Q: I’m trying to help a 22-year-old young woman complete the FAFSA before the priority deadline of March 2. This young woman did spend time in foster care but is also currently homeless. In the dependency section, for the purposes of establishing independent student status, should she indicate her foster care history or her current homelessness status? I see you cannot indicate both.
A: If the young woman was in foster care at any time since turning 13, she should check this box and be granted independent student status by way of her foster care history, instead of her homelessness status.
Homelessness determinations only last that upcoming school year, then require annual verification that the student was “an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or is self-supporting and at risk of being homeless” any time on or after July 1 of the year prior to the award year. However, youth who were in foster care or were dependents or wards of the court any time since turning 13 are considered independent students in subsequent years by way of their foster care history without having to re-verify.
The homeless youth determination process is also more cumbersome than the foster care verification process, which is now automated.
For help with assisting foster youth with completing the FAFSA, refer to JBAY’s Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth, which includes a Visual Guide.
For help with assisting homeless youth with completing the FAFSA, refer to JBAY’s Visual Guide to Assist Homeless Youth with Completing the FAFSA.
Citation: 2018-19 Federal Student Aid Handbook, Application and Verification Guide (https://ifap.ed.gov/fsahandbook/attachments/1819FSAHbkAVG.pdf)