early as October 1st. You should also make sure she checks with her high school to see whether they will submit her Cal Grant GPA verification form directly to the California Student Commission, or whether she will need to submit it using the paper form (also a March 2nd deadline). By completing the FAFSA, your youth will automatically be applying for a federal Pell Grant.

The FAFSA application is available at www.fafsa.ed.gov. The Chafee application is available at https://www.chafee.csac.ca.gov/.