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These States Take Money Meant for Foster Children

Our reporting shows that in at least 49 states, plus Washington, D.C., foster care officials obtain federal benefits intended for children in their care.

In collaboration with NPR, The Marshall Project investigated the practice of states collecting federal benefits — including Social Security disability and survivors benefits — meant for foster children in their care. Our reporting shows that at least 49 states and Washington, D.C. take these benefits and put them into state coffers. (Montana did not respond to our requests.)

These benefits are considered the children’s property under federal law. But many state officials we contacted pointed out that it is legal for them to apply to become the financial representative for foster children and obtain the money. They also said that the money helps to reimburse the state for the cost of the children’s care.

If you were ever in foster care, here’s how to find out if the government took benefits owed to you.

Additional reporting provided by Eli Hager, Joseph Shapiro, Jessica Piper, Huo Jingnan and Emine Yücel.

Source: The Marshall Project, NPR, Child Trends survey (2018).

Correction: A previous version of this tool showed breakdowns by Supplemental Security Income, disability benefits and survivor's benefits for several states where that information is ambiguous. The breakdown has been removed from those states.