May 10, 2023

From Foster Care to Financial Awareness: Empowering Youth Through Tax Filing Assistance

From Foster Care to Financial Awareness: Empowering Youth Through Tax Filing Assistance

As a young mother with experience in foster care, 19-year old Elizabeth has to juggle many responsibilities. Tax filing is one of them; the process can be overwhelming and confusing.  

Looking for help, she found The Community College Foundation, a specialized tax assistance center for foster youth supported by John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY). 

Elizabeth filed her taxes and received a $1,400 tax refund. “I definitely recommend this program! The volunteers I worked with were very communicative and updated me along the way. I filed on a Tuesday and knew that same day what my refund would be.” Elizabeth can now put some of that money aside and use the rest to care for her child’s needs. 

The Community College Foundation is one of seven free tax filing sites for foster youth in California that JBAY provides financial and technical support.  As of April 22nd, 3,844 current and former foster youth had received the $1,083 Foster Youth Tax Credit, directing over $3 million to them for housing, food, transportation, child care and more. 

19-year-old Destiny connected with the program through her social worker. “I thought it was going to take a long time, but it was really quick. The volunteers answered all my questions and showed me they were there to help.” With her refund, Destiny will be able to put down a deposit on an apartment and move out of transitional housing. 

Another foster youth, 19-year-old Karina, is a cosmetology student. She was pleasantly surprised that the woman helping her with her taxes made sure that she understood each step, and took the time to relate to her on a personal level. “I was scared at first because I did not know what to expect, but she made me feel so comfortable.”

20-year-old Olivia described the process as simple and painless. “The volunteers helped me find additional credits I didn’t know about, which added an extra thousand dollars to my state refund. I like that there are multiple people going over your return so nothing gets missed.”

For JBAY Director of Housing and Health Simone Tureck Lee, the support provided when youth file their taxes is critical. “We know that helping young adults file taxes provides them with access to hundreds or thousands of dollars, particularly with the establishment of the Foster Youth Tax Credit, but providing young adults with this guidance the first time they file also sets them up for good long-term financial health and awareness about tax filing, something that often flies under the radar for youth coming from foster care.”

Foster youth are still eligible to file their taxes and claim available tax credits until October 16th, if they have not yet done so. To schedule an appointment, youth can access the full list of tax filing sites and the counties that they serve here.