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Some alternative kinship programs primarily provide financial assistance, others focus on providing non-financial, supportive services, and still others provide a combination of financial and non-financial services. This section describes how caregivers learn about and become involved in the alternative programs we visited and then describes the types of services they receive through these programs.
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The alternative programs visited rely on referrals and outreach to reach relative caregivers and provide their service offerings. Child welfare agencies and, to a lesser degree, TANF agencies are the primary referral sources for the alternative kinship care programs visited. Many programs also receive referrals from other community agencies or from caregivers themselves. Some programs conduct outreach efforts in order to reach a broader group of families.
As part of the initial program start-up and implementation in Florida and Kentucky, it was necessary to identify and recruit kinship families who would be eligible for the new programs. This was handled by training child welfare workers on the new programs' eligibility requirements, followed by identifying and contacting those families which appeared eligible.
Denver's program is the only TANF-administered alternative kinship care program visited and receives the bulk of its referrals from TANF workers. Child welfare workers receive training about TANF's grandparent program, but the program is still in its infancy and interaction with the child welfare division has yet to be formalized. In San Francisco, the Kinship Support Network receives about half of its referrals from child welfare. Two child welfare workers are on-site at the Edgewood center enabling easier referrals and coordination.
In two states visited, judicial practices affect how kin are served by alternative programs. In Kentucky's child welfare alternative program, relatives are supposed to assume temporary custody of children placed with them, so the children receive less supervision than children who are in state custody. However, some judges have allowed kin to participate in the kinship program, but have ordered the child welfare agency to assume custody. In some parts of Florida, judges are reluctant to adjudicate children placed with kin, instead allowing the kin to care for a child "voluntarily." These caregivers are unable to obtain the relative caregiver payment.
Kentucky's support group program uses schools to identify children whose legal guardians are relatives rather than parents. Resource coordinators send out notices of support group meetings and provide information at school open houses to inform relative caregivers of support groups. Some advertise the support group program through radio, television, newspapers and community calendars. A support group in Oklahoma also distributed informational brochures to schools and other organizations as a form of outreach.
In San Francisco, the Kinship Support Network heavily relies on word of mouth for referrals in addition to referrals from the child welfare agency. The Kinship Support Network is well established and known in the community and its outreach activities include interaction with the schools, churches, community meetings, providing flyers to the county Department of Human Services, and advertising meetings in community newspapers.
Initially, Denver's program conducted presentations at churches, District and City Attorneys' Offices, and the schools. The program's manager also made local radio and TV appearances. Denver's popular and politically active grandparent support groups are also a source of referrals. At local family resource centers, advocates who receive training on the grandparent program are a source of community referrals.
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Thirteen of the 23 alternative programs initially identified as not providing subsidized guardianship do not provide financial assistance. However, financial assistance is a key component in many of the programs we visited (see Table 4). In programs providing a monthly payment, the payment may continue until the child reaches the age of 18 or 21. Some programs, in addition to providing a monthly payment, provide emergency financial assistance or financial assistance targeted for specific items, e.g., furnishings, school clothing.
|"I felt so low when I had to apply for benefits. But I knew it was for my [grandchild]."|
For programs providing a monthly payment, the rates vary along a continuum with the highest equal to the foster care rate and the lowest set at the TANF child-only rate. In Pittsburgh, A Second Chance licenses relatives as foster parents and they receive monthly payments equal to the county's foster care rate. Florida's program provides a monthly payment close to the foster care rate (relatives do not become licensed foster parents). Denver's program provides a supplemental payment in addition to the TANF child-only payment, creating a monthly payment closer to the foster care rate.
|Monthly financial payment||Emergency financial assistance||Other (school clothing allowance)|
|A Second Chance, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA)||Yes. Payment equal to foster care rate.||Yes.||Yes. Quarterly clothing allowance and program has child clothing bank.|
|Grandparents and Kinship Program (Denver County, CO)||Yes. Payment for one child is close to foster care rate, 3 times as much as TANF child-only. Payment for more than one child is less than foster care rate.||Yes.||Yes.|
|Relative Caregiver Program (Florida)||Yes. Payment approx. 76% of foster care payment, twice TANF child-only payment (65% of foster care rate when clothing allowances and other payments to foster parents taken into account).||No.||No.|
|The Kentucky Kinship Care Program (child welfare)||Yes. Payment is 50% of foster care rate, 160% of TANF child-only rate.||Yes. One-time start-up payment up to $500 per child. Preventive assistance funds up to $500/family once per year.||No.|
|The Kentucky KinCare Project (support groups)||No.||No.||No.|
|The Kinship Support Network (San Francisco, CA)||No. However, majority of clients are receiving foster care payment.||Yes.||No. Program has child clothing bank and food bank.|
|Oklahoma||No.||No.||Subsidized respite care|
Kentucky's child welfare alternative program recipients are eligible for a one-time, start-up payment of up to $500 per child and preventive assistance funds of up to $500 per family per year. In addition, kin served by A Second Chance in Pittsburgh are eligible for a quarterly clothing allowance and may receive financial assistance to meet emergency needs. Denver participants are also eligible for a clothing allowance ($1000 per year per family) and emergency financial assistance (no set limit).
