Until recently, it was a common practice for states to claim the Social Security funds assigned to youth in foster care. However, a 2021 investigation by NPR and The Marshall Project shed light on this issue, leading to calls for reform. The investigation highlighted the fact that many foster youth were being deprived of funds that could give them a significantly brighter future.
Fortunately, the tide is turning, and the trend now is to leave these funds available to foster youth, especially as they age out of care. Recognizing the importance of these funds, 15 states and cities have already taken steps to preserve the money of foster youth. Additionally, several other state legislatures are considering similar laws, signaling a growing recognition of the need to protect the financial well-being of these vulnerable individuals.
States must solve significant challenges to implementing these reforms, such as keeping track of each individual youth's payments and monitoring expenditures. If we can find a way to keep the funds in trust for the youth, however, we can provide children who age out of the system with the means to invest in their future. The funds can help break the cycle of instability that often accompanies their journey through the foster care system.
It's a difficult but very important reform that all states should find ways to implement.