There is little ongoing supervision of relative caregiver cases. All states review these cases annually for recertification, and Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Washington conduct semiannual reviews, as well. Other than during these times, relative caregiver cases do not interact with workers unless they initiate contact. This is a sharp contrast to adult TANF cases and child welfare cases, where case managers typically have monthly contact with their clients.
|"Child-only cases are managed at the time of application, at recertification and at closure. There is nothing else done with them."
Case management provided for relative caregiver cases differs from that provided to regular TANF cases. While the focus of case management in regular TANF cases is on parents' employment, training, and progress toward self-sufficiency, in child-only cases, relative caregivers are exempt from work requirements. Many caregivers are grandparents whose concerns may focus on issues such as disabilities, fixed incomes, and lack of familiarity with the welfare system. The purpose of case management is not to move caregivers off of welfare, but rather to maintain the status quo and, in some cases, to address service needs.
Organization of case management for relative caregiver cases varies across states and sometimes within states. As described earlier, the sites visited in Wisconsin use kinship care workers located within the child welfare agency. Among other states, some sites have placed non-needy relatives into a single caseload. This grouping allows a small number of workers to become more familiar with the caregivers' needs and relevant community resources.
At other sites, relative caregivers are mixed into the general TANF caseload. This model is popular with TANF workers who typically find relative caregiver cases to be their easiest ones to manage. There are few requirements in terms of monitoring, and no requirements of beneficiaries in terms of employment and training, unlike regular TANF cases. One informant suggested that caseworkers liked to have relative caregiver cases if only to realize some sort of success with a case, as opposed to adult TANF cases where employment and education issues were challenging. Relative caregiver cases also tend to be stable, with few changes in household arrangements. Most are seen as long-term cases, closing only when children reach 18 years old.
The recertification process for relative caregiver cases also varies by state. In some states, recertification is conducted through face-to-face interviews, either in the office or through a home visit. In other states, recertification is conducted by telephone or via mail. At recertification, case managers review eligibility, confirm that the children are still in the home, and ask about any assistance needed (e.g., housing, mental health services, counseling). Some states also require documentation that children are attending school and are up to date with immunizations and doctor visits.
When asked how well the case management system worked in their state, many informants indicated that it works well because there are so few regulations and reporting requirements for these cases. They also acknowledged that case management works well because case managers are doing what they are supposed to do reviewing the file only on an annual or semiannual basis. Many recognized the shortcomings of the case management system for these cases and wished that they could do more for them. However, due to the lack of manpower, resources, and time, case managers typically do only what is required, and focus on cases that require more of their attention. Some were concerned that overburdened staff may miss the subtle needs of caregivers. Informants believed it is unfortunate, but noted that case managers have little knowledge about what is occurring in the cases if caregivers do not contact them.