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Home > Advocacy > CWLA 2005 Children's Legislative Agenda > Kinship Care


CWLA 2005 Children's Legislative Agenda

Kinship Care


  • Sponsor and support the Kinship Caregiver Support Act, bipartisan legislation to assist the millions of children who are being raised by relatives because their parents cannot care for them.

History and Key Facts

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) will reintroduce the Kinship Caregiver Support Act, which would create a Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program to provide federal funds to states for subsidized guardianship programs to assist relative caregivers and their children, establish a Kinship Navigator Program, and ensure notice to relatives when children enter foster care.

Federal Funding to Support Guardianship Placements
The Kinship Caregiver Support Act would allow states to use Title IV-E funds to help provide subsidized guardianship assistance payments to relatives so the children they care for won't have to remain in foster care. The Adoption and Safe Families Act, enacted in 1997, recognizes placement with a relative or a legal guardian as a permanency option for children in foster care; however, the federal government makes no funds available on a continuing basis to help those relatives care for the children. In the past, some states have received federal funding to support this permanency option through approval of a Title IV-E child welfare waiver.

This new federal support would help some of the relatives who are caring for children in foster care. It will help those relative caregivers provide foster care to children who have been in care for at least 12 months and whose care is paid for in part under Title IV-E Foster Care. Return to birthparents or adoption would have to be ruled out as an appropriate option for the child, the child would have to demonstrate a strong attachment to the relative guardian, and the guardian would have to have a commitment to the child. If the child is 14 or older, he or she would have to be consulted.

Kinship Navigator Program
The legislation also provides support to states and large metropolitan areas to establish kinship navigator programs, which would help grandparents and other relatives learn about and obtain assistance to meet the needs of the children they are raising. Grants would also facilitate effective community-based partnerships between public and private nonprofit and faith-based agencies. These partnerships would bring together resources and support from a range of agencies that currently address the needs of children, youth, and the elderly.

Notice of Children Entering Foster Care
The legislation would require states to notify relatives when children enter foster care within 60 days of a child's removal from custody. Notice must be provided to all adult grandparents and other adult relatives, including relatives suggested by the parent(s). Exceptions can be made to this requirement in cases of family or domestic violence.

The Importance of Kinship Care and Guardianship

Kinship care is a situation in which an adult family member, such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or other relative, provides a home for a child who cannot live with his or her parents. The practice is not new, but it has grown over the last several years.
  • According to the 2000 Census, some 6 million children live with relatives--4.5 million live with grandparents, a 30% increase between 1990 and 2000. 1 Most of these families are not a part of the formal child welfare system.

  • Approximately one quarter of all children in kinship care live in families that receive either a foster care payment or a child-only payment through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). 2 The remaining families do not receive federal financial support, even if these families are in need of support and services.

  • According to the 2000 Census, almost 20% of grandparents responsible for their grandchildren live in poverty. Overall population statistics in 1997 indicated that 27% of children living in grandparent-maintained homes lived below the poverty level, compared with 19% in households maintained by parents. 3
Kinship placements for children in the child welfare system have increased in recent years. The U.S. Children's Bureau gives three major reasons for this growth: the number of nonkin foster parents has not kept up with need, child welfare agencies view the kinship option more positively, and courts have placed a higher value on the rights of relatives to act as foster parents. 4
  • Approximately 131,000 out of 540,563 children in the formal foster care system in the United States were living with relatives in 2001. 5

  • Of the 185,700 children living in long-term foster care and awaiting a permanent setting in 2002, 46,000 (one in four) lived with a relative. 6
Subsidized guardianship is another important permanency option for relatives who care for children. These guardianship arrangements are frequently in place when adoption is not an appropriate option. States currently use a variety of approaches to fund kinship arrangements and subsidized guardianship placements. Most recently, some states have received federal funding through use of a Title IV-E child welfare waiver. States have also relied on other sources of federal funding, such as TANF or the Social Services Block Grant. Other states have relied exclusively on state and local funds.
  • The use of subsidized guardianships is relatively new; Massachusetts established the first such program in 1983. In 2004, 35 states and the District of Columbia had subsidized guardianship programs. 7
Kinship care and subsidized guardianship programs may allow a qualified relative to step in and provide care--care they may not otherwise be able to give because of the financial burdens such a role may require. Additionally, these relative placements may offer an emotional and cultural benefit to children who cannot return safely to their parents and for whom adoption is not an appropriate option.
The use of subsidized kinship and guardianship arrangements touches on only a portion of the families caring for a relative's child. Many relative caregivers, in and out of the child welfare system, face challenges in accessing some of the most basic services for the children in their care. Grandparents who may have raised their own children years ago may not be familiar with the latest school, child care, and health care services and requirements. Access to legal services and support groups may also represent a new challenge. For many of these families, getting help in finding and applying for such services can be a critical support. Some states, such as New Jersey and Ohio, have responded to these concerns by establishing "navigator" programs that help all kin obtain services in their communities and get answers to questions. 8


  1. U.S. Census Bureau. (2000). Census 2000 Summary File 1: Table P28, Relationship by Household Type for Population Under 18 Years. Retrieved online, February 4, 2005. Washington, DC: Author.
  2. Jantz, A.; Geen, R.; Bess, R; Scarcella, C.A.; & Russell, V. (2002). The Continuing Evolution of State Kinship Care Policies [Assessing the New Federalism, Discussion Paper No. 02-11]. Retrieved online, February 4, 2005. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
  3. Frantz, A.; Steinig, S.; & Biscarr, M.. (2002). Fact Sheet: Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children: Challenges of Caring for the Second Family. Retrieved online, February 4, 2005. Washington, DC: Generations United.
  4. U.S. Children's Bureau. (2000). Report to Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Retrieved online, February 4, 2005. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families.
  5. Macomber, J.E.; Geen, R.; & Main, R. (2003). Snapshots of America's Families III: No. 14. Kinship Foster Care: Custody, Hardships, and Services. Retrieved online, February 4, 2005. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
  6. Fostering Results, Children and Family Research Center. (2004). Family Ties: Supporting Permanence for Children in Safe and Stable Foster Care With Relatives and Other Caregivers. Retreived online, February 4, 2005. Chicago: Children and Family Research Center, School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  7. Allen, M. L. (2004). States' Subsidized Guardianship Laws At A Glance. Retrieved online, February 4, 2005. Washington, DC: Children's Defense Fund.
  8. New Jersey Department of Human Services. (n.d.). Kinship Navigator Program. [Program brochure]. Retrieved online, February 4, 2005. Trenton: Author.

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John Sciamanna

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