L.A. County to Ramp Up Efforts to Obtain SSA Benefits for Foster Youth

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today unanimously approved a plan to get more Social Security benefits into the hands of foster youth as they age out of county care. 

Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended doing more to help foster youthestablish eligibility for federal benefits while still connected to county resources.

"It is imperative that the county provide the social and economic resources that can help them successfully transition out of the foster care system at the age of 18," Solis said. "Transition-aged youth are more likely to experience homelessness upon leaving the system, resulting from a lack of resources to help them secure a stable home and regular income."

Disability insurance and survivors benefits from the Social Security Administration can be a critical source of funding. It is easier to establish eligibility when youth have consistent interaction with school and mental health providers, and some age limits for eligibility also apply.

Advocates said SSA benefits could make the difference for youth who exit county care with few resources.

"Youth who are exiting foster care face disproportionate rates of homelessness, housing instability and food insecurity -- issues magnified by the pandemic," said Sarah Manimalethu, senior policy attorney with the Alliance for Children's Rights. "Ensuring that all eligible youth have access to Social Security Administration program benefits is an essential component of providing a safe and supported transition."

State code already mandates that county agencies screen all youth over 16 years old for eligibility and apply on their behalf, with the goal of establishing benefit eligibility by age 18.

The board directed the Children and Family Services and Probation departments to set up individual Social Security accounts for all eligible youth in county care.

In addition, the motion calls for the agencies to establish a bank account for each eligible minor and to ensure that youth understand that they have the right to receive payments while still in care.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl co-authored the motion.  

"We need to do everything we can to build a solid foundation for every young person leaving our county's foster care system," she said.

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