General, SSI

Social Security’s Benefits for Children

May 26, 2016 • By

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Last Updated: March 17, 2021

Social Security is with you through life’s journey — from birth, to death, and even beyond, by helping to care for surviving dependents. Every year, about 4.4 million children receive monthly benefits because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired, or deceased. When a parent becomes disabled or dies, Social Security benefits help to stabilize the family’s financial situation in an otherwise turbulent time.

Earlier this year, National Birth Defects Prevention Month in January and National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March both raised awareness about medical conditions in children. Many families with children who have birth defects or developmental disabilities need medical and financial help. This is where Social Security’s commitment to helping children and families is most evident.

Social Security pays benefits through our disability insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Our disability program provides vital income for disabled children, including people disabled since childhood. To qualify for children’s benefits under our disability program, the applicant must be the child of a parent entitled to benefits and meet Social Security’s strict definition of disability. A person is disabled under the Social Security Act if he or she can’t work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year or result in death.

The SSI program provides payments to blind or disabled children who live in households with low income and limited resources if they meet our strict definition of disability. You can find more information on eligibility requirements by visiting our website.

Our publication, Benefits for Children explains all we do to care for children. Our website is also an excellent source of information. If you think a child you know is eligible for benefits, don’t wait. Share this information and help improve the child’s quality of life today.

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications


  1. Mike M.

    My Son Receives SS because of me,and Yet he has only gotten one raise the whole time he get’s it, can anyone answer me why he doesn’t get one???

  2. Craig D.

    I am on social security I had lost my job 7 years ago and was homeless 10 mos. My oldest daughter is 25 and they still want me to pay child support. my social security is fix income. I have enough to eat , and pay rent that it.

  3. Christi H.

    My daughter is 17 and we have been receiving survivor benefits for several years due to my husbands death. She is now trying to tell me that the money that we have been receiving should be hers, and not for me to help raise her. She has even mentioned seeking a lawyer. I cannot seem to find a valid answer as to who actually is responsible for the money. Both of our names are on the check and I have been using it to supplement my income to be able to keep our lives afloat. I have just been blind sided by this situation and I just want to know legally is it her money or not?

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question Christi. The survivor’s benefit you receive is paid to help meet your daughter’s basic needs. You are the assigned representative payee for your daughter’s benefits. We appoint a payee to receive the Social Security benefits for anyone who can’t manage or direct the management of his or her benefits. The law requires most minor children to have payees. As a payee, your main duty is to make sure the current needs of the beneficiary (your daughter) are met. You should use benefits for current needs (such as food, clothing, shelter, utilities, dental and medical care, and personal comfort items), or for reasonably foreseeable needs. You must use benefits in the best interests of the beneficiary, according to your best judgment. You can find answers to many questions by visiting our website at: For further guidance, you can call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 and speak to one of our agents. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. or you can contact your local Social Security office directly.

      • Michelle D.

        Hey I filed for benefits for my 9 yr old son and was told that he was newly approved and i also received a direct express card for him but he hasn’t received any kind of payment from y’all why is that

        • Vonda V.

          Hi Michelle, thank you for using our blog to ask your question. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information.

  4. Andrew R.

    Im on disability in IL due to an injury at work. Ive been on disability since 2013. I have 3 children 1 who is now 18 but was under 18 at the time I started receiving disability. The other 2 whom are 4 and 1 and live with me. I have been told numerous times that I cannot receive benefits for them. I am also married and have been told she cant even get spousal benefits so why is this? They tell me its bc I have too much income but tell me how $1218 a month is too much with 4 people in the household?

    • Ray F.

      Hi Andrew. Generally, when you qualify for Social Security disability benefits, your children may also qualify to receive benefits on your record. However, we must first establish and pay benefits to you, the insured individual. However, keep in mind that there is a limit to the amount we can pay on your record. We probably need additional information to provide a reasonable explanation to your situation. Unfortunately, but for your security, we do not have access to personal records in this blog. Please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213. One of our agents should be able to provide you with an explanation and answer questions about this matter. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day, or later in the week. Thanks.

  5. Nicole

    Our nephew is going blind and prior to going into foster care, received SS benefits -I presume through SSI 9both parents are still alive). We’re likely going to become his legal guardians. Would his SSI eligibility/payments be dependent on how much we made? Or would he not be eligible for payments under legal guardianship?

