Homeless Students Claimed on Parent’s Tax Return

Q: I’m helping an unaccompanied homeless youth with the FAFSA. I’m wondering how to advise him if someone is still claiming him as a dependent on their taxes, even though they are not supporting him.

A: The issue of tax claims is completely separate from the FAFSA independent student status. The FAFSA status is based on the student’s living situation. As long as the student is determined to be unaccompanied and homeless in the year in which he is submitting the application, he is considered an independent student for the FAFSA, regardless of whether someone else is fraudulently claiming him as a dependent on their taxes.

How are gift cards counted when applying for CalFresh?

Q: I understand that when applying for CalFresh, youth in my THP+FC program are to indicate the monthly stipend we provide them as their ‘unearned income’ on the application. What if we provide them gift cards in lieu of cash, such as gift cards for the grocery store or gas cards? Should they be counting the gift cards as unearned income?

A: No, gift cards that are specific to the grocery store or gas station would not be counted as income. A gift card is only counted as income when determining a household’s eligibility or benefit level if it is a credit card company prepaid gift card (i.e. American Express, MasterCard, Visa, etc.), and the gift card can be reasonably anticipated by the youth. Establishment-specific gift cards (i.e. Target, Walmart, Safeway, Chevron, etc.) are always excluded as income when determining a household’s eligibility or benefit level.

Citation: U.S. Department of Agriculture. Memorandum: Revised Treatment of Gift Cards in Determining SNAP. https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/snap/Revised_Gift_Card_Policy_Memo.pdf. California Department of Social Services. All County Information Notice I-68-17 (October 2, 2017). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACIN/2017/I-68-17.pdf?ver=2017-10-02-151226-987

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Residing in a SILP with biological parent or home of removal now allowable

Q: A social worker told me that there are new rules regarding the Supervised Independent Living Placement. He stated that non-minor dependents are now allowed to reside with the parent from which they were removed, including their biological parent. Is this true? If so, are there any sort of guidelines?

A: Yes, this is accurate. In light of recent guidance provided by the California Department of Social Services, non-minor dependents (NMDs) may now live in a Supervised Independent Living Placement (SILP) with a parent, which is defined as a parent from whom the youth was removed or any non-custodial parent, including but not limited to a biological parent, guardian or adoptive parent.

As far as guidelines go, the social worker or probation officer must make a determination of whether it is safe for the NMD to reside in the same home as the parent(s) in the same way it would be made with regards to anyone else a NMD chooses to live with in a SILP. Also in line with the general guidelines associated with the SILP, the SILP readiness assessment tool must be utilized to determine if the NMD is making appropriate decisions with regards to the person(s) with whom they plan to reside.

One different guideline that applies when NMDs reside with a parent in a SILP is that the parent may not be the NMD’s payee for the foster care payment.

Citation: California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 17-83 (September 5, 2017). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2017/17-83.pdf?ver=2017-09-07-111228-323

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Special Immigrant Juvenile Status – when to close the dependency case

Q: I’m working with a youth who is trying to get Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Once the Department of Child and Family Services files for SIJS and it’s “pending” can we close the dependency case?

A: No, the dependency case must remain open until the child receives their green card, unless the court’s jurisdiction is terminated due to the youth’s age (for example, when the youth turns 18 or 21).

Citation: 8 C.F.R. § 204.11(c)(5)

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Completing the FAFSA – independent non-minor students who didn’t file taxes

Q: I’m going to be helping a 19-year-old young woman participating in extended foster care complete the FAFSA when it becomes available in October. I understand that foster youth are independent and so they do not provide any parent or guardian tax information, however are they required to provide their own tax information? What if they didn’t file taxes?

You are correct. If she was in foster care at least one day after age 13, she is considered independent on the FAFSA, and does not provide any information about parents, guardians or caregivers.

In some cases, non-minor dependents file taxes, however in many cases they do not file taxes because they have earned less than the standard deduction. The FAFSA now uses “prior-prior-year” data, so for the 2018-19 school year, 2016 taxes would be used.

  • If the youth was a non-minor in 2016 and did file taxes, he/she should submit tax transcripts using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
  • If the youth was a non-minor in 2016 and did not file taxes because he/she earned less than the standard deduction ($10,350 for a single taxpayer in 2016), then he/she would not be required to provide tax transcripts when applying for financial aid.

Students not required to file taxes will need to provide Verification of Nonfiling. This could be a signed statement by the student certifying that he/she has not filed and is not required to file a 2016 income tax return. Because the statement is very specific, most schools have created a document for students to complete and sign. If your school does not provide this, make sure that your certifying letter includes a listing of any 2016 earned income and a copy of any IRS Form W-2 for any income earned that year.

