Sarah* is a 17-year-old foster child in Mecklenburg County in a high-risk pregnancy and on the verge of “aging out” of foster care. After her father passed away in 2002, she lived with her mother for a number of years until her mother’s struggle with drug abuse led to Sarah being placed into foster care in 2011. Since then, Sarah has lived with a foster parent, unaware that she could have been receiving Social Security survivor benefits based on her father’s death to help support her. She has a part-time job and makes high marks in school with plans to attend college and become a dental assistant. However, like many youth who leave foster care without parents, she lacks the financial and emotional support many young adults need to achieve her dreams.
With her baby due in six months and no way of getting a full-time job without dropping out of high school, her chances seemed bleak. In July of 2012, her foster parent applied for Sarah’s Social Security benefits, and that application was approved. However, Social Services (DSS) insisted that those benefits to be used to reimburse DSS for Sarah’s time in foster care. Sarah, her foster parent, and her guardian ad litem knew it would be in her best interest for DSS to use the funds to purchase a car for Sarah to support her in finishing school while working. With the help of LSSP attorney Doug Sea and LSSP fellow Jamie Williams, Sarah convinced the Mecklenburg county juvenile court to order DSS to use her Social Security benefits to purchase a used car for her. Sarah is now on track to graduate in 2014 and on the road to independence and security for her and her child.