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Issue Alert - 13-06-08

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Date:

Jun 17, 2013

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP)

Issue Summary:

DHS requires full-time school attendance for dependent children for continued FIP eligibility. DHS will verify the child’s enrollment and attendance at application and redetermination.

Persons Affected:

All FIP groups with dependent children between the ages of 6 and 17, or with a child age 18 and attending high school.

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice 320 S. Washington, 2nd Floor Saginaw, MI 48607 (989) 755-3120, (800)724-7441 Fax: (989) 755-3558 E-mail: info@ccj-mi.org Michigan Poverty Law Program 611 Church Street, Suite 4A Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3000 (734) 998-6100 (734) 998-9125 Fax


Background

On October 1, 2012, DHS implemented a new policy regarding children’s school attendance.  (See BEM 245and Issue Alert 12-10-01.)  That policy remains in effect today and requires the following:  

·         Child age 6 – 15:  Child must attend school full-time in order for the FIP group to maintain its FIP eligibility.  FIP stops for the entire FIP group if a child between the ages of 6 and 15 does not attend school full-time.  The group remains ineligible for FIP until the child attends school full-time for 21 consecutive calendar days and the child’s attendance has been verified. 

·         Child ages 16 or 17:  If a child age 16 or 17 does not attend school full-time, that child is disqualified from the FIP group.  The rest of the eligible group members continue to receive FIP benefits.  The child remains ineligible for FIP until the child attends school full-time for 21 consecutive calendar days and the child’s attendance has been verified. 

·         Child age 18:  If a child age 18 who is expected to graduate from high school before age 19 does not attend school full-time, that child is disqualified from the FIP group.  The child remains ineligible for FIP until the child attends school full-time for 21 consecutive calendar days and the child’s attendance has been verified. 

 

·         Minor parents:  Minor parents must attend school full-time.  If a minor parent does not attend school full-time, the minor parent and the parent’s children are disqualified from the FIP group.  The minor parent and the children remain ineligible for FIP until the minor parent attends school full-time for 21 consecutive calendar days and the minor parent’s attendance has been verified.  

What's Happening?

The Department of Human Services (DHS) amended policy BEM 245 effective June 1, 2013.  The amended policy is located at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/olmweb/ex/bem/245.pdf

 The updated BEM 245 changed policy on verification of a child’s full-time school attendance.  For six-year-old children, DHS will accept a applicant’s/recipient’s statement that the child is enrolled and attending school full-time, unless the caseworker has a reason to question the child’s attendance.  DHS will verify the child’s enrollment and attendance beginning at age seven at application and redetermination using form DHS-3380 or telephone contact with the child’s school. 

The new BEM 245 also clarifies that, in addition to other verification sources, full-time school attendance may be verified by “other acceptable documentation that is on official business letterhead.”  

What Should Advocates Do?

1.      Educate clients and community organizations about these changes.  A community education flyer is available on CCJ’s Web site: www.ccj-mi.org.  Encourage families to talk to their child’s school to find out what criteria is used to evaluate school attendance and to verify how absences are on the child’s record.

2.      When appropriate, help clients request hearings, obtain legal help for same, and/or present information at administrative hearings.

3.      Help clients get verification that they need to show compliant school attendance.

4.      Share information with CCJ and other advocates about the effects of this program.  Specifically, tell CCJ about families that are being harmed by this policy using the contact information above. 

 

5.      If you have clients who live in Genesee County and need help, have them call CCJ’s Family Economic Security Project at 810-244-8044.

What Should Clients Do?

1.      Ask your school about its attendance policies and at what point the school will notify parents about a problem with attendance.  Make sure that your child’s records accurately show attendance and absences.

2.      Contact your child’s school any time your child has to miss class and has a good reason to miss.  Keep copies of any papers that help prove the reason (like a doctor’s appointment).  Keep a calendar with notes on the phone calls you make.  Send a note to the school if your child has an excuse for being absent.  Make sure to keep a copy of the note.

3.      Turn in verification about school attendance or reasons for absences when you are asked to do so by DHS.  Do not ignore these requests and make sure you understand when they are due.  Keep a record of how and when you submitted the completed form to DHS.

4.      Ask your caseworker for help if you do not understand what information is needed, or if there is not enough time to get the form filled out between when you received it and when it is due.  If you cannot reach your caseworker, contact her/his supervisor.

5.      Keep envelopes that all documents from DHS, including your Verification Checklist, come in so that you know the dates they were mailed by DHS.

6.      For help, you can call our toll-free Food Assistance Helpline, at: 1-800-481-4989.  

7.      Get legal help if you are told your cash assistance is going to be ended.

8.      Read your notices carefully.  If your FIP is ending, you have the right to request a hearing.  If DHS receives your hearing request within the deadline given in your notice, you will continue to receive FIP at your current level.  BUT, if you lose at the hearing, you may have to pay the money back that you got, but should not have.

9.      If you want to get back on FIP once your child starts going to school full-time, reapply.

 

10.  If you live in Genesee County and need help, call CCJ’s Family Economic Security Project at 810-244-8044. 

Finding Help

Most legal aid and legal services offices handle these types of cases, and they do not charge a fee. You can locate various sources of legal and related services, including the free legal aid office that serves your county, at MichiganLegalAid.org. You can also look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738.