Master Trust Accounts

What is a Master Trust account and what type of money goes in it?

If you are in foster care and get or may qualify to get benefits from the federal government, DCF will manage this money in an account called a “master trust.” When you come into care, DCF must check to see if you already getting benefits or if you may qualify for them. If you are already getting benefits, DCF must apply to be the “representative payee” which means they manage your money. If you do not get benefits but may qualify, DCF must fill out an application for you. Some examples of ways you may qualify for benefits are: you have a parent who has died (Survivor benefits) or you have a disability (Supplemental Security Income).

There are many different types of benefits you could be receiving through your master trust. If you want to know the type of benefit you are receiving, you should ask your case manager for the records of your account.

Who will keep up with my Master Trust account?

Case managers are responsible for keeping you informed of the status of your account and options for using the money. Your case manager is supposed to act as a “reasonable parent” in planning for your day-to-day needs and your future needs. Your case manager should also talk to you about what you want and is supposed to think about  your “reasonable wishes.” Your case manager should also talk to your foster parents or other caregivers about what you need. The case manager/DCF must inform you, your parents (if parental rights are not terminated), guardian ad litem, and attorney for any money taken out of your account over $500. The case manager must make sure that your money activity for the last three months is included at every judicial review.

Can DCF use my money?

Money held in the Master Trust belongs to you, BUT the DCF has the right to take some money out for two purposes: (1) the State can take money out to pay itself “administrative fees” such as for bank charges and (2) the State may also take some of the money to pay for the “cost of care” — the amount of money actually paid for residential services (payments to the foster home or group home for your room and board).

Who has access to my Master Trust account?

Your case manager and members of DCF can see what is in your account. Your attorney and guardian ad litem if you have one can also see what is in your account if they request to. And most importantly, you must be able to see what is in your account if you request to.

How long do I have the Master Trust account?

The account is closed when you age out of foster care, are adopted, or go live with a family member. That does not mean you lose the benefits, it just means your caregiver (or you, if you are 18) must apply to get the benefits.

Can I use the money in my account for things I want or need?

Yes, every child may apply for a fee waiver (meaning you can ask to take money out of the account) and you must be given notice of this at every judicial review hearing.

Do I get an allowance?

Yes. There must be at least $15 per month set to the side in your Master Trust account for your “personal allowance.” You can ask for more allowance by filling out the “Application for Review of Assessed Fee or Change in Allowance.”

I have a subaccount called “current needs.” What are those?

Your current needs include: the cost of living at the foster home or in the foster family’s home, medical and dental costs, personal comfort items (clothing, tablet, electronics, books, art supplies, sports, equipment, special activity fees), transportation (to school, work, or other activities), and other approved costs.

I have another subaccount called “long term needs.” What are long-term needs?

Your long-term needs include: education or job training (including books, testing, therapy, tutoring, fees, supplies, equipment, tools, uniforms, safety equipment, attendant care, child care, prepaid college tuition plan) and independent living costs (security deposit, phone, utilities, furniture) and other approved costs.

How much money can I have in my account?

The overall amount of money in the accounts cannot be more than $2,000 if you get an income-based benefit such as SSI. If you aren’t sure which type of benefit you get, ask your case manager for a copy of your records.

Can the money in my account be transferred?

Your case manager may transfer your money to another account if $2,000 limit is about to be reached and you will lose your benefits.

What happens if the accounts are about to reach $2,000?

Within five days of learning the accounts have $1,500 or more in accounts, the CBC should review the accounts, and create a 3-month plan to make sure the accounts don’t go over $2,000. The CBC should consider possible purchases, including: any medical expenses, clothing, accessories, personal comfort items, and any education or job needs.

Who keeps records on the money in my Master Trust account and what is included in the records?

The CBC office must have records that keep track of everything for the Master Trust account and subaccount. The records must have (a) type of benefit payment, (b) monthly benefit amount, (c) any interest gained and any other changes, (d) monthly cost of care and any other withdrawals/changes, and (e) the current amount in each subaccount.

How do I get my money if I leave in foster care?

When you turn 18 your money and property must be sent to you. If you leave the custody of DCF before 18 (to live with a relative, if you are adopted, or if you are reunified), DCF must notify the court and make plans for the money and property to be transferred to your guardian.

How do I get money if I age out of foster care?

Within 90 days after you turn 17, DCF must send you a social study report, which is supposed to have information on all of the money you have, and DCF must show you how to get these funds. If you want to get the money already in your account, the court must issue a written order that DCF must release the money in the account to you on your 18th birthday. If there is no court order, DCF will send the money back to the social security office and you will have to apply for the money. This could take several months, so it is important to advocate for a court order if you want to receive the money from DCF that was in the account right when you turn 18.

The Law

Fla. Admin. Code 65C-17.002, 17.003,17.006, Fla. Stat. sec. 39.701, 402.17

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