Children in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Child-Only Cases with Relative Caregivers. 4.2.2 Living Arrangements


In addition to caregiver relationships, the circumstances leading to relative caregiver arrangements were also reported to vary across states. Louisiana reported that few kinship care cases are involved with the child welfare system, perhaps because most children living with relatives come to live with the relative before child protective services steps in. Therefore, the majority of their cases were TANF cases with minimal involvement with child welfare. Paula Brown, Kinship Care Coordinator for Wisconsin, estimates that 20 percent of relative care cases are court-ordered (in child welfare agency custody).

By contrast, Oklahoma reported that many of their relative caregivers are involved with child protective services and receiving child-only TANF as interim support while they work to become licensed foster parents. Informants in Maryland and Washington reported that approximately 50 percent of their child-only relative caregiver cases are referred to the TANF office and are involved in child protective services. Note that these are estimates, and that TANF agencies do not track child welfare involvement within their case loads.

Stability of placement was identified as a strength of relative caregiver arrangements. Louisiana reports that children in child-only cases often remain with the relative caregiver until they are 18 years old. The Child-Only TANF case manager in Pottawatomie County in Oklahoma reported that child-only cases "remain open until the child turns 18 or the relative closes the case." Maryland and Washington reported a transitional program for children 16 through 18 years of age receiving child-only benefits.

"Parents are able to come back, damage the family unit, leave and come back again."

Family Investment Case Manager, Maryland

Respondents from all five states identified concerns regarding parental visitation and its impact on the family. While child-only TANF households are not intended to include the child's parents, TANF workers acknowledged they had little control over this situation. TANF eligibility workers in Louisiana referred to the situation as a "revolving door on the home." The Puyallup County Service Officer Administrator in Washington State reported that "a grandparent  who loves their own child  sends children home with the parent." The State of Wisconsin is working to address this situation by requiring the caregiver to sign a kinship care agreement specifying the terms for parental visitation.

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