Senators Clinton and Snowe Introduce "Kinship Care" Bill
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May 13, 2005, Washington, DC -- Legislation aimed at providing federal resources to help the growing number of children in the U. S. now being cared for by relatives was introduced this week by Senators Clinton and Snowe.
Shay Bilchik, President and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America, praised Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) for their introduction of the Kinship Caregiver Support Act and called them compassionate champions of children. "On behalf of the millions of children being raised by their extended families, we are extremely grateful to them for their leadership and on going commitment to helping kinship families get the support and services they need to ensure that a child is safe and protected."
The legislation, S.985, is a reintroduction of legislation sponsored by the senators late last year. It attempts to help kin families by both providing greater information and support to families experiencing the challenges of becoming parents again to their relative children. It would also expand current federal funding now limited to foster care and adoption assistance to some kinship families now involved with the child welfare system.
CWLA, as well as other organizations, have been working closely with Senator Clinton and Senator Snowe to develop this legislation to assist kinship families. Senator Thad Cochrane (R-MS) and Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) joined the two senators in being original sponsors. At the time of its introduction the legislation had already garnered the endorsements of the AARP, Generations United, the Children's Defense Fund, the Evan P. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Grandparents for Children's Rights, the National Caucus of Black State Legislators, and Voices for Adoption.
The Kinship Caregiver Support Act will:
- Establish a "Kinship Navigator" program to link kinship caregivers with the support and services they need. Grants will be provided to state and localities to establish toll-free hotlines, websites, and resource guides on locally-based parenting support available to kinship families, including critical information about how to enroll children in school, how to obtain Medicaid and other health care, how to safeguard their homes for small children, how to apply for housing assistance, how to obtain legal services, and how to find child care.
- Create a subsidized guardianship option with the federal foster care system, Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. This title will make it possible for kinship caregivers to provide care in a formal arrangement through the foster care system. Families in subsidized guardianship arrangements will retain legal status of the children in their care without forgoing the foster care maintenance payments that offset the significant costs associated with raising children. States will also have to ability to establish separate licensing standards for these families as long as safety and background check requirements are maintained.
- States will be required to put in place a process of informing relatives when a child is taken into the custody of the state child welfare system.
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