The Children’s Bureau has released instructions (ACYF-CB-PI-18-05) on how states can draw down $20 million in FY 2018 Kinship Navigator funds.

The $20 million was added as part of the March-approved FY 2018 appropriations bills. It was attached to Title IV-B part 2, Promoting Safe and Stable Families. Unlike the Kinship-Navigator funds (which require programs to meet an evidence standard) that will become available under the Family First Act on October 1, 2018 and unlike the $15 million in Family Connections Grants that was a temporary 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. These funds do 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 appropriations are designed to advance model navigator programs. Under the Family First Act, states are required to have programs that meet the well-supported, supported, and promising standards. The $20 million approved in March sets aside $1 million of the $20 million total 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). That means that funding must generally:

• Coordinate with state or local agencies that promote service coordination or provide information and referral services;
• Establish information and referral systems that link (including toll free access) kinship caregivers, kinship support group facilitators, and kinship service providers;
• Provide outreach to kinship care families, including by establishing, distributing, and updating a kinship care website, or other relevant guides or outreach materials;
• Promote partnerships between public and private agencies, including schools, community based or faith-based organizations, and relevant government agencies, to increase their knowledge of the needs of kinship care families and other individuals who are willing and able to be foster parents for children in foster care under the responsibility of the State who are themselves parents to promote better services for those families;
and optionally:
• May establish and support a kinship care ombudsman with authority to intervene and help kinship caregivers access services; and/or
• May support any other activities designed to assist kinship caregivers in obtaining benefits and services to improve their caregiving.

Under the FY 2018 funding, minimal grants are $25,000 for the nine Tribal organizations that have a Title IV-E program and $200,000 for states. There is no match required and the funding for states is divided using the current formula used to distribute the Promoting Safe and Stable Families funds. California ($1.085 million), Texas ($1.018 million), Florida ($753 thousand) and New York ($637 thousand) are the largest state grants and Navajo Nation ($274 thousand) is the largest Tribal grant.

The grants (which can be stretched out) are from 2018 only unless Congress extends the $20 million in the FY 2019 appropriations.