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Child SSI: Spotlight on Applicants in Foster Care

Here are some frequently asked questions about obtaining SSI benefits for children in foster care.

SSA Eligibility 

Q: Are children in foster care eligible to apply for SSI?  

A: Yes, children in foster care are eligible to apply for SSI.  

Q: What Federal Living Arrangement (FLA) applies to children living in foster care?  

A: Children in foster care are in FLA-A, which applies to noninstitutionalized individuals residing in their own home in which they own the home, have rental liability, or pay a pro rata share of household expenses. The FLA-A category also includes persons who are experiencing homelessness or transient. 

Q: How might foster care payments affect the child’s eligibility for SSI?  

A: Youth who are disabled or blind and receiving Title IV-E federal foster care benefits usually cannot become eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) until foster care payments have stopped. Eligibility for foster care payments in most States ends at age 18 attainment. SSA will accept an SSI application from a youth up to 180 days before his or her foster care eligibility will end due to age. 


Application Process 

Q: For a child in state custody (i.e. foster care), who signs the SSA-1696 Appointment of Representative as the parent/guardian?  

A: It depends on who has been appointed the legal guardian of the child. SSA will review the court documents that ordered the foster care placementIn cases where the court has specifically named the agency as the legal guardian, then the state agency may be the proper applicant.  Individual officials of the agency can be authorized to sign on behalf of the agency (e.g. a Foster Care Supervisor may sign an application on behalf of a State Administrator)


Q: How do I request records for a child that was in foster care? 

A: You will need to contact your state agency for their process for releasing records. Many state agencies have procedures in place to provide records to other service providers in the interest of continuity of care. They will likely redact any information in the record that is attorney client privileged.  

Q: If a child in foster care is awarded SSI, who will receive the benefits? 

A: The child is the beneficiary and SSA will make a determination about the most appropriate representative payee by following their preferred representative payee (payee) order of selection. The chart for minor children can be found here: SSA will investigate legal guardianship and investigate the individual or organizational payee applicant for foster children. SSA often selects foster care agencies to serve as payees when appropriate.(Reference: Parents/caregivers should make sure that SSA knows that a child has entered a foster care arrangement to prevent any overpayments with the change in living arrangement and other applicable foster care payments.  

Interviewing Collateral Sources 

Q: Can I interview the foster care parents about the child? 

A: Yes. You can interview the foster parents about the child. The required release of information most likely will need to be signed. The SSI advocate might want to first start by contacting the child’s CPS caseworker or foster care agency to obtain permission to interview the foster care parents. This may alleviate any concerns the foster care parents have about being interviewed by the SSI advocate.   

Q: How will documenting a child’s functioning be different if they are residing in residential foster care (with a family) vs. a treatment or group care facility? Who is the best person to speak with if the child is residing in residential care?  

A: If the child is residing in residential care, the SSI advocate could interview the foster care parents, the CPS caseworker, and/or the foster care agency caseworker to obtain information about the child’s conditions and functional impairments.