Selecting a Housing Plan on FAFSA

Q: I am completing the FAFSA and on the page where I indicate which schools I want my information sent to, it asks me to indicate if I will be living on-campus, off-campus or with parents. I am currently in foster care and have lived with my aunt since I entered the system, and I plan to continue living with her while I go to community college. Which option do I select?

A: You would select “off-campus.” Students should not select “With Parent” as their housing plan if they plan to live with a foster parent, relative caregiver, or legal guardian. Instead, select “Off-Campus.” This is crucial for getting all the money that is available to you to pay for your living expenses. The option you select has an impact on how much money you receive as the “cost of attendance” is considered more when living off-campus than when living with a parent. For more tips on how to complete the FAFSA, check out the Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth.

Youth in guardianship with open dependency case: what happens at 18?

Q: I’m working with a 17-year-old youth who is in a guardianship, but there is still an open dependency case. What happens when she turns 18? Can she opt to move into a placement like a SILP or THP+FC for non-minor dependents? Or must she remain in the home of her guardian?

A: Because there is still an open dependency case, this youth is technically in foster care, meaning when she turns 18 she can access the placement types that other non-minor dependents (NMDs) can access, assuming she meets the eligibility criteria for extended foster care.

For youth in guardianships with open dependency cases, the guardianship terminates by operation of law at age 18. The home of the guardian can still be a foster care placement for the NMD if the guardian is willing and the NMD chooses to remain in the home, however the NMD can also choose to reside in a different placement.

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Child care support for parenting foster youth

Q: I am working with a parenting non-minor dependent who works part-time and attends college. A relative was previously providing child care, but has since stopped. The youth has had to miss class and work in order to stay home with her child. I understand that there is a new program that might be able to help her with child care. Would she be eligible for this?

A: Yes, this youth is likely eligible for support through the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children, if her county is participating.

Eligible families are resource families and families that have a child placed with them in an emergency or for a compelling reason; licensed foster family homes or certified family homes; approved homes of relatives or non-relative extended family members; and parents under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, including, but not limited to non-minor dependent parents.

In counties that opt into the Bridge Program, it provides eligible families with a time-limited child care voucher or payment to help pay for child care costs for children birth through age 12, children with exceptional needs, and severely disabled children up to age 21.

The Bridge Program also provides a child care navigator to assist with finding a child care provider, securing a subsidized child care placement if eligible, completing child care program applications, and developing a plan for long-term child care appropriate to the child’s age and needs.

Citation: California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 17-109 (October 27, 2017)

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Reporting Household Size on the FAFSA

Q: I am working with a high school senior to complete the FAFSA and I’m not sure what number she should to answer the question “Your number of family members in 2018-2019 (household size).” Does she include her foster parents? Her siblings? Her biological parents?

A: If she was in foster care at any point after the age of 13, is currently in legal guardianship, or was in guardianship upon turning 18, she qualifies as an “independent student,” which means she does not have to report her parental income. This also means that her household size would include only her, and if applicable, a spouse and any children that she supports. For a single student with no children, the household size reported would be “1.” It does NOT include birth parents, foster parents, siblings, other relatives or others who she lives with.

Infant supplement rate for parenting youth in STRTPs

Q: Should a parenting youth placed in a Short-Term Residential Therapeutic Program (STRTP) receive the infant supplement rate of $900 (non-group home rate) or $1,379 (group home rate)?

A: The infant supplement amount for a foster youth who is a custodial parent, residing in either a group home or STRTP placement is $1,379 per month. For a foster youth who is a custodial parent placed in a Foster Family Home, Foster Family Agency, Whole Foster Family Home, THP+FC, or a Supervised Independent Living Placement, the infant supplement amount is $900.

Citation:

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When to use SILP Readiness Assessment

Q: I understand there is now a standardized readiness assessment available for approving Supervised Independent Living Placements (SILPs). Is this tool intended to be used for new SILPs only, or should it also be used when a non-minor dependent’s SILP is changing?

A: It should also be used when a non-minor dependent (NMD)’s Supervised Independent Living Placement (SILP) is changing. The new SILP readiness assessment tool (SOC 157C) was developed in order to standardize how NMDs are being assessed for SILPs and for continuity for NMDs who move between counties. The California Department of Social Services greatly encourages counties to utilize this standardized assessment tool when a NMD:

  • Requests to live in a SILP for the first time;
  • Has been living in a supported SILP but may presently be ready for a more independent SILP;
  • Requests a new SILP and their circumstances have changed or;
  • Was not deemed ready for a SILP in the past but has since accomplished TILP goals designed to assist the NMD with SILP readiness.