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question Nicole. For Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries, we generally consider their living arrangements as another factor used to determine how much SSI they can get. Also, any food or shelter they get from someone else may reduce their SSI benefit. Please visit our “Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Home Page” for more information. The rules for SSI can be complicated and vary depending on the situation. We recommend that you contact your local office or call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thanks.

  6. Etty G.

    If children are eligible for social security benefits and they are in school out of the country can they still receive the benefit?

    • Ann C.

      Normally, benefits for children stop when children reach age 18, unless they are disabled. However, if the child is still a full-time student at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, Social Security benefits can continue until the child graduates or until two months after the child becomes age 19, whichever is first. If the child is a U. S. citizen, they may receive Social Security benefits outside the United States as long as they are eligible. There are certain countries, however, to which we cannot send payments. Please see our publication “Social Security — Your Payments While You Are Outside the United States”. We remind you that Social Security beneficiaries living outside the U.S. are required to report life-changing events while receiving benefits. When living abroad, you may contact your local U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. Disabled children whose parents have little income or resources may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI). SSI payments will usually stop if the individual leaves the United States for a full calendar month, 30 consecutive days or more. We hope this information helps.

  7. vita

    how can retired legal, custodial guardians of a minor child (not kin) lobby for Child Benefits for the child until the child is 19 or no longer in high school? I am the guardian of my daughter (16 yo) and her sole support but cannot receive Child Benefits because I cannot adopt her, I am not her step-parent, and am not her biological parent. My daughter and I need to money and should be entitled to it except for a ridiculous technicality because of the title “guardian.” Thanks

    • Bob

      Go through your state’s health and welfare. You can apply for benefits on your ward’s behalf and possibly get subsidized payments as well.

  8. Kathy M.

    It is not fair that I am the LEGAL GUARDIAN of my granddaughter and I cannot get benefits for her because SSA doesn’t recognize this – even though every other fed/local agency does plus insurance companies. Why not?? The brochures infer that I can, but in reality, if my granddaughters parents are alive and incarcerated, I cannot – if I haven’t adopted her, I cannot – people need to know this because millions of people take legal custody and so there is an assumption that, as raising that child as their own LEGALLY, would get benefits. I am disabled due to stage 1V cancer, my husband died in 2015 – we were/I am legal guardian and have been since 2007 but can’t get benefits for my granddaughter – If I die from cancer – she is really out of options – how can this be? At this rate, my husband and I, who paid all our lives will have no option to get our own benefits or pass on to any qualified survivors – how can this be?

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your comment Kathy. Under current law, Social Security can only pay benefits to grandchildren if certain conditions are met. In addition to providing for more than 50% of their support (as you may be doing now), the biological parents of the children must be deceased or disabled, or you must have legally adopted them. However, you have the right to file an application for benefits for your grandchildren and receive an official denial of your claim from Social Security, which will provide you appeals rights, if in case you wish to seek legal advice to verify our decision. For more information or to make an appointment, please call our 1-800-772-1213 toll free number. Representatives are available Monday to Friday, between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

      • Lisa

        I have had legal custody of my two grandchildren for 7 years and am finally in the process of adopting them but it will be months, I have asked several times to have them on my disability to no avail, but their mother is on disability so wouldn’t that qualify??

  9. Heather

    Question? My husband passed away in November 2016. My 3 children receive SS survivor benefits monthly which maxes out the total benefit. I receive nothing from SS. I found out today that my children no longer qualify for food assistance because we are not considered over income. I wasn’t aware that a minors income from SS is considered when it comes to food and Medicaid benefits. Can someone please explain? The checks are not in my name they are in my minor children names. listing myself as guardian.
    Thank you.

  10. Brittany

    I just have hopefully an easy question. I have a son and his father died before he was born, and we receive SS benefits for him that we use for him, and place some aside for him later in life… however I am in a relationship now with a man who is his “father”, (all my son has ever known) and I want to give him legal custody of my son.. can I do this without myself losing custody, or losing his SS benefit?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Brittany. Legal custody or even adoption will not affect his benefits as a surviving child. If your son is adopted, let us know his new name, the date of the adoption decree, and the adopting parent’s name and address. Again, the adoption won’t cause benefits to end. For more information, see page 9 of our publication “What You Need to Know When You Get Retirement or Survivors Benefits”. We hope this helps.

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