Children in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Child-Only Cases with Relative Caregivers. 2.6 Services Needed to Maintain Well-Being

06/01/2004

Regardless of the arrangements under which they care for children, relative caregivers frequently do so without financial support. While relatives have always been able to receive child-only grants, many (especially those in "informal" kinship arrangements) do not know that this help is available. The Urban Institute estimates that only 28 percent of all children in child welfare kinship care placements receive either a child-only TANF or foster care payment (Ehrle and Geen, 2002).

For those who do receive financial support, child-only TANF arrangements provide minimal services and less money than foster care, even though the circumstances that bring these children to kinship care may be similar. In South Carolina (Edelhoch, 2002), the base rate for foster care payments per month for one child without special needs aged 6 to 12 years is $339 per month; the TANF payment to a relative caregiver for one child is 70 percent less - $102 per month. Additionally, TANF payments decrease for subsequent children, while the foster payments are the same for each additional child. Finally, while foster parents are eligible to receive quarterly clothing allowances, no such provisions are made for relative caregivers in child-only cases.

Therefore, while service needs of TANF child-only relative caregivers vary, one critical need is financial support. This support is essential as relative caregivers in TANF child-only cases tend to take in children at a time in the caregivers' lives when they may be retiring or they are at least past the child-rearing stage (Ahmann and Shepherd-Vernon, 1997). In a study of relative caregivers in South Carolina, some were spending retirement savings or postponing retirement in order to provide for kin in their care (Edelhoch, 2002). Having unexpected children to care for on a limited income has an impact on the relative caregiver in terms of providing adequate housing, providing food, and finding daycare (Ehrle and Geen, 2002).

Additionally, children in TANF child-only relative care often face physical and emotional challenges. As noted in the previous section, children in TANF child-only relative caregiver cases may feel abandoned and have serious physical and mental health care needs that require immediate and ongoing attention (Ahmann and Shepherd-Vernon, 1997; Christian, 2000). The service needs of these children in child-only cases will differ depending on the specific circumstances preceding placement, the resiliency of the child, and the relative support within the home. While not all children in child-only cases will need additional services such as mental health counseling or anger management classes, many of these children may be at risk for physical and emotional problems.

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