Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. State Implementation of Recent Federal Policy Changes


Because States are still implementing programs to reflect recent Federal policy changes, it is uncertain how these policy changes will affect kinship care families. States that have received IV-E waivers must undergo rigorous evaluation of the demonstration program they develop. Because these waivers are relatively new, however, it may be several years before anyone can determine whether States’ efforts to improve services to kinship care families have been successful. Similarly, while ASFA will probably affect State permanency planning practices, it is too early to tell how the act will extend to permanency planning for kin families. Moreover, it is uncertain how, if at all, the final rule implementing ASFA will affect States’ ability to receive title IV-E reimbursement for certain children placed in kinship care.

In January 1999, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) surveyed State TANF administrators regarding implementation of PRWORA provisions as they relate to kinship care.25 The survey found that all States are providing kinship caregivers with child-only payments and exempting providers who receive such payments from family caps, work requirements, time limits, and residency requirements. However, almost all States require kin caregivers to meet all welfare provisions if they themselves receive benefits, although several States exempt persons above the age of 60.

Several States have created separate programs within their welfare system for kinship care families. For example, under a 1996–1997 component of its welfare waiver, Wisconsin developed a payment system, funded through the State income maintenance program, that allows it to support public and private kinship caregivers separately from the foster care system. Under the program, families are subject to review every 12 months to ensure that safety issues are properly addressed. In Florida, TANF dollars are being used to fund the Relative Care Giver Program, which allows kin caring for children who may otherwise go into the foster care system to receive payments of up to 80 percent of the foster care rate.

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