Citation:

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Resource Family Approval for non-minor dependents

Q: Do counties need to approve Resource Families for non-minor dependents (participating in extended foster care)?

A: For a non-minor dependent placed in a Supervised Independent Living Placement (SILP), Resource Family Approval (RFA) is not required. However, if the youth is placed in a foster home, RFA is required.

Citation: California Department of Social Services. Statewide RFA Technical Assistance Call (June 21,  2017). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/RFA/Final%20RFA%20Bi-WeeklyMinutes6-21-17.pdf?ver=2017-07-05-084918-000

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Increase in monthly stipend for youth in SILPs & THP+FC?

Q: I heard in a meeting today that youth in Supervised Independent Living Placements (SILPs) and THP+FC have received a “raise” in their monthly stipend. Is this true, and if so, how much do they now receive?

A: You are correct that as of July 1, 2017, youth in SILPs now receive an increased foster care payment of $923 (up from $883). However, the amount that a THP+FC program provides a youth monthly is not an amount set by the state, and varies from program to program. The THP+FC rate did increase to $3,209 (up from $3,090) for single and remote site models and to $2,553 (up from $2,459) for host family models as of July 1st, and so some programs may have increased the monthly stipend they provide the youth, but this is not a requirement.

These rate increases are part of an annual increase that is made to all foster care placements based on the California Necessities Index (CNI). For a complete list of current foster care rates, view the recently released All County Letter.

Citation: California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 17-75 (July 13, 2017).

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Minors charged with sex crimes, impact on immigration status

Q: If an undocumented minor is charged with a sexual crime, does that automatically disqualify him or her from applying for some type of immigration status (e.g. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, U Visa)?

A: If the undocumented minor is charged with a sex crime in delinquency proceedings, that would not disqualify them from applying to get some kind of immigration status that they are otherwise eligible for (e.g. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, U Visa). Delinquency adjudications are not considered convictions for immigration purposes and thus do not carry the same dire consequences. However, an adjudication for a sex crime would be considered as part of the discretionary determination for whether the child merits immigration relief, so it could prejudice their application even though it won’t present an outright bar. Youth with serious delinquency adjudications should consult with an experienced immigration attorney before applying for any type of immigration benefit.

Citation: Matter of Devison, 22 I&N Dec. 1362 (BIA 2000).

Thank you to Rachel Prandini of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center for the answer to this question. ILRC has a wide range of information on immigration, including publications and trainings on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. To learn more, contact Rachel at rprandini@ilrc.org

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SSI recipients in THP-Plus

Q: I understand that youth who meet the eligibility requirements for both extended foster care and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be eligible to receive both at the same time, but that there are offsetting rules. However, what about for former foster youth participating in THP-Plus? Are there offsetting rules, or can those youth receive their full SSI payment regardless of THP-Plus participation?

A: No, there are no off-setting rules for youth receiving SSI in THP-Plus. Because youth participating in THP-Plus are not current foster youth, there are no foster care benefits. Youth in THP-Plus who are SSI recipients can receive their full SSI payment, regardless of their being in a THP-Plus program.

As you mentioned, this is different for non-minor dependents: youth who meet the eligibility requirements for both extended foster care and SSI may be eligible to receive both at the same time, but for federally-eligible youth, the SSI payments are offset dollar-for-dollar by the amount of federal foster care benefits, and for non-federally-eligible foster youth, the state foster care payment is offset dollar-by-dollar by the amount of SSI benefits.

Citation:

  • Administration for Children and Families, Child Welfare Policy Manual, Section 8.4D, Question 1
  • Welfare & Institutions Code § 13754 et seq.; All County Letter 11-69
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Tiny House as SILP?

Q: We have a non-minor dependent (NMD) who would like to purchase a “Tiny House”. This NMD has saved up the down payment and the former foster parents have agreed to let this youth park it on their property. The Tiny House is mobile so the NMD could move the house as their situation changes. Can this NMD reside in the Tiny House as a Supervised Independent Living Placement (SILP)?

A: Yes, the Tiny House could be the NMD’s SILP, as long as the social worker or probation officer approves it. Approving a SILP is a two-part process that consists of:

  • a SILP Readiness Assessment to indicate whether or not the NMD has knowledge of financial skills and is developmentally ready to handle daily tasks on their own, and a financial plan to meet his/her living expenses while living in the SILP.
  • an inspection checklist (SOC 157B) to determine that the living unit meets basic health and safety standards. This is done during a walkthrough of the site with the NMD.

Citation: All County Letter 11-77 (2011) http://www.cdss.ca.gov/lettersnotices/entres/getinfo/acl/2011/11-77.pdf

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