In San Francisco, the Kinship Support Network has an on-site food bank, and children's clothing, toys and car seats are offered to kinship families. Kentucky's kinship support group program does not provide any direct financial assistance but the support groups are intended to increase grandparents' awareness of and access to financial support programs.
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Financial payments are just one type of service that alternative kinship programs may provide. The programs we visited often include a case management component combined with an array of other types of supportive services. Some programs' service offerings are more comprehensive than others and some focus on providing services primarily designed to meet the needs of the adult caregivers while others focus more on addressing the needs of the children.
In Florida's Relative Caretaker Program and Kentucky's child welfare alternative program, supervision appears to be less intensive and for a shorter period of time. The goal of Florida's program is to close cases within six months; however, child welfare caseworkers are reluctant to do so when family needs remain unmet. Kentucky's kinship care program initially set a two-month period for case management but has extended this period to six months.
Denver's program targets TANF child-only kinship families and provides limited case management services to some at-risk families. All relatives in the program who are caring for children involved with child welfare receive case management services from the child welfare worker. The program in Florida and Kentucky's child welfare alternative program are designed to close the child welfare cases after a six- to twelve-month period (though still retain the monthly financial payment to kin)
|"[The support group's] been a god-send, I hear other people's stories and I think, 'That's my story. That's exactly where I am.' And thank God we now have a group, now we have someone to turn to.... If I didn't come to the meet-ings, I wouldn't know about a lot of things. And it's just [knowing] that we are not alone in all of this, that we all have similar stories."|
In San Francisco, Edgewood's Kinship Support Network provides case management services to families referred by the child welfare agency (as well as other families needing additional supports). Case management includes visiting the relative's home once per month, meeting more frequently with clients if needs or circumstances warrant more intensive interaction, making referrals to other programs and services as needed, and advocating for clients in a variety of settings (e.g. accompanying the caregiver to court or to the child's schools). There is no limit on the amount of time families can receive case management. Case management services are terminated once a family has reached their case plan goals or case management is no longer needed. However, at any time families may request reinstatement of case management services if a crises occurs and they feel they need the additional support. It is also important to note that kinship families involved in the child welfare system receive monitoring and supervision by their child welfare worker in addition to the case management services provided by Edgewood's Kinship Support Network.
Alternative programs visited recognize the emotional toll that caregiving takes on many relative caregivers, especially grandparents. Kin are unexpectedly shouldered with the responsibility of taking on a new caregiving role later in life or caring for children in addition to their own. Many of the services provided to relative caregivers (e.g., support groups, transportation, child/respite care) are designed to relieve the isolation experienced by kinship caregivers.
|"And right away I knew this [support group was] what I needed. I came in there full of denials and I had all kinds of things that [I was] keeping from the other ladies-not being able to admit that my son was a drug addict, not being able to admit that my family wasn't this ideal family and it was very difficult for me to lay myself out to the people but none-theless I did and now I talk more than any-one."|
Most of the alternative programs visited organize or facilitate the development of support groups for relatives (particularly grandparents) caring for kin. Support groups offer caregivers a source of emotional support and practical information. Both kinship caregivers participating in the focus groups and program staff considered support groups a valuable and helpful service.
Kentucky's support group program operates 29 groups and uses the groups for distributing information about available services in addition to providing a supportive sharing forum. For example, officials from Kentucky's State Children's Health Insurance Program have presented at several support group meetings. Denver's program contracts with a private provider, Catholic Charities, to organize its relative caregiver support groups. In Denver, group facilitators noted that the support groups initially focused on meeting primary needs such as food and housing by bringing in community partners who donate monthly food baskets. Over time the support groups have evolved to address parenting skills, dealing with the adult children's substance abuse, loss and grief issues, defining roles and legal issues with experts invited to discuss these issues.
|"If it had not been for this group, I would not have known what to do. I would never have lasted."|
Support groups differ by whether they are led by professional facilitators or whether they are more loosely organized. The Kinship Support Network's kinship support groups in San Francisco--known as Grandparents Who Care--are peer run by a caregiver who has received facilitator training. A coordinator oversees all the support groups. Kentucky's support groups are tailored to meet local needs. Some of the groups have developed internal leadership with the grandparents running the program.
