Kinship, Grandparents as Foster Parents, Guardianship
Some states have programs that provide a monthly subsidy payment to grandparents and other relatives who obtain guardianship of the children they are raising.
These subsidized guardianship programs strive to provide income support to these families and permanency for the children. Each state's program differs. In general, however, subsidized guardianships are designed for those children who have been in state custody, with a relative or non-relative providing the care, for at least six months and in some states up to two years. These subsidized guardianships give the caregiver the opportunity to become the legal guardian of the child, thereby replacing the state in that role. The court that considers the guardianship reviews the existing placement and, in those cases of older children, often seeks the input of the child as well.
Reunification with the parents and/or adoption generally must be ruled out as placement options. If the court finds that the guardianship is in the "best interests" of the child and grants it, the state no longer has custody. After guardianship is granted, the state issues a monthly subsidy check to the guardian for the care of the child. The subsidy is sometimes less than the foster care payment in that state, but usually more than the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) child-only grants, and continued eligibility for the subsidy is typically re-determined annually. The subsidy payments usually end when the guardianship terminates or when the child turns 18, although several states continue the subsidy until the child reaches age 21 or 22 provided he or she is attending school.
At least sixteen states have these subsidized guardianship programs: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri (2 programs), Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Of these states, California, Florida and Wisconsin use TANF block grant funds to finance their programs. For more information about these programs, GU has a fact sheet, which is available here which you can print out.
Title IV-E Waivers:
In addition to the state programs, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a five year waiver program so states may use foster care funds available through Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to test various programs, including subsidized guardianships. Between 1996-98, California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Montana and North Carolina applied for and received waivers to test subsidized guardianships. In fall 1999, HHS also granted waivers to the District of Columbia and New Mexico to test these programs and approved an extension of Oregon's existing Title IV-E waiver project to include such a program.
Some states have similar financial assistance programs that do not require the child to have been in state custody:
Missouri has a "Grandparents as Foster Parents" program, which is in the Missouri Statutes at section 208.029. This program started in 1997, and as of March 2001, the program is serving more than 2,538 children. There are no age restrictions for the children and the program is not limited to children with special needs. Grandparents (or other relatives) who become either the child's legal custodian or guardian and attend foster parent training are eligible to receive the monthly subsidy payments. Despite the name of the program, the grandparent does not become a foster parent. The grandparent may refuse foster parent training, but would not be eligible for all of the benefits. In order to obtain the monthly subsidy, only the child's income is tested. The maximum subsidy is the same as the foster care rate. The state's TANF block grant funds are used to finance this program. For a copy of the law establishing this program, click here. For further information, contact the Missouri Department of Social Services, Division of Family Services, Children's Services at (573)751-1354.
Louisiana has a "Kinship Care Subsidy Program," which can be found in the Louisiana Revised Statutes at section 46:23. This program started on March 1, 2000 and has no age restrictions for the children and is not limited to children with special needs. Relatives who become either a child's legal custodian or guardian and have an income less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible to receive the monthly subsidy payments. The amount of the subsidy is set at $222, which is roughly half of Louisiana's foster care rate (that rate varies between $11.03 and $13.29 a day, depending on the age of the child) and $150 more than the state's TANF child-only grant. The state's TANF block grant funds are used to finance this program. For further information about this program, click here . You can also contact the Louisiana Department of Social Services, Office of Family Support in Baton Rouge at (225) 342-3947. If you reside in Louisiana and are interested in applying for this program, you must contact the Office of Family Support in your parish.
Credits: Source: Generations United, (c) 2002. Reprinted with permission.