Children in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Child-Only Cases with Relative Caregivers. 4.4.3 Financial and Other Supports

06/01/2004

Children who live with relative caregivers and receive a child-only grant may receive several other income maintenance supports available to all families receiving TANF. These services include medical coverage (discussed in the following section), food stamps, child care, and funds to address special needs. Many relative caregivers are eligible for assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). In addition, a number of states maintain supplemental funds that can be accessed for relative caregiver cases. The differences and similarities across states in applying for and receiving these benefits are described below.

States vary widely in the percentage of relative caregiver households that received food stamps. Workers in Louisiana estimated that close to 80 to 90 percent of the relatives receiving KCSP payments received food stamps, while workers in Wisconsin estimated that 15 percent or less of the households receiving kinship care payments received them. Workers in Oklahoma, Washington, and Maryland reported that relative caregivers' incomes were usually too high for the household to receive food stamps. A worker in Maryland reported, "People who are just receiving [TCA payments] for children and not in the [assistance] unit are probably ineligible for food stamps. Families are very upset when they find out food stamps are not available. They do not understand why the federal government does not pay for food if they give them cash and medical [assistance]."

Household income may also be a barrier to a relative caregiver receiving subsidized child care. In many of the states visited, child care subsidies are targeted for families that receive TANF and are participating in employment and training activities or for families that leave TANF after obtaining a job. There may be insufficient child care funding to assist relative caregivers. A worker in Maryland said that if the relative caregiver is working, the family's income will likely be too high to qualify for child care; even if the caregiver qualified, they would be added to a long waiting list for support. In Wisconsin, on the other hand, a worker estimated that 35 to 40 percent of the kinship care caseload in her county received a day care subsidy. Subsidized day care in Washington or Oklahoma is authorized if the relative caregiver is working. Oklahoma also provides respite care.

Several states also offer supplemental financial supports for children in TANF child-only cases with relative caregivers. In Oklahoma, supplemental service funds are available for school clothes and supplies, counseling, and other services not covered by Medicaid; legal fees related to guardianship; shelter emergencies; and some transportation expenses. The annual limit for these funds was cut in half for the most recent fiscal year, to $750. In Washington, relative caregiver families may be eligible for up to $750 per year for emergency expenses, or $1,500 diversion assistance to prevent nonneedy caregivers from being added to the assistance unit. Several counties in Wisconsin also have funds to cover emergencies and special needs of children in kinship care.

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