Issue Alert 12-09-01Program Area: Family Independence Program (FIP)Issue Summary: DHS policy effective 10-1-12 requires full-time school attendance by both dependent children and minor parents for continued eligibility for FIP. If FIP is terminated due to inadequate school enrollment or attendance, reinstatement will not occur until the student attends 21 consecutive days of school.Persons Affected: All FIP groups with dependent children between ages of 6 and 17 or with a child age 18 and attending school fulltime.Date: September 27, 2012For More Information: Center for Civil Justice Michigan Poverty Law 320 S. Washington, 2nd Floor Program Saginaw, MI 48607 611 Church Street, Suite 4A (989) 755-3120, (800)724-7441 Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3000 Fax: (989) 755-3558 (734) 998-6100 E-mail: email@example.com (734) 998-9125 FaxBACKGROUNDDHS has announced that it is modifying policy to require school attendance by all childrenunder 16 in the FIP group in order for the family to maintain FIP eligibility. The details ofthe new policy will not be public on the DHS website until October 1st. It has been DHS’srecent practice not to post the policy until its effective date. The Bridges Policy Bulletin(BPB) announcing the policy changes has not been posted, either, but has been providedto some organizations and news outlets. This Alert is based on the BPB.CCJ plans to update this information as soon as possible after the policy is published.Advocates working with affected families may contact the Center for Civil Justice foradditional information.Current PolicyUnder current policy, dependent children age 16 or 17, dependent children age 18attending high school full time and expected to graduate before age 19, and all minor
parents must attend school full time. Their school attendance must be verified atapplication, redetermination, and at each birthday.If a dependent child ages 16-18 fails to verify full-time attendance, she or he is noteligible for FIP. If the 16-18 year old is the only dependent child in the group, and she orhe fails to verify school attendance, the parent(s) also will become ineligible for FIP. Ifthe 16-17 year old child has graduated from high school, she or he remains eligible untilage 18. (BEM 210, 240 and 245.) [Note: the policy on 16 and 17-year olds was new inOctober 2011, prior to that date, 16- and 17- year olds who did not attend school wereassigned to JET and the entire family could be disqualified if the teen failed to comply withJET without good cause.]If the minor parent is not enrolled in school full time and does not have good cause, theentire group – the parent and all her or his children - will be ineligible for FIP for aminimum of one month.(BEM 201 and 245.)WHATS HAPPENING?Effective on October 1st, DHS is modifying policy to require school attendance by 6through 15 year olds in order for FIP groups to continue to receive benefits. CCJ hasquestions about whether the modified policy is lawful.Verification Requirement: At application and annual redetermination, parents seeking FIPwill have to provide verification of full time school attendance for children ages 6 through16 (and those age 18 who are attending high school fulltime and expected to graduatebefore age 19). For 16 and 17-year-olds who are dependent children in the group, andfor minor parents, verification will be required at application and redetermination and ateach birthday.The policy is modified by adding FIP school attendance requirements for dependentchildren from age 6 to 17, as well as for minor parents under age 17. It does includesome correspondence and web-based courses that are administered by a school or usedas part of a home school curriculum. Some home schooling is acceptable if it is part of anorganized educational program which includes specific educational subject areas. CCJthinks that DHS Form 3380 currently in use to verify education for 16 and 17 year oldswill need to be significantly modified. If a member of the FIP group fails to satisfyrequirement for student enrollment or attendance, the entire group’s eligibility forFIP is lost. In order to regain FIP eligibility for the group, full-time school attendance ismandatory and must be verified for 21 consecutive calendar days. How benefits will be
calculated or paid for this interim 21-day period, or whether the family is disqualified forbenefits during this period, is unclear.Verification of enrollment and attendance is required at application and redeterminationfor all students from age 6 and up. A referral to CPS and the school district truancyofficer is required if a dependent child age 6 to 17 is not enrolled or attending school orparticipating in an organized education program.There a number of practical questions that are not clear at this time: - How does the policy accommodate the special needs of children with disabilities? - What absences will be excused, how are they verified and by whom? - What is required of a parent who cannot receive paid childcare (because the child is 13 or older) but whose job requires them to leave home before the child leaves for school? WHAT SHOULD ADVOCATES DO? 1. Stay tuned for updated issue alert with comprehensive analysis as soon as possible after the policy is issued (presumably on 10-1-12). 2. Educate clients and community organizations about this change. 3. Provide information to CCJ about families that are being harmed by the policy. Please call CCJ at the number at the top of this form, to find out how to communicate information to CCJ. 4. Help clients request and present information at administrative hearings when appropriate. WHAT SHOULD CLIENTS DO? 1. Contact your child’s school any time your child has to miss class and has a good reason to miss school. Keep copies of any papers that help prove the reason (like medical appointments). 2. Turn in verification when you are asked to do so. Do not ignore it and make sure you understand when it is due. Keep a record of how and when you submitted the completed form to DHS. 3. 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 the caseworker, contact the supervisor.4. Keep envelopes that your verification checklist letter comes in so you know the date it was actually mailed.5. Seek legal advice if you are told your cash assistance benefits are going to be terminated due to student enrollment or attendance issues.6. 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, will owe DHS any assistance you were not entitled to). Seek legal help if you request a hearing.