Are All Foster Children Excluded From Family Size?

Award Year: 2024-25 KA-36759 Helpfulness Rating 644 page views

This guidance is specific to the 2024-25 award year and later. For 2023-24* award year guidance see AskRegs Q&A, Are All Foster Children Excluded From Household Size?

No, foster children are not automatically excluded from family size on the FAFSA. Only those children for whom the foster care system, state, or other entity provides more than half support are excluded from family size on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

Starting with the 2024-25 award year, family size is based on federal tax information (FTI) transferred directly from the IRS to the FAFSA via the FUTURE Act Direct Data Exchange (FA-DDX). This means the number of dependents in the family size is now based on the number of individuals who are claimed as dependents on either the applicant’s (if independent) or parent’s (if dependent) U.S. federal tax return. If the foster child is a dependent on the applicable tax return, they will be included in the family size. For more information about who can be claimed as a dependent on a federal tax return, see the IRS document Overview of the Rules for Claiming a Dependent.

If the family size has changed since the FTI was pulled in, the FAFSA contributor may manually enter the family size if:

If the dependent student's parent is providing more than half of the foster child's support throughout the award year covered by the FAFSA, then the child can be included in the parent's family size. The same is true for a foster child being cared for by an independent student. The same is also true for children who are placed in kinship care or kinship foster care by a Child Welfare Program or Child Protective Services Program which does not provide benefits covering more than half of the child's support throughout the award year covered by the FAFSA.

For example, a dependent student’s parents are caring for a cousin who has been placed under kinship foster care of the student’s parents by Child Welfare. The student’s parents receive no foster care or other benefits supporting the cousin. The parents provide more than half of the cousin’s support and will continue to provide more than half support through June 30 of the award year covered by the FAFSA. The cousin is included in the dependent student's parent's household size.

The guidance in Chapter 2 of the Application and Verification Guide volume of FSA Handbook, which indicates that foster children are not to be included in family size, assumes that the foster care agency is providing more than half of the foster child’s support.

This guidance has been confirmed with NASFAA by the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

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AskRegs Q&As represent NASFAA's understanding of regulatory and compliance issues. They are FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY. While NASFAA believes AskRegs Q&As are accurate and factual, they have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). If you should need written confirmation of AskRegs information for audit or program review purposes, please contact your ED School Participation Division. NASFAA shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein; nor for incidental or consequential damages resulting from the furnishing, performance, or use of this material.