Understanding Eligibility for Federal Foster Care Benefits

Funds to support a child in foster care come from a variety of government sources, including state and federal funds. There are some differences based on whether a child is deemed “federally eligible” and whether they are placed with a relative caregiver or a non-relative caregiver.

How does federal eligibility impact you as a caregiver?

In California, all children in foster care are supported through a Home Based Family Care Rate regardless of whether the child is federally eligible and whether the caregiver is related to the child.  For children who are federally eligible, the federal government pays for 50% of the cost of whatever funding the caregiver receives to care for the child.  When children are not federally eligible, the state and county bear the full cost of the funding the caregiver receives to care for the child.

California offers some supplements to the Home Based Family Care Rate that are ONLY available for children who are in a non-relative placement OR who are in a relative placement AND federally eligible. The following supplements are NOT available to children who are not federally eligible if those children are placed with relatives:

  1. the dual agency rate if the child is disabled and receiving services from a regional center
  2. the infant supplement if the child in your care becomes a parent herself and is caring for an infant in your home.

The Federal Rule:  For a child in foster care to be eligible for federal foster care benefits, the child must be removed from a home that would have met the eligibility criteria for the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program as it existed in 1996 AND must have been physically residing in the home of removal in the month the petition is filed or one of the six months prior to the month the petition is filed.

The income standards in 1996:  In 1996, income limit for a family of 3 to qualify for AFDC was $723 in California. By contrast, the income limit for the same family to qualify for cash assistance in California today is $1,169.  That means a child can be removed from a parent who is poor enough to receive CalWORKs benefits and STILL not qualify for federal foster care benefits.

Federal eligibility is a one-time determination done at the time that the child is removed.

Example:  Molly is 15 years old and was removed from home due to abuse.  At that time, Molly was living in the home of her mother, who was earning $1,200 a month.

When Molly is placed into foster care, will she be eligible for federal foster care benefits?  No, because she was removed from a home that does not meet the 1996 eligibility criteria for AFDC benefits.

What benefit is Molly eligible for if placed with a relative? She is eligible for the Home Based Family Care Rate of $889.  If Molly has specialized needs, she may receive a specialized care rate. Molly will NOT receive an infant supplement if she has a child and will NOT receive the dual agency rate if she is developmentally disabled and a client of the regional center.

What benefit is Molly eligible for if placed in a non-relative foster homeShe is eligible for the Home Based Family Care Rate of $889.  If Molly has specialized needs, she may receive a specialized care rate. Molly WILL receive an infant supplement if she has a child and WILL receive the dual agency rate if she is a developmentally disabled client of the regional center.