Resolve Reporters See Policy Change

Steve Volk & Julie Christie
Philly Inquirer photo

For more than 30 years, the city of Philadelphia has screened young people in its foster care system for any orphan’s benefits due to them—then swept that cash into the city’s general fund.

The city’s department of human services took in nearly $5 million in children’s Social Security benefits between fiscal years 2016 and 2020 that belonged to hundreds of youth in foster care, according to records obtained by Resolve Philly, but come July that practice will end.

An article written for the Philadelphia Inquirer by Resolve staff members Steve Volk and Julie Christie caught the eye of city council member Helen Gym, who introduced a bill this year to conserve that money for the young people themselves and got it passed unanimously.

The bill will:

  • Require the city to provide notice to youth in foster care and their advocates, informing them that the city is receiving money on their behalf. This notice process will allow young people to find a relative or someone else they trust to act as their financial representative and receive the money for them, till they are legally of age to manage their money for themselves.
  • In instances where no so-called “representative payee” can be found, the city will place the money in individual financial accounts in the young person’s name.
  • The city will be prohibited from spending the money on the young person’s room and board, as they have in the past, and instead allow young people and their advocates to save the money for their future or spend it on items not covered by government funding for youth in foster care, such as a car for an older teen to get to work, or job training.
  • More than 300 young people per year will benefit from the bill.