Foster Care & Ward of the Court

When you fill out the FAFSA, question 52 will ask if you’ve ever been in foster care, a ward of the court, or an orphan since the age of 13. If you answer "YES" to this question, you’ll automatically count as an independent student, which makes you eligible for the full Pell Grant (free money).

A ward of the court is a child whose parents or guardians do not have legal custody over them. If a child was a ward of the court at any point from the age of 13, they would be treated as an independent student on the FAFSA.

Foster care is for children who can’t live safely at home and an appropriate non-custodial parent, relative, or close family friend is currently unable or unwilling to care for them, and the court gives temporary legal possession to CPS.

FAFSA Application Specifics:

You don’t have to put a legal guardian or foster parents on the FAFSA, even if you’re still living with them; you’ll provide information about only yourself, your assets, and your income.

As you go through the application, here are some specific things to do:

1. In Step One, check “other/unknown” for the highest school completed by parents.

2. In Step Three, check “Yes” on the question that asks about foster care or legal guardianship.

3. Skip Step Four, which asks you to provide information about your parents.

4. Include financial support you receive from a legal guardian or foster parent, along with your other income.

Do I Qualify?

You qualify for the tuition and fee waiver, if you were in DFPS conservatorship:

  • The day before your 18th birthday.

  • The day of your 14th birthday, if you are also eligible for adoption on or after that day.

  • The day you graduated from high school or received the equivalent of a high school diploma.

  • The day you were adopted, if that date was on or after September 1, 2009.

  • The day Permanent Managing Conservatorship was granted to a non-parent, if that date was on or after September 1, 2009.

  • You were 14 years or older on or after June 1, 2016 and left DFPS's Permanent Managing Conservatorship return to the legal responsibility of a parent.

  • You were 16 years or older on or after June 1, 2016 and left DFPS Temporary Managing Conservatorship to the legal responsibility of a parent.

  • You enrolled in a dual credit course or other course which a high-school student may earn joint high school and college credit, and were in DFPS conservatorship on the day of enrollment.

You can learn more HERE.

The John H. Chafee Foster Care for Successful Transition to Adulthood (the Chaffee Program) provides funding to assist youth in foster care and young adults formerly in foster care with services and financial assistance to promote their transition to adulthood. Grants are offered to States and Tribes who submit a plan to assist youth in a wide variety of areas designed to support a successful transition to adulthood. Activities and programs include, but are not limited to, help with education, employment, financial management, housing, emotional support and assured connections to caring adults for older youth in foster care.