Chapter 3

Maximizing Financial Aid for Foster Youth
Chapter 3 - Maximizing Financial Aid for Foster Youth
Addressing Student Eligibility

The following information will help you determine whether or not students meet the definition of foster youth (as defined by Federal/New York State statutes and policies) to verify their eligibility for financial aid programs. Typically, there are additional requirements that may affect student eligibility for financial assistance programs (i.e., PELL, TAP, FYCSI, ETV). The New York State Foster Youth College Success Initiative is a specific resource designed to support Foster Youth and Orphans attending college within the state.


 “Foster Youth/Wards of the State or Court”

Students qualify to claim independent status if they spent any time in foster care after age 13 -- even if the students were subsequently reunified with their birth families or adopted after their 13th birthdays.

  • NOTE: Foster Youth are sometimes referred to as Wards of the State or Court in federal guidance or statutory language.

The definition below, while not in the statutory language, is offered to help guide you in determining the financial aid eligibility for students designated as orphans:  


Students age 13 or older, who are or were orphans (meaning both parents are deceased) are considered independent for the purposes of Title IV financial aid, even if the students were subsequently adopted. According to the Office of Federal Student Aid, professional judgment can be used when determining eligibility if students can document unusual circumstances (i.e., students can document the prolonged absence and/or abandonment by one or both parents) are warranted for a dependency override.


To Qualify as an Orphan:

  • An example of proof that parents are deceased, such as death certificates or other certified documentation; OR
  • Financial Aid Administrators may use their professional judgment to dependency override in unusual circumstances for students claiming orphan status. Examples of these situations include:
    • An example of proof of absence or abandonment by a parent such as a birth certificate without a father’s name listed; OR,

To Qualify as a Foster Youth/Ward of the State:

  • Family Court documentation; OR,
  • Documentation from a certified foster care agency/provider; OR,
  • Documentation from a guardian ad-litem (Law Guardian), or Court-Appointed Special Advocate; OR,
  • Direct verification from NYS OCFS, NYC ACS, or a NYS County Department of Social Services.
Please educate yourself about the required documents you asked me to bring in.
Student Reflections