This New York Times
article (subscription required) is about a 14 year-old boy whose mother abandoned him for crack at the age of 3. He has been abused, neglected, and abandoned by foster parents since he became a ward of North Carolina—with one exception. Although he's back in foster care he lucked out 10 years ago when his first and deceased adoptive father willed him a house.
Three years ago the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision (Washington Department of Social & Health Services v. Guardianship of Keffeler
), "affirmed that states could legally use children's Social Security benefits to offset current 'maintenance costs.'"
Cash strapped states like North Carolina use Social Security survivor benefits to offset the cost of caring for abandoned and abused children. Most would agree a ward of the state and society at large are both better off if a ward has a place to live in after he leaves foster care. Guilford County officials insist "taking all of John's Social Security benefits [are necessary] to help pay for his foster care," even though "his last guardian had stopped making the $221 monthly mortgage payments on [John’s] house and that [John] faced ... imminent loss."
Please read the New York Times
article before responding. Some snippets:
The benefits that states routinely take include both Supplemental Security Income, or S.S.I., and other Social Security money for children whose parents have died or are disabled. The payments are often close to $600 a month, and usually end when children reach 18 or 21. Why do states rely on adjuvant funds to keep the foster care system going?What percentage of a ward's Social Security benefits should go towards funding the foster care system?
"The practice is not the result of deliberative policy discussions regarding how to best serve children in foster care," said Daniel L. Hatcher, a law professor at the University of Baltimore who is the author of an article on the subject that is to be published in The Cardozo Law Review. "It is simply an ad hoc reaction by underfunded state agencies."
"The Social Security benefits are treated as a funding stream," Mr. Hatcher said, rather than as an opportunity to provide any special services or to give children savings for the perilous months after they turn 18, when many fall into crime or homelessness.