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

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.)

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The desk is clear. Enjoy the silence.

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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.

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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.

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And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.