When an NMD is moving from one SILP placement to another, the caseworker is encouraged to at least use section one of the tool to ensure the NMD has adequate income to meet their expenses for the new living arrangement.

Citation: All County Information Notice I-42-17 (September 15, 2017)

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CalFresh “households” & shared living

Q: I’m working with a non-minor dependent who lives in a Supervised Independent Living Placement with two roommates. She would like to apply for CalFresh, however one of her roommates already receives CalFresh benefits. I understand you apply for CalFresh as a household, so how does this work? Can she apply by herself?

A: You are correct that CalFresh benefits are awarded to eligible “households,” however it is possible to have a household of one. Rule of thumb is, in shared living arrangements where meals are purchased and prepared together, the head of household would apply for CalFresh benefits on behalf of the household. In shared living arrangements where meals are purchased and prepared separately, each individual may apply for CalFresh benefits as a separate household.

So, if this NMD purchases and prepares her meals separately from her two roommates, then she could submit a CalFresh application as a household of one.

To learn more about current and former foster youth applying for CalFresh, join a webinar today at 11:00.

Citation: California Department of Social Services. All County Information Notice I-68-17 (October 2, 2017).

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Applying for multiple financial aid sources

Q: I have seen that there are a lot of different kinds of financial aid – Pell Grant, Cal Grant, BOG fee waiver, Chafee grant, work study, loans – and I’m confused by all these different sources. Are these all covered by a single application or do I have to fill out multiple applications?

A: Most forms of financial aid, including the federal Pell Grant, Cal Grant, BOG fee waiver, work study, and loans are applied for through a single form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once the FAFSA is submitted, the financial aid office at your school will determine which specific forms of aid you are eligible for. If a student is undocumented, they would submit the California Dream Act Application instead to qualify for state aid.

One additional form that you will want to make sure to also submit is the separate Chafee grant application. This must be submitted in addition to the FAFSA in order to apply for the Chafee grant program which is a financial aid source just for foster youth. Finally, after you have submitted a FAFSA, you should confirm that your high school submitted your GPA to the Webgrants system, which is required to obtain a Cal Grant. You can read about how to do this and much more in the Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth.

Note that private scholarships typically do need to be applied for individually, with separate applications for each. To learn more about ways to search for scholarships, follow this LINK.

Use of infant supplement for youth in THP+FC

Q: The THP+FC program I work for provides parenting youth with a crib (as required by regulations), diapers and other items for their child, and a larger apartment unit to accommodate their family’s needs. I understand that there are new guidelines governing use of the infant supplement. Is my program able to utilize a portion of the infant supplement to cover the increased costs associated with serving parenting youth?

A: Yes, the provider may retain a portion of the infant supplement for the specified needs of the non-minor dependent (NMD)’s child, such as clothing; laundry; diapers; food; medical costs; household items; costs for providing childcare; or housing related costs, such as increased rent for a larger housing unit.

In order to retain a portion of the infant supplement, the NMD and provider must enter into a shared agreement discussed in the context of a Child and Family Team meeting, or other collaborative team meeting. The California Department of Social Services provides a suggested template for the shared agreement as an attachment to All County Letter 17-93.

It is important to note that because the funds are not authorized to be used for administrative costs under federal law, providers may not retain a portion of the infant supplement to cover the cost of staffing, case management and services.

Citation: All County Letter 17-93 (September 8, 2017)

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Re-enrolling in college after accruing student debt

Q: We are working with a youth who would like to reenroll in community college, but has incurred student debt from when he enrolled and received the Pell Grant, and then dropped out and did not pay the financial aid back. He reports that the debt has gone into collections. Will he be able to reapply for financial aid? Any advice on how to deal with the debt so he can reenroll in school?

A: If the debt he incurred was from federal financial aid such as the Pell Grant and it has gone to collections, then he will have to at least begin to make payments before being able to apply for any other federal financial aid (regardless of the school he enrolls in).

The student should call the phone number on his Student Aid Report and ask how many payments he must make before the hold can be lifted. The collections office his debt has been referred to will inform the Department of Education (DOE) if the student is making payments. The DOE can issue a letter to the student or school, and at that point the school can override the hold for the student to receive the Pell Grant again.

It is also good to know that if the student calls the collections office and indicates he would like to pay his debt in full, they will usually discount the payment amount for the student if the student asks.

For future reference, if the student was able to catch address the debt before it went to collections, he may have been able to make “satisfactory arrangements” with the school, where the school repays the debt and makes arrangements with the student for repayment. Many schools are willing to use future aid to pay off debt.

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