If you’re a foster parent, you may be eligible for financial resources to help pay for your growing family’s needs. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly benefits for people with disabilities, as well as family members of people on disability or Social Security retirement benefits.
If you have a foster child with a disability, or if you’re receiving Social Security yourself, you may be eligible for assistance.
Foster Children With Disabilities
Many foster children have special needs, such as those with autism or children born with Down syndrome. If you’re fostering a child with special needs, he or she may be eligible for disability benefits from the SSA.
Children will be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI benefits. These are only awarded to families with a severe financial need, so if you or your spouse is earning a decent wage, your foster child will not be eligible for benefits.
Your specific household income limit will vary depending on whether you’re married, and if you have other children. For example, if you’re a single parent you won’t be able to earn more than $38,000 before taxes and still have a child qualify for SSI benefits.
If you’re a two-parent family of five, you can instead earn more than $55,000 and still have a foster child qualify for SSI benefits. The SSA has a chart on its website that you can use to determine if your family is eligible.
Auxiliary Benefits Under Your Account
If you’re receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits yourself, you’re likely already aware that dependents are eligible for additional benefits on top of what you already earn (usually 50% of your monthly payments). It’s possible for foster children to receive these benefits, but the rules can be challenging to meet.
First off, you must have been taking care of your foster child for at least one year, and your foster child needs to be under age 18, or under age 19 and still in high school.
On top of this, one of the following criteria must be met:
- The child’s parents are both deceased
- The child’s parents are both disabled (usually need to be receiving Social Security benefits themselves)
- You legally adopt your foster child
This unfortunately means that if your foster child’s parents are still in the picture, it can be hard to add a foster child to your account. Nonetheless, it’s a great option for eligible families who need to supplement their current Social Security income.
Starting Your Foster Child’s Application
If you’re either applying for SSI on behalf of a foster child with a disability, or if you’re simply adding a foster child to your own disability or retirement account, you’ll need to do so in person at your closest Social Security office.
There are more than 1,300 offices across the country. To make an appointment to complete the paperwork in person, call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213
Blog guest writer: Lauren DiCenso