- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A lawsuit is challenging Alaska’s practice of using some foster kids’ social security benefits to pay for care without notifying the child.

About 160 foster children in Alaska are entitled to social security benefits because they have a disability or one of their parents has died. Often, that money doesn’t go to the individual child, but instead goes straight to the state.

If a child’s attorney knew the child could get between $700 and $2,000 per month in federal benefits, attorneys argue they could try to find a relative or another person to be a private payee, Alaska Public Media reported Thursday (https://bit.ly/2lH0R8B ). Then that money wouldn’t go toward the care the child is already entitled to from the state.

“You could be (using) these social security monies for tutoring, for therapy,” Attorney Jim Davis argued before a superior court judge in late February. “To do the things in life that your kids probably do and my kids probably do - go to the state fair, go to Alyeska, have an iPhone.”

Davis represents foster children who are eligible for benefits.

“What smells bad about this is the state seems to be trying to gain federal money that it isn’t necessarily entitled to,” Superior Court Judge William Morse said during a hearing in late February.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is legal for state agencies to receive federal benefits on behalf of foster children and use that money to pay for the child’s care while they are in custody. The Alaska lawsuit concerns the notification of relatives or other advocates for such children.

Assistant attorney general Leah Farzin argued the state is not required to notify anyone about the potential benefits. She said providing notice would be a burden.

“The state is not doing anything wrong,” she said. “And therefore, the state being ordered to do something to correct a problem that doesn’t exist is unfair.”

The judge has up to six months to issue a ruling.


Information from: KSKA-FM, https://www.kska.org

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