LA County Moves to Protect Social Security Benefits for Foster Youth

Los Angeles County leaders passed landmark legislation this month that requires the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services to ensure foster youth who receive social security benefits have access to the money when they age out of the system.

The unanimous vote followed a disturbing investigation by NPR and The Marshall Project. That investigation found that child welfare agencies in at least 36 states and Washington, D.C. take social security benefits intended for foster youth, oftentimes without notifying the children, their families, or attorneys.

LA County’s motion, which was sponsored by Supervisor Hilda Solis, makes the county child welfare agency responsible for ensuring that all foster youth entitled to benefits have an interest-bearing bank account to provide access to funds "upon exit from foster care." State agencies will report back within 30 days on the amount of social security benefits in the county’s foster care system and where it is going.

There are approximately 33,000 children in the county’s foster system. Once they age out, many foster youth experience financial hardship including homelessness.