James Wood’s mother struggled with addiction, and he often found himself adrift, not knowing what day or month it was. “I didn’t understand how time worked,” he said.

When James was 14, his mother died of pneumonia, and he entered California’s foster care system. As a minor with a deceased parent and a disability, James was entitled to federal benefits, totaling $780 a month, some of which his mother had accrued during the years that she worked as a nurse.

But James never received the benefits. The government got the money instead, according to James and his adoptive father, Wayne Stidham.


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