Shaquita Ogletree
The Congressional Foster Youth Caucus hosted a Kinship Navigator Programs Roundtable Discussion on May 23. Congressperson Karen Bass (D-CA), Congressman Tom Marino (R-PA) and Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) all offered remarks before the panel discussion.

The panel discussion included one of the Shadow Day interns (see below) Brittany from Michigan who shared her experiences about foster care and kinship care along with comments from Jaia Lent, Generations United, Dr. Kerry Littlewood, KIN Tech, Lawrence Cooper and Tena Randecker, the Children’s Home Network (CHN).

Brittany spoke about her experience and the process of her grandparents taking her and her siblings in when she was 16 years of age. She described her entry into foster care and being placed in a group home where she experienced additional trauma before finally reunifying with relatives.

Generations United’s Jaia Lent said that grandparents have had a significant impact on addressing drug epedemics, raising grandchildren since the crack-cocaine, meth-amphetamines and now the opioid epidemics. Relatives have been stepping in to raise children more now than ever. More than one-third of all children placed in foster care because of parental substance are placed with relatives. She went on to say that with a need for more family foster homes and understanding that children do better with relatives kinship care is playing an essential role.

Kinship navigator programs can help connect relative caregiver families to crucial information and referral services. With the passage of the Family First Prevention Service Act of 2018, new funding for these programs is potentially available if they meet the evidenced-based standards outlined in that law.

Florida’s Children’s Home Network (CHN) was awarded a kinship navigator grant under the original grants provided through the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success Act (PL 110-351). As part of that grant they included a randomized control trial of their kinship navigator program.

CHN’s Kinship Navigator model, KIN Tech, supported 1550 grandparents raising grandchildren. The model included peer-to-peer support. Compared to standardized foster care services, results varied at the 12 month follow-up period. Children whose caregivers received child welfare services usually scored lower in protective factors and were more likely to return to foster care at the 12 month follow-up period. Caregivers enrolled in peer-to-peer navigator program indicated higher level of support with the usage of TANF child-only grants as one of those supports. The study reported that cost of kinship placements was under $19 per child compared to $492 per child for foster care relative placement.

CHN added another program to the project in the framework of designing a system with peer to peer support in mind. Mrs. Randecker, now a Kinship Navigator for CHN, recounted her experience as a relative caregiver and how she was unaware of the resources available to relative caregivers until she enrolled in the Kinship program at CHN.

Under the Family First Act, navigator programs will be eligible for a 50 percent match on administrative costs if they meet the standards of the law. To help facilitate the spread of navigator programs under the new law, Congress approved $20 million in state grants through the FY 2018 appropriations.

The Children’s Bureau has released instructions (ACYF-CB-PI-18-05) on how states can draw down their share of the $20 million. Unlike the Kinship-Navigator funds that will become available under the Family First Act on October 1, 2018 and unlike the temporary $15 million in Family Connections Grants that was part of the Fostering Connections to Success Act of 2008, these funds are available to all 50 states, Tribes that have Title IV-E funds and the territories. Funding does not have to meet the evidence based-requirements under Family First Act and it is not a competition as was the case under the Fostering Connections to Success Act.

The $20 million approved in March sets aside $1 million for research. The funding states receive, unless used for development of programs, is to be used in the same way as the Family Connections Completive Grants (that was part of Fostering Connections).