Navigating Food Assistance Benefits

A 17 year old child in foster care is provided food by foster parents, group homes, or other placements. That same child turns 18, they are now considered an adult and they are responsible for everything – food, shelter, clothing, transportation, etc. If they are in Extended Foster Care (EFC), and not everyone qualifies or opts in to EFC, they may receive help with some of these necessities but they don’t always get money for food. They are encouraged by Independent Living Services case managers and staff (sub-contractors of Department of Children and Families, [DCF]) to apply for food assistance, which DCF also manages.

The path to eligibility for food assistance is not always straight one. Throw in the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) Work Requirements for those that are 18-49 years old, and the path becomes quite circuitous. There are at least 12 possible exemptions to the ABAWD Work Requirements, including homelessness, responsible for the care of a dependent under six, pregnant, etc. See additional factors that DCF may consider at https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/access/abawd-faq.shtml.

Consider the following scenario. A 20 year old young woman in Extended Foster Care who is preparing to take the ACT test and is completing other tasks that will help her become more employable. She doesn’t get money for food from the Independent Living Services contractor. She volunteers with several local non-profits though not always 80 hours per month, she is searching for a steady job while she works as needed in a warehouse. She lives in transitional housing. She applies for food assistance and is denied because she doesn’t meet the ABAWD work requirements. 

  • Should this young woman have been considered exempt from the ABAWD Work Requirements? 
  • What exemptions may apply to her situation? 
  • Should it take a law degree to figure out whether she should be eligible for food assistance? 
  • Should it take filing a request for a fair hearing to have one department of DCF look at her situation as a whole and determine that since she is in transitional housing through Extended Foster Care (again, also managed by DCF through a sub-contractor) she is considered homeless and should get food assistance?

This is an actual example of a client our Lawyers for Young Adults Project has helped. She had been denied food assistance through DCF. We filed a request for a fair hearing and the issue was resolved in her favor. This young woman now gets food assistance each month as she is working towards her education and career. 

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