Nearly 800 young Minnesotans who "aged-out" of the foster care system during the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for financial assistance.
Typically, foster care children lose benefits when they turn 18 or 21, if certain eligibility requirements are met.
In early March, Minnesota state officials issued a moratorium on youth losing foster care eligibility through September in response to federal legislation passed in December. The U.S. Congress appropriated $8 million for Minnesota foster care programs, with some of that money going to those who lost foster care eligibility.
"We are committed to ensuring children in foster care are well cared for in Minnesota, and that older youth have the necessary supports to transition to adulthood," said Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. "The federal funding will help Minnesota support these youth, who have been hit especially hard by the pandemic."
The Minnesota Department of Human Services estimates that 770 youth who have aged out or are close to it would be eligible for assistance with food and housing costs, college educational expenses, behavioral health needs and driver's license assistance. Monthly benefits start at $964, with an average of $1,100.
County and tribal social service agencies, which manage foster care cases, will attempt to locate those who have lost eligibility. DHS also encourage those who lost eligibility to contact local agencies where they last received benefits.
Minnesota child welfare advocates have been urging Minnesota officials to issue an aging-out moratorium since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, following the lead of states like California and Ohio.
"Other states did a moratorium last year," said Hoang Murphy, executive director of St. Paul-based Foster Advocates. "This is the right thing to do for children who are essentially wards of the state."
DHS said in a written statement Thursday that it was waiting for federal guidance before instituting the moratorium on March 5, but it did relax employment and education requirements for youth over age 17 to receive extended foster care services.
Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192