2008 Legislative Hot Topics
Kinship Care and Guardianship Assistance
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The Importance of Kinship Care and Guardianship
- Cosponsor and support the Kinship Caregiver Support Act (S. 661 and H.R. 2188) in the U.S Senate and the U.S House of Representatives. These bills will assist millions of children being raised by relatives and other non-relative legal guardians because their parents cannot care for them.
- Kinship care is a situation when 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. Kinship placements for children in child welfare keep families united during a crisis, and provide emotional and cultural benefits to children who cannot return safely to their parents, or for whom adoption is not an option. 1 Given these benefits and many others documented by research, it is important kinship care continue. It is also important to remember that, due to the financial burden, many relatives cannot provide kinship care without relying heavily on assistance.
Subsidized guardianships are relatively new. Massachusetts established the first program in 1983. By 2004, 35 states and the District of Columbia had subsidized guardianship programs. Congress enacted the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) in 1997, recognizing a child's placement with a relative or a legal guardian as a permanency option for children in foster care. Currently, the federal government does not make funds available on a continuing basis to support those placements.
States use many approaches to fund kinship arrangements and subsidized guardianship placements. A limited number of states can use Title IV-E Foster Care funds through a waiver from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Other states rely on other federal sources, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). Both TANF and SSBG, however, are used to fund other vital human services and are already under budget pressure.
Legislation Supporting Grandparents, Relatives, and Legal Guardians Caring for Abused and Neglected Children
The Kinship Caregiver Support Act is bipartisan legislation introduced in both the Senate and House. This bill affirms the importance of non-parental caregivers in the lives of abused and neglected children. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Thad Cochran (R-MS) sponsored the Senate bill (S. 661), and Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL) and Timothy Johnson (R-IL) sponsored the House bill (H.R. 2188). These bills would help the millions of children being raised by relatives and other caregivers because their parents are not able to care for them. Both bills would allow states to use federal Title IV-E foster care funds for subsidized guardianship assistance payments. These bills would also establish kinship navigator programs to help grandparents and other relatives obtain information and referral services. The legislation also requires states notify relatives within 60 days of a child's removal from custody and entrance into foster care. 2
- According to the 2000 Census, 6 million children live with relatives-4.5 million of whom live with grandparents, a 30% increase between 1990 and 2000. Most of these families are not part of the formal child welfare system. 3
- Almost 20% of grandparents with responsibility 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. 4
- Nationally, 2.4 million grandparents report they are responsible for their grandchildren living with them: 29% of these grandparents are African American; 17% are Hispanic/Latino; 2% are American Indian or Alaskan Native; 3% are Asian; and 47% are White. Thirty-four percent of these grandparents live in households without the children's parents present; 71% are under the age of 60. 5
- U.S. Children's Bureau. (2000). Report to congress on kinship foster care. Available online. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families. back
- Access a complete analysis and summary of the legislation. back
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2000). Census 2000 summary file 1: Table P28, relationship by household type for population under 18 Years. Available online. Washington, DC: Author. back
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2000). Census Bureau table DP-2. Profile selected social characteristics 2000. Available online. Washington, DC: Author. back
- U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 summary file 1: Table P28. back
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