The first major Federal policy affecting kin was a 1950 Social Security Act amendment that offered eligible relatives two ways to receive AFDC assistance for children in their care. First, they could apply for assistance for themselves and for the children just like any other needy family. Second, they could receive payment for only the child or children in their care. These child-only payments were available to relatives because Federal legislation recognized that some caregivers were not legally required to support a child. Because they were not legally bound, these relatives were not considered part of the “assistance unit” of the child for purposes of AFDC eligibility. Therefore, a child could be an independent assistance unit—an option not usually possible when children resided with a parent.14
In allowing relatives to apply as private kin caregivers for income assistance for the children in their care, the Social Security Act treated relatives as an extension of the nuclear family. At the same time, though, the Federal Government defined relatives narrowly, allowing only persons closely related to the child to be considered eligible for Federal financial assistance (that is, grandparents, aunts, or uncles but not distant relatives). Especially for minority communities, these definitions did not always match the kin and community definitions used in their families.