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Proposal would ban Philly from keeping Social Security cash for foster kids | Friday Morning Coffee

The proposal, sponsored by Councilmember Helen Gym, ‘rectifies a clear injustice,’ she said

March 18, 2022 7:10 am

(Image via Pa. Partnerships for Children)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

A new proposal, sponsored by Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym, aims to put an end to the city’s habit of taking millions of dollars in money intended for foster kids and using it to shore up its bottom line.

The bill “rectifies a clear injustice. These benefits belong to youth in our foster care system, and today Philadelphia takes a bold step in leading changes which must follow at the state and federal level,” Gym said in a statement.

“With this legislation, we can ensure that every child in our city’s foster system has every resource owed to them — especially to guarantee the smoothest possible transition as they age into independence,” Gym said.

The legislation comes in response to an investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirerwhich reported Tuesday that Gym planned to unveil her proposal this week.

The newspaper first reported last December that, between 2016 and 2020, the city had transferred some $5 million in Social Security payments intended for foster children into its general fund.

The revelations shocked foster parents who had been scraping to support their young charges, and who largely were unaware the money was available to them.

In her statement Thursday, Gym said she was confident that the proposal would “change lives and empower these young people with the resources they rightfully deserve.”

Philadelphia isn’t alone in this appalling practice. According to the Inquirer, the practice is under increasing scrutiny around the country.

Maryland enacted its own law requiring, among other things, that “foster youth, or their lawyer, receive notice … allowing them an opportunity to claim the money. The law also calls for increasing amounts of their Social Security money to be set aside for [foster children] as they approach 18 years old,” the Inquirer reported.

Philadelphia City Hall (Image via pxHere.com)

Advocates for children and youth welcomed the legislation.

“It’s completely unacceptable to ask children in foster care to pay for their own care,” Laurie Dow, the Vulnerable Youth Policy Director at Children First said in a statement.

“The fact that the city is pocketing social security payments for foster children is an outrage,” Dow continued. “Those funds can, and must, be available to these children to meet needs that cannot be met by their foster care parents or available to them once they are no longer in foster care. Council should act immediately to end this gross injustice.”

Marcía Hopkins, of Philadelphia’s Juvenile Law Center, said returning the money to where it belongs is key, “especially when we see the challenges and numbers annually of youth aging out of foster care facing housing insecurity, these funds can be the critical difference to youth leading a successful transition to adulthood.”

And while “most children involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems face heightened obstacles to success and well-being, we know that some children face even larger financial and emotional burdens from their own disability or the death of a parent,” Frank P. Cervone, the executive director for the Support Center for Child Advocates, said.

The payments “offer a small bit of hope. What we can all agree on is a youth coming out of care is going to need that money a lot more tomorrow than the government does today,” Cervone continued. “You’re not just taking from their present when you take that money, you’re taking from their future. Under no circumstances should the government be taking money from kids.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Advocates are criticizing a decline in federal grant funding for local elections that’s included in the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress last week, Capital-Star Democracy Reporter Kira Lerner reports.

A free cancer screening program offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health aims to bring preventative care measures to low-to-moderate-income patients across the commonwealth, Cassie Miller reports.

Now that the new legislative maps are the law of the land, a bunch of lawmakers have stepped up to announce that they’re retiring. Our Retirement Tracker is now up to date.

An African-American firm is part of the $2.6B plan to develop the Philly Navy Yard, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

In Maryland, a proposed gas tax ‘holiday’ bill is advancing through that state’s Legislature, with lawmakers hopeful it’ll ease the pain at the pump, our sibling site, Maryland Matters, reports.

Hit with staff shortages, the Allegheny County Port Authority is handing out free rides to aggrieved strap-hangers this week, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Fighting anti-trans legislation is suicide prevention, musician Lazarus Nance Letcher, who is transgender, writes in a heart-rending essay first published by our sibling site, Source New Mexico. And, thanks to congressional inaction, schools will stop serving free lunch to all students, a benefit that took hold during the pandemic, a University of Connecticut scholar writes.

Members of the Pennsylvania House applaud newly elected Speaker Bryan Cutler on June 22, 2020. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Elsewhere.
What is the ‘independent state legislature’ theory – and why could it give the General Assembly ‘unchecked’ power over elections? Spotlight PA tries to explain (via the Inquirer).

The Tribune-Review parses the redistricting changes to Alle-Kiski communities in southwestern Pennsylvania.

PennLive talks to Harrisburg Mayor Wanda Williams, a fixture of the city’s political scene for decades, after her first 76 days on the job.

On Thursday, Lancaster County’s jail oversight board went through data, for the first time, of who was being incarcerated, and why, for one day in February, LancasterOnline reports.

The Lehigh Valley’s Air Products remains among the ranks of U.S. companies still doing business with Russia, the Morning Call reports.

Live in Pike County? You’re paying the highest average gas prices in the state, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

A man accused of election interference has violated the terms of his bail againPhiladelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has said, according to WHYY-FM.

State Republican Party leaders are sweating the oversized field for the 2022 GOP primary for governor, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).

As nurses walk off the job, states are scrambling to train moreStateline.org reports.

Roll Call runs down its U.S. House ratings for the 2022 midterms.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

 

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What Goes On
The desk is clear. Enjoy the silence.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairperson Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, holds an 11 a.m. reception at the restored Americus Hotel in Allentown. Admission runs $150 per-person to $1,500 for a table of 10. The invite is silent on whether there is an additional charge for having Browne’s nearly impenetrable musings on budgets and more explained to you.

WolfWatch
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Some very special belated best wishes go out this morning to faithful reader Nick Centurione in the office of state Sen. Amanda M. Cappelletti, D-DelawareNick completed another trip around the sun on March 12. But his girlfriend, Rachel, did not want his big day to go unobserved in this space. So, congratulations, and enjoy your Friday, sir — and bring the lady some flowers.

Heavy Rotation
We’ll go out this week with some new music from Florence + the Machine. Here’s ‘My Love.’


Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The Carolina Hurricanes rallied late, but it wasn’t enough to get the past the Toronto Maple Leafs, sporting retro Toronto St. Pat’s greens, on Thursday night. The Leafs beat the ‘Canes 3-2.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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