Question of the Week-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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Question of the Week-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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Emergency Child Care Bridge Program

Q: I have a parenting foster youth who needs help with child care. I’m hoping to connect her to the new Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children. She lives outside of her county of origin/jurisdiction. My question is, which county does she go through to access the Bridge Program, and how do we find out whether that county has opted into the program?

A: To receive assistance from the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program, her county of origin/jurisdiction would have to be participating. This is the county she would access the funding/services through.

According to the recently released County Fiscal Letter 17-18/50, all counties have opted into the program with the exception of the following:

  • ALPINE
  • AMADOR
  • DEL NORTE
  • INYO
  • LASSEN
  • MADERA
  • MARIPOSA
  • MODOC
  • PLUMAS
  • RIVERSIDE
  • SANTA BARBARA
  • SIERRA
  • SISKIYOU
  • SUTTER
  • TUOLUMNE
  • YUBA

In the CFL, if the county has funding allocated to it, it has opted into the program.

Citation: California Department of Social Services County Fiscal Letter 17/18-50 (January 23, 2018)

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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.

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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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