Foster Parent Upset about Condoms

Q: Katrice, a 14 year-old in foster care, asks her social worker how she can get free condoms as she is sexually active but does not want to get pregnant.  Her social worker provides Katrice with information about a local health clinic that provides free condoms, no questions asked.  Katrice visits the health clinic and gets condoms and later her foster mother finds the condoms.  The foster mother demanded to know how Katrice got the condoms, and Katrice tells her that the social worker assisted her.  The foster mother is now angry and tells the social worker that she is going to file a complaint with the county agency.

 

A:  The case manager should inform the foster parent of the youth’s right to have access to confidential reproductive health care services, including contraception.  Case managers will not have disciplinary action taken against them for doing their job and fostering the youth’s rights.  It is the case manager’s duty to provide the youth with age appropriate medically accurate information and resources about reproductive health care, unplanned pregnancy prevention, abstinence, use of birth control, abortion and the prevention and treatment of STIs.  

 

This scenario is from the CDSS-issue policy guidance, A Guide for Case Managers: Assisting Foster Youth with Sexual Development and Pregnancy, page 13.

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Summer Pell Grants

Q: I am a college student and am thinking of taking classes during the summer. Can I receive financial aid if I choose to enroll in summer courses?

A: In 2017, Congress reinstated year-round Pell, which allows students to receive up to 150 percent of a regular grant award over the course of the academic year so that they can continue taking classes in the summer and finish their degrees faster than they would otherwise. In order to qualify you must have either have submitted a FAFSA for the 2017/2018 school year and been awarded a Pell grant or, if you did not submit a FAFSA, you can still submit the 2017/2018 application before June 30 of this year.

Depending on how many units you were enrolled in during the academic year, there may be minimum unit requirements. You should be aware that Pell grant used during the summer counts towards your federal 6-year maximum and so it would not be wise to take summer classes while receiving a Pell Grant that are not required for your degree.

It is recommended that you consult with your school’s financial aid office in order to determine exactly how much aid you would qualify for and what restrictions are in place based on your particular circumstances.

How does a student verify their status as a homeless youth for financial aid?

Q: I’m working with a youth who has been in and out of shelters and couch surfing. I understand from helping him complete his FAFSA that as a homeless youth, he qualifies as an independent student. What will he need to provide to the school to verify this?

A: Other than a financial aid administrator, there are three authorized authorities that can verify that he “was determined at any time since July 1, 2017 [year prior to the award year], to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.” These authorities are:

  • a school district homeless liaison
  • the director (or designee) of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • the director (or designee) of a runaway or homeless youth (RHY) basic center or transitional living program

These three authorities can submit a homeless youth determination letter on behalf of the student. (Here is a letter template from National Association for the Education of Homeless Children & Youth & a letter template from SchoolHouse Connection).

If he is a current high school student, he should ask for a letter from the school district homeless liaison. Or, if he is currently a resident in a RHY-funded shelter or transitional living program or HUD-funded shelter or transitional housing program, he should ask the director (or someone the director designates) to provide the letter.

Additionally, these authorities are now permitted to write determination letters for homeless youth for subsequent years as long as they have the necessary information to write such letters. This means if he is no longer in high school but still has relationship with the homeless liaison from his former high school, or was previously a resident in a RHY- or HUD-funded shelter or transitional living/housing program, he should visit the school or program to request a letter. Note that school district homeless liaisons can only write letters for youth up through age 23.

If he is not able to get a letter from any of the three aforementioned authorities, then he needs to visit the financial aid office at his college so that the financial aid administrator (FAA) can make the determination. The FAA may make the determination based on help from third parties, or, if there is no written documentation available from third parties, a documented interview with the student suffices.

Citation: U.S. Department of Education. 2018-19 Federal Student Aid Handbook, Application & Verification Guide. https://ifap.ed.gov/fsahandbook/attachments/1819FSAHbkAVG.pdf

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Transportation to reproductive & sexual health appointments

Q: Theresa, a sixteen-year old foster youth, has shared with her foster parent that she is pregnant and wants to terminate her pregnancy. Theresa has scheduled an appointment for an abortion and asked her caregiver to drive her. The caregiver shares with Theresa’s social worker she is not comfortable with taking Theresa to an appointment for an abortion.  Theresa’s social worker feels it is the caregiver’s responsibility to transport Theresa to the appointment. What is social worker required by law to do? 

A: The case manager should remind the caregiver of the requirement for her to provide Theresa transportation to medical appointments, which includes appointments for reproductive and sexual health related services. If the caregiver continues to refuse to take Theresa to the appointment, the case manager must transport the youth or elect another trusted adult to transport the youth to the appointment. An appointment for an abortion is time-sensitive, therefore it is important that the case manager ensure that someone, whether it be the caregiver, case manager or another trusted adult, transports Theresa to this appointment promptly. The case manager can also provide the caregiver with a copy of ACL 16-82, which outlines the youth’s right to be provided transportation and other reproductive health rights.

This scenario is from A Guide for Case Managers: Assisting Foster Youth with Sexual Development and Pregnancy, page 14.

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Minimum Income for Filing Taxes

Q: I am working with youth to ensure they file their income taxes before the April 17 tax filing deadline. What is the minimum income level after which an individual is required to file taxes?

