Issue: What information and services do kinship foster families need, and how are these different from the needs of non-kin foster families?
Discussion: Support services and systems are critical for all foster parents, but supports for relative caregivers should be considered in the context of their particular needs, which may not be the same as those of traditional foster parents. For example, research has shown that relative caregivers are often older and have lower incomes than other foster caregivers, and there may be intrafamilial tensions that must be addressed. The Federal government recognizes the importance of non-financial assistance for relative caregivers. States and communities receive Federal funding that can be used to provide services to these families. State and local choices determine what services are available at the community level. Some panelists expressed the belief that some relative caregivers who are willing to care for a child are providing their caretaking services through the foster care system because they need services (e.g. child care, counseling, or support groups) rather than because the child needs protection. This may be especially true in cases of neglect. Yet research has shown that relatives generally receive less non-financial support than birth parents and often less than other foster parents, even if they are themselves formally foster parents.
HHS Position: We believe that it would be useful to produce technical assistance materials to remind State and local agency staff that there are many Federal resources available that might be used to provide services for relative caregivers. These resources include the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Social Services Block Grant, Medicaid, Food Stamps, the special supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). In addition, we plan to summarize any lessons that have been learned by grantees under several federal demonstration grants that have been made under our discretionary programs in recent years. We will include specific examples of programs making creative use of resources to serve relative caregivers, and a description of any products resulting from such grants that may be already available through the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information.