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'I was hardly surviving' | San Diego County collected over $3 million in social security payouts from foster children without their knowledge

San Diego County as well as counties across California have collected millions from foster children and deposited it in the general fund.

Steve Price, Dorian Hargrove

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Published: 6:52 AM PDT May 16, 2023
Updated: 6:52 AM PDT May 16, 2023

"It was just hard because I couldn't really survive. I was cold. It was raining. I really couldn't survive. Some days I didn't have enough money to get a bite to eat." says Katrina, as she stands in knee-high weeds near a La Mesa trolley station, the small plot of land where she pitched her two-person tent, the place where she once called home. 

Katrina is one of thousands of former foster children who are forced into homelessness as soon as they become adults.

She is also one of the hundreds of foster children who had their social security benefits taken without their knowledge and deposited into county coffers.

"I didn't even know that I qualified for that," said Katrina about the survivor benefits that she was entitled to after her dad died from a heart attack when she was nine and her mom died just two years later.

"I'm extremely disappointed because I really needed that support. Even before I experienced homelessness, I knew that I was going to be homeless, even before."

Since 2015, San Diego County has taken more than $3 million in social security or disability payments from foster children without their knowledge or consent and deposited it into county bank accounts.

Katrina isn't sure where her survivor benefits went. She had moved between San Bernardino and San Diego Counties prior to turning 18.

One thing she does know is that the money that she was entitled to her would have helped her wade through the flood of difficulties that so many foster youth experiences.

"It's hard for us to even adapt to the normal life. It's hard for us to get through life since we don't know what we need," added Katrina.

Katrina is not alone.

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