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.

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5 thoughts on “Financial aid for youth who were adopted

  1. LIZ says:

    What happens when the youth is estranged from adoptive parents? For example, the youth ran away at the age of 17 and has not had contact with adoptive parents and now the youth is 21 years of age. Can the youth emancipate and sign up for AB12?

    • John Burton Foundation says:

      Hi Liz,

      Apologies for the delayed response. I wasn’t getting notifications of comments. Legislation (AB 2454) passed that allows youth whose adoptive parents are no longer providing support or financial assistance, to petition the court to re-enter foster care. However Extended Foster Care ends at age 21, so this youth in particular would no longer be eligible. – He/she would have had to petition to re-enter prior to turning 21, then, if he/she successfully re-entered, could have received services up until turning 21.


  2. Frank Miller, Educational Liaison County of San Bernardino says:

    Your answer indicates that a youth in guardianship is considered independent for FAFSA. I am working with a youth whose legal guardianship is through the probate court not the dependency court. The youth is 17 and has been in guardianship since age 12. The youth checked the independent box on her FAFSA but I told her that she would probably have to show her guardianship papers to the community college she plans to attend. Can you tell me if she will be considered independent or would you need to see the court papers?

    • John Burton Foundation says:

      Hi Frank,

      What makes this youth eligible for independent status on the FAFSA is being in foster care at least one day after his/her 13th birthday. What happened after that (whether he/she went into guardianship via dependency or probate, reunified, adopted, etc.) does not impact his/her independent status. If the college asks for verification of independent status, he/she will need to show proof of the previous dependency case. If he/she went into guardianship via probate court, are you sure that there was an open dependency case? If not, that would be something to check into by having the youth contact the local county child welfare agency. Your best bet is probably reaching out to the ILP coordinator and that person should be able to direct the youth from there.

  3. Cynthia Lederle says:

    Hi Frank, I am an ILP coordinator for San Joaquin and Probate court youth would have to provide their guardianship papers to financial aid to determine if she qualifies for “Independent Status” and it’s not the student that checks a box that they are independent, it’s the Federal Student Aid Department that determines the “independent or dependent” student status.

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