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Arizona first state to stop seizing social security, disability benefits of foster children

The Arizona Department of Child Safety has adopted a new program that creates savings accounts for children in foster care.

Kids who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI) benefits will have those funds placed in a Personal Needs Account.

For decades, child welfare agencies have seized those benefits to pay for the child’s foster care. DCS head David Lujan said Arizona is the first state in the country to stop that practice.

“Also, we are looking at other services that we can provide while children are in the foster care system, like financial literacy, financial planning, education, so that they can make good choices with those dollars as well,” he said. 

Lujan said creating the new savings accounts will create a $4 million hole in the DCS budget. He’s hoping the Legislature will make up for that deficit with money from the state’s general fund.

“I think it helps in terms of [foster children] going into adulthood, I think it helps them be able to plan more long term, and I think it just helps put all of these youth that are coming out of the foster care system on a much sounder footing,” he said.

Senior field correspondent Bridget Dowd has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.