How Foster Youth Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits
by iFoster | January 31, 2020

If you are a foster parent caring for a disabled child, he or she may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

There are two disability programs, one of which is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a needs-based disability program that pays monthly benefits to those who suffer from medical conditions that keep them from working or doing routine daily activities. Specific medical criteria must be met to prove that the child is eligible.

Because SSI is needs-based, financial income comes into play. As an example, a single parent with only one foster child cannot earn more than $38,000 pre-taxes and be eligible for SSI. The monthly maximum federal amount for SSI benefits for an eligible individual is $783 per month in 2020.

However, a married couple with multiple children may be able to earn as much as $55,000 per year and be eligible for disability benefits if they meet the appropriate criteria.

Meeting the Medical Criteria

The SSA uses a medical guide called the Blue Book. The Blue Book has sections for different body systems, and under each system are different medical conditions that constitute qualification for disability benefits.

When you take it a layer further, under each condition is specific criteria that must be met. You need to provide solid medical evidence that shows that the child’s condition is severe enough to warrant disability.

Often, children are approved for conditions such as autism, Down syndrome, and developmental and learning disabilities. Depending on the severity of genetic conditions and birth defects, they may be approved for disability benefits from the SSA.

Other Ways a Child May Qualify for Social Security Benefits

If a foster parent is receiving Social Security disability or retirement benefits, foster children younger than 18 can qualify for benefits under the parent’s account. These are called auxiliary benefits. Dependents can receive as much as 50 percent of the parent’s benefits – in addition to the parental benefits check.

If a foster child has lived with you for at least a year and the child’s parents are disabled, the child’s parents are deceased, or you legally adopt the child, they may qualify for Social Security benefits.

If the foster child’s biological parents are still alive, then the chances of a child receiving auxiliary benefits from a foster parent’s account are very slim.

Applying for Disability Benefits for a Foster Child

If you have a foster child that is disabled, you can start the application for disability benefits by scheduling an appointment at the local SSA field office.You are unable to apply online (you can only apply online for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)), as your child will most likely not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits.

There are more than 1,300 field offices across the U.S. It usually takes between 3 to 5 months to hear back from the SSA regarding a claim for SSI benefits. If your request is initially denied, you have the option to appeal.

For any further questions, call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213. You can also reach out to iFoster at or 855.936.7837 for assistance with any of our hundreds of resources.

This article was written by the Outreach Team at Disability Benefits Center. They provide information about disability benefits and the application process. To learn more, please visit their website at email them at


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