Q: My CASA kid is 17 and graduating this June. He is very smart and thinking seriously about college, but he is also considering going into the army first and going to college afterwards as he said that the structure and discipline would be good for him. My question is whether he will still be eligible for AB 12 and college-related benefits such as housing and the Chafee Grants after he returns from military duty.
A: There are a number of benefits available to current and former foster youth in post-secondary education and whether or not the young man will be eligible for them depends on the eligibility criteria for the specific program and how long he remains in the military. Provided below is a summary of the key programs:
Extended foster care: California regulations specify that a youth who is in the military is ineligible for extended foster care. The youth could elect to participate in the military and later re-enter foster care if he is under age 21 at the time of re-entry, provided he agrees to meet one of the participation criteria and agrees to be placed in a supervised setting.
Housing: If the youth is eligible to re-enter foster care, he would be entitled to a foster care placement, which could span the range of existing placements: transitional housing (THP+FC) a Supervised Independent Living Placement, foster family home, and placement with a relative caregiver. If he is over age 21 and under 24, he would be eligible for THP-Plus. It is important to note that this is not an entitlement program and whether or not he could participate would be based on local availability.
General Financial Aid: A youth who was in foster care at any point after age 13 is automatically eligible for independent student status, which exempts him from the requirement to report parental income. This will not be affected by his participation in the military.
Chafee Grant: To qualify for the $5,000 Chafee grant, he must be under age 22 and have been in foster care after the age of 16. If he returned from the military at age 22 or later, he would not be eligible for Chafee.
Priority registration: Current and former foster youth are eligible for priority registration for classes at California State University California Community College campus up to age 24. If he returned from the military before age 24 he would be able to access priority registration. If he was age 24 or older, he would be ineligible.
Medi-Cal: As a youth who was in care at age 18, he will be eligible for Medi-Cal until age 26.