The San Francisco Grandparents Who Care support groups are held throughout the community in churches and schools and are held both during daytime and evening hours. There are groups for Latino caregivers and one for Korean caregivers. Pittsburgh's program provides support groups for caregivers, children and birthparents. Denver currently has support groups running in three communities with plans to expand into two largely Latino neighborhoods. A program staff member was also organizing a support group for grandfathers.
Three important supports which kinship care programs can offer are respite care, transportation assistance and child care assistance. Child care is often provided as a way to enable caregivers to engage in activities which provide respite or attend support groups. In addition, access to child care subsidies can enable caregivers to combine caregiving responsibilities with employment.
Respite care may be provided through a variety of arrangements. Denver's program organizes some group activities which provide needed respite for caregivers. The Kinship Support Network in San Francisco provides organized activities for children, fulfilling the dual objective of providing developmentally appropriate activities for children and affording caregivers a respite period while children engage in these activities. For example, adult caregiver group activities, such as an outing to the mall, are often scheduled to coincide with children's activities. In Pittsburgh, A Second Chance provides both emergency respite (a range of one hour to ten days is offered) as well as a grandparent respite cooperative. Older kinship caregivers in Oklahoma can receive vouchers to purchase respite care services through the Oklahoma Respite Resource Network. This network represents a collaborative state agency, including the Division of Aging Services, to provide funding for respite services. Caregivers may select the respite provider of their choosing so long as the provider is 18 years or older and does not live in the same household.
Some programs attempt to alleviate transportation problems for caregivers. Pittsburgh's A Second Chance program provides extensive transportation to caregivers and children. The program provides transportation for children's visitation with birth parents, medical and other appointments, and for recreation activities. In Denver, the alternative kinship program provides transportation assistance in the form of city bus tokens.
Relative caregivers often have little information on the availability of child care in their community. Several of the alternative programs attempt to provide or coordinate with other programs for child care. In Florida, one of the major benefits of the relative caregiver program is that caregivers can obtain subsidized child care (on a sliding scale) until the child turns 12 years of age. In comparison, state policy requires Florida's TANF program to limit child care assistance to a six-month period for relatives in child-only assistance units. The Kinship Support Network includes after school tutoring three days each week and provides child care during support group meetings. Kinship Support Network families involved with the public child welfare system are also eligible for child care through that agency for one year if the caregiver is working or in school or the child has special needs.
Alternative programs visited are less likely to provide an array of services for children. However, children in kinship families involved with child welfare agencies--Kentucky's child welfare alternative program, Florida's statewide program, and A Second Chance in Pittsburgh--are eligible for many services to address their needs (e.g., Medicaid, mental health). Programs not administered by a child welfare agency are recognizing the needs of children being raised by relatives. Denver's program provides referrals for children's activities including referrals to Big Brother/Big Sister programs and payments for special talents (i.e., music lessons, registering for sports teams). The program is also trying to address children's mental health needs through referrals to therapists.
The Kinship Support Network provides some services specifically for children including recreation activities and an after school tutoring program.
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Two of the programs visited, A Second Chance in Pittsburgh and Edgewood's Kinship Support Network in San Francisco, offer interesting examples of how community-based organizations can work alongside the traditional child welfare and TANF agencies to provide comprehensive services for kinship care families. Both are private agencies with contracts from public child welfare agencies. In Pittsburgh, A Second Chance employs a strength-based approach, focusing on the positive rather than negative aspects of a child's extended family. Staff also stress the cultural responsiveness of their service delivery model. Staff defer to the kinship triad (the child, birth parent, and kinship caregiver), and build services around the client. For example, staff will modify their workday to accommodate a family's schedule. Staff also stress that kin can make the difference for their own family unit, families are the change agents, staff merely facilitate. A Second Chance program also focuses on reunification with the birth parent; 60 percent of kinship care children in the program return home within six months of placement. The program involves birth parents extensively.
In San Francisco, Edgewood's Kinship Support Network aims to provide services to kinship families that are not intrusive, building upon families' strengths, and involving families in planning for their children. The overriding objective is to keep families together if at all possible. After an assessment of needs, case management is provided if it appears that the caregiver would benefit from the individualized attention and support. The program has no limit on the amount of time caregivers can receive case management and the length of time varies by individual. The Kinship Support Network's model recognizes that caregivers' situations and circumstances are dynamic and there may be periods after case management has ended when it makes sense to reassign a case manager.
Many of the Kinship Support Network's case managers are kin caregivers themselves. In the early years of the program, virtually all of the case managers were kin caregivers who shared the same socioeconomic and demographic characteristics as the participants. This model, in which staff understand what the families are going through because they have been through some of the same experiences, promotes an empathetic and trusting relationship between caregiver and case manager.
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24. We have very limited information on the support services provided by subsidized guardianship programs, but do note that many provide some support services beyond finanicial payment.
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Human Services Policy (HSP)
Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Last updated: 10/29/01