Eligibility Requirements

Foster care benefits are paid when the child meets one of the conditions below:

  • The child is a dependent or ward of the Juvenile Court who is placed and supervised by the Social Services Agency or Probation Department.
  • The child is voluntarily placed by his/her parent through the Social Services Agency or Probation Department.
  • The child is living with a nonrelated legal guardian and is supervised by the Social Services Agency or Probation Department.
  • The child is living with a relative and the child meets certain eligibility criteria.

Foster Care payments vary with the type and location of the child’s placement, the age of the child, any specialized care which may be authorized for the child, and/or any special needs the child may have. Foster care payments are not income to the caregiver.

Payments are intended to help cover the costs of: the child’s food, clothing, personal needs, transportation, entertainment, shelter needs, and supervision/parenting needs .

Foster children can receive foster care cash assistance through:

  • State Aid to Families with Dependent Children-Foster Care (State AFDC-FC) – a blend of State and County funds.
  • Federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children-Foster Care (Federal AFDC-FC) – a blend of Federal, State, and County funds.
  • If the child is placed with a relative, the only available foster care funding source is Federal AFDC-FC. If the child does not qualify for Federal AFDC-FC (or sometimes referred to as Yoakum*), the relative caregiver will be told to apply for California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) as a Non-Needy Relative Caretaker.

*Miller v. Yoakum is the 1979 United States Supreme Court case that directs local child welfare agencies to pay relative caregivers the same rate non-relative caregivers are given, provided the child meets Federal eligibility requirements and the caregiver’s home meets foster home licensing/approval requirements.

NOTE: The child may lose AFDC-FC eligibility if the parent moves into the home in which the foster child resides.

NOTE: A child placed with a relative specified under Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is eligible for Federal AFDC-FC or State AFDC-FC.

Chart I: A Comparison of Financial Benefits  – Compares factors in regards to AAP, CalWORKs, Kin-GAP, and AFDC-FC.

Relative Caregiver’s Guide to Benefits – Steps to understanding, applying for and receiving the appropriate benefits for foster children.

Basic Foster Care

Basic Foster Care – The rate paid on behalf of AFDC-FC child placed in a family home exclusive of any specialized care increment. The family home basic rate provides for the cost of providing food, clothing, shelter, daily supervision, school supplies, personal incidentals.

Special Care Increments (SCI)/Specialized Care And Incentive Assistance Program (SCIAP)

  • Special Care Increment (SCI) – Specialized care provides a supplemental payment to the family home provider, in addition to the family home basic rate, for the cost of supervision (and the cost of providing that supervision) to meet the additional daily care needs of an Aid to Families with Dependent Children-Foster Care (AFDC-FC) child who has a health and/or behavior problem. Children in a Foster Family Agency (FFA) home, Regional Center home, or group home are not eligible for an SCI because they already receive funds for special needs as part of their facility rate.
  • Specialized Care and Incentive Assistance Program (SCIAP) – these funds are intended to be used solely for the benefit of eligible children with medical or behavioral challenges and only after alternative funding sources such as Special Care Incentives (SCI), Medi-Cal, California Children’s Services, and Regional Center funds have been exhausted and/or denied.

Intensive Treatment Foster Care (ITFC)

  • Intensive Treatment Foster Care (ITFC)  – ITFC is an alternative to higher level group home care. ITFC does this by placing only one foster child in a specialized foster home where the child has an individualized treatment program and the foster parents are carefully matched to each child and are specially trained and supported.

Clothing Allowance

  • Clothing Allowance – Clothing costs are covered under the monthly basic foster care rate but all school age children get an additional clothing allowance when they are initially placed and then annually thereafter.

Adoption Assistance Program (AAP)

  • Adoption Assistance Program (AAP) – the AAP is available to both relative and non-relative families who adopt children from foster care. AAP reduces financial barriers to the adoption of children who might otherwise remain in foster care. Eligibility is based on the eligibility of the child. The AAP rate is negotiated with each family and is based on the child’s basic and special needs and the circumstances of the family.

Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payment (KIN-GAP)

  • Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payment (Kin-GAP) – Kin-GAP is a cash aid program that supports eligible relative caregivers in California who are unable or unwilling to adopt but instead become legal guardians as the permanency option for exiting the child welfare system. Kin-GAP was established effective January 1, 2000 for children whose California Juvenile Court dependency is terminated in favor of guardianship with the relative caregiver. Effective October 1, 2006, the Kin-GAP program was made available to children whose California Juvenile Court wardship under Probation is terminated in favor of guardianship with the relative caregiver. Kin-GAP provides both cash aid and Medi-Cal benefits to eligible children. Kin-GAP payments are income to the child, not to the caregiver.

Dual Agency Regional Center Foster Care

  •   Dual Agency Regional Center Foster Care – a dual agency child is a child receiving AFDC-FC or AAP benefits who is served by a Department of Developmental Services (DDS) California Regional Center. Regional Centers provide services to children who:
    • Have a significant developmental disability as defined under the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act (Lanterman Act).
    • Became disabled prior to age eighteen (18) and are expected to be disabled indefinitely.
    • Are under the age of three (3) who have not yet been determined to be developmentally disabled, but who meet other criteria under the California Early Start Intervention Services Act/Prevention Program.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Children with Special Needs & Disabilities – if you are caring for a child who is blind or disabled and who is not eligible for federal foster care, you should apply for SSI. SSI funding is more money than CalWORKs. Call the Social Security Administration 1-800-772-1213 to ask for an appointment or go to www.ssa.gov .

You can also go to the Alliance for Children’s Rights  website or call (213) 368-6010.

Contact Us

Office of the Foster Care Ombudsman
Toll-free telephone: 1-877-846-1602
E-mail: fosterfamilyhelp@dss.ca.gov