SSI for Youth Transitioning out of Foster Care

Karen U. Lindell, Skadden Fellow, Juvenile Law Center; Claire Grandison, Staff Attorney, Community Legal Services; Laura Kolb, Staff Attorney, Homeless Advocacy Project,
Screenshot of toolkit.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a new policy to help youth transitioning out of foster care access Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Youth transitioning out of foster care are a particularly vulnerable population. Studies have confirmed what advocates in the field know from experience – that youth who age out of foster care are more likely to experience negative outcomes, including homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, and lack of access to health care. Many of these young people have disabilities that could qualify them for SSI, and that cash assistance can be a vital source of stability as they transition out of the foster care system. Yet too often, youth leave foster care without SSI benefits in place, and with no other source of income or support, placing them at a high risk of becoming homeless while they wait for their SSI applications to be processed and approved.

Fortunately, the SSA is piloting a new policy that allows foster youth of any age to apply for SSI up to 6 months (180 days) before they leave care. Beginning August 1, 2016, foster youth can submit an application and get a disability determination 6 months before their expected discharge date, even if they do not yet meet the income eligibility requirements due to their foster care payments.