A: Assuming the youth is single, those who make $10,400 and over are required to file a tax return for 2017. However, even if they do not meet the minimum required income, youth should consider filing taxes if they can get money back.  According to Efile.com, an individual can get money back for the following reasons:

  • If they had taxes withheld from their pay, they must file a tax return to receive a tax refund.
  • If they qualify, they must file a return to receive the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • If they are claiming education credits, they must file to be refunded the American Opportunity Credit.
  • If they have a qualifying child but owe no tax, they can file to be refunded the Additional Child Tax Credit.
  • If they qualify, they must file to claim the refundable Health Coverage Tax Credit.
  • If they overpaid estimated tax or applied a prior year overpayment to this year, they must file to receive the refund.

For assistance with filing taxes, please visit a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site near you.  You can find a site near you by visiting www.CalEITC4Me.org and using the Free Tax Prep Finder Tool, or call the IRS at 1-800-906-9887.

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Foster Care Payments for NMDs

Q: When do foster care payments for non-minor dependents cease – the day the NMD turns 21 or at the end of their birthday month?

A: As of February 16, 2018, foster care payments for non-minor dependents (NMDs) will end no later than the day before their 21st birthday. This is a change from the previous practice of the foster care payment covering the entire month during which the NMD turned 21.

Unless you hear otherwise from your county that they intend to use county-only funding to provide a full month’s payment, be aware that the payment will be pro-rated based on the number of days in the month that preceded the NMD’s 21st birthday or preceded their juvenile court jurisdiction termination date (which in some cases may be set prior to their 21st birthday).

Citation: California Department of Social Services, All County Letter 18-15 (February 16, 2008)

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FAFSA Submission

Q: I am working with foster youth to complete their FAFSA by the March 2 deadline. How do we know it was successfully submitted and received?

A: The FAFSA form will be processed a few days after submission, and it will be indicated when you log back into FAFSA.

You can also make a correction by choosing “Make FAFSA Corrections,” or click to “View or Print your Student Aid Report (SAR).”

 

For additional resources on completing FAFSA, please review the Financial Aid Planning Guide.

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Cal Grant Time Limits

Q: I was awarded a Cal Grant to attend community college, but my counselor is telling me I shouldn’t take the money because it could run out later. Could you explain why I wouldn’t want to accept this money?

A: Currently, the Cal Grant is available only for a maximum of four years of full-time enrollment at a community college, CSU, UC or private institution. At a community college, the grant provides up to $1,672 to cover non-tuition costs, such as books, housing and transportation. At a 4-year university, the money can also be used to pay for tuition costs and therefore provides significantly more: up to $7,414 for a student attending a CSU campus, $14,302 for students attending a UC campus and $10,756 for students enrolled at a qualifying private institution. If you utilize the funding while in community college, you run the risk of not having enough funds remaining when you transfer to a university and when the available benefit is significantly more.

It should also be noted, that this limitation would change if Senate Bill 940 passes. For foster youth specifically, the maximum time would be extended from four to eight years, allowing students to utilize the grant throughout their educational career. To support the passage of this bill, please consider sending in a letter of support as well as sign on to the budget request letter to expand Cal Grant access for foster youth. Support letters can be sent to Carolyn@jbay.org

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Independent Status on FAFSA

Q: How do I know if I qualify for independent status on the FAFSA, and what exactly does it mean to be an independent student?

A: Independent Status” on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) means that youth do not have to provide any information, including income and asset information, about their biological, adoptive, or foster parents (including relative or non-relative caregivers) or legal guardians in the Parent Demographics section. This will mean that parental contribution is not added into a student’s contribution to determine his or her Estimated Financial Contribution (EFC), the index number that determines how much a student can pay for education and how much financial aid students receive.

If any of the below applies to students, then they qualify as independent students on the FAFSA:

  • Was an orphan, foster child, or ward/dependent of the court at any time since the age of 13
  • Age 24 or older at any time before December 31st of the award year
  • Was determined at any time since July 1st of award year to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless
  • Is married as of the date student applies
  • Will be a graduate or professional student when the award year starts
  • Is currently serving on active duty for purposes other than training
  • Is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Has dependents other than a spouse

Citation: U.S Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid, 2018-2019 Application and Verification Guide https://ifap.ed.gov/fsahandbook/attachments/1819FSAHbkAVG.pdf

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GPA Verification for Cal Grant

Q: I’m assisting a high school senior with submitting his FAFSA. I understand that students must have their school submit a Grade Point Average verification form by the March 2nd deadline to be eligible to receive a Cal Grant entitlement grant. This seems like an important detail – how would we know if his school got the GPA verification in by the March 2nd deadline and how much time will it take the school to submit it?

A: You are correct. The GPA Verification Form must be submitted by the March 2nd deadline in order to be eligible to receive a Cal Grant High School Entitlement Award.

California law requires that all public and charter high schools electronically upload GPAs by October 1st of the year prior to the award year for current enrolled seniors that do not opt-out. If a student is attending a different type of high school, the student should check with the school as to whether they electronically upload GPAs. For schools that do not submit GPAs electronically, students should use the paper GPA Verification Form, which is available through their high school or at www.csac.ca.gov (click on “Cal Grant GPA Forms” under “Students and Parents”). The paper form must be postmarked by the March 2nd priority deadline of the award year.

Students can log on to WebGrants for Students to find out if their GPA verification has been received by the California Student Aid Commission. Here, students can also view the status of their Cal Grant or Chafee Grant application, update their address, submit corrections, view their payment history, update their college of attendance, or satisfy outstanding requirements.

Citation: http://www.csac.ca.gov/doc.asp?id=1177

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