What if I am caring for a foster child or disabled foster adult?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

Foster Children:

In general, children under age 18 and under the supervision of an adult must be part of the adult’s SNAP household. However, if you have taken in a foster child, you can chose to include or exclude the child from your  SNAP household benefits 106 C.M.R. § 361.240(F). Whether this is a good idea or not depends on your household’s circumstances. 

If you exclude your foster child from the SNAP benefits, the foster care payments and any other income you receive directly for the care of the child, such as child support or SSI, will not count as income to your SNAP household.  For that reason, it is usually better to exclude the foster child to maximize the SNAP benefits for the rest of the household. However, a foster child cannot get SNAP benefits as a separate SNAP household.

Example: Sam and Susan Smith have two minor children of their own. They also care for a 10 year old foster child, Jimmy, and receive $600 per month in foster payments. The Smiths can apply for SNAP for themselves and their two children (a family of four), excluding Jimmy in the SNAP household and excluding the foster care payments. Alternatively, the Smiths can apply for SNAP for a family of five (2 adults, 3 children including Jimmy). In that case, their income plus the foster care payments will be used in the SNAP calculation. 

Adult Foster Care:

Adult Foster Care (AFC) is a special MassHealth program for frail elders and adults with disabilities who cannot live alone. 130 C.M.R 408.410-438. MassHealth pays qualified AFC caregivers up to $18,000 a year to provide in-home care to elder and disabled MassHealth recipients who would otherwise be in a long-term care facility. Sometimes, AFC caregiver and other family members may still be low income and qualify for SNAP benefits.

If you are responsible to care for a disabled adult under the Adult Foster Care program, you have the choice to include or exclude the adult fostered person from your SNAP household – even if he or she shares all meals with your family. 106 C.M.R. 361.240(F) If the fostered adult is not included as a SNAP household member, none of the AFC payments paid to the caregiver or the income of the disabled adult counts for your SNAP benefits. In addition, none of the income of the disabled adult is counted (such as SSI or Social Security). In most cases, care-givers qualify for higher SNAP benefits. However, if excluded an AFC adult cannot get SNAP benefits as a separate SNAP household.

Example: Frank and Emma Wilson are married and provide adult foster care for Emma’s mother, 88- year-old Margaret (Margaret lives with them). Emma takes care of Margaret daily, including all her meals. Frank works part time earning $1,800/month. He helps Emma on weekends. The AFC Program pays the Wilsons $1,500 a month. Margaret also receives $800 in Social Security. Under the SNAP rules, Frank and Emma can apply for SNAP benefits as a 2 person household, excluding Margaret, her Social Security, and the AFC stipend from their SNAP household. Only the $1,800 income earned by Frank is countable income. This is true even though the 3 of them purchase and prepare the household food together. 

Advocacy Reminders:

  • A SNAP household can request that DTA remove a foster child or foster adult from the SNAP household at any time. If you discover a family getting lower SNAP because a foster child or fostered adult is in the household, call DTA and ask to remove the foster child or adult. 
  • If the fostered adult is a disabled adult child age 18 -22 and living with his or her parent who provides AFC care, the family cannot exclude the fostered adult because of the household composition rules.  

DTA Policy Guidance:

Online Guide Sections SNAP > Eligibility Requirements > Household Composition > Household Composition

Additional DTA Guidance:

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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