Foster Care and Social Security Disability Benefits

Becoming a foster parent is one of the biggest and most rewarding decisions you can ever make in life. While you do receive supplemental income from fostering children, your family may be eligible for additional benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits for people with serious illnesses, or dependent family members of those with disabilities. There are a few ways children in foster care could be eligible for aid.

If Your Foster Child Has a Disability

Social Security disability benefits are available to people of all ages. Children will qualify for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI benefits.
SSI is only awarded to families in severe financial need, so if you or your spouse has a moderate income, your foster child will not be eligible for SSI benefits.

For example, a single parent cannot earn more than $38,000 per year before taxes while having a child qualify for SSI. The larger your family the higher your income limit will be, so be sure to review the
SSA’s chart on SSI income limits before applying.

In addition to financially qualifying for benefits, your child will need to have a disability that’s medically severe enough to be approved for aid. The SSA maintains its own medical criteria for disability applicants, known
colloquially as the Blue Book. By reviewing the Blue Book, you can determine if your foster child’s disability will be approved for benefits.

Each condition will have different criteria needed for approval. For example, any child with Trisomy 21 or Translocation Down syndrome will automatically qualify for benefits. Children with ADHD, however, often need to
show that they’ve been receiving treatment or therapy for 2+ years with no improvement. You can review the entire Blue Book online with your child’s doctor to determine if he or she is eligible.

If You Are Retired or Disabled

The SSA does allow children to receive auxiliary benefits on behalf of a guardian who’s on Social Security disability
or Social Security retirement. This means if you’re already receiving benefits, you may be eligible for supplemental income to help pay for your growing family.

Children are eligible for auxiliary benefits if anyone of the following criteria:

  • Your foster child’s parents are deceased
  • Your foster child’s parents are both disabled
  • You legally adopt your foster child

This unfortunately means that it can be challenging to receive benefits if your foster child’s parents are still in the picture but unable to support their child, but it is possible for some families who are eligible.

Starting Your Application

If you’re applying on behalf of a foster child for either SSI or auxiliary benefits under your account, you’ll need to do so at your closest Social Security office. To make an appointment to apply in person,
simply call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213

It typically takes 3-5 months to hear back from the SSA regarding a claim. Once approved, you could receive an additional $750 per month to spend on your foster child and household needs.