Issue: Do foster care payments or a child’s status in foster care with a relative interact in problematic ways with eligibility criteria for other Federal programs?
Discussion: Relatives’ status as foster parents and the support they receive on behalf of the children in their care may affect their eligibility for other programs. Advisory Panel members observed that often the main need is for information to be accessible to relatives regarding the services and programs available in their communities and how to access them. This includes information about federal, State, local, and private sector programs.
Among the Federal programs that may interact with foster care are Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Supplemental Security Income, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. In addition, various housing, education, transportation, substance abuse and mental health programs, most of which are administered locally, may also be needed by these families. Panel members did not note any particular barriers to service or problems related to these programs’ definitions of family or kin. Eligibility may be affected if foster care payments are considered income or if the relative lives in housing that restricts the presence of children or other persons not on the lease.
Panelists discussed whether new mechanisms would be desirable for transferring to relatives the authority to make medical, educational, and social services decisions while the child remains in the State’s legal custody (i.e. in foster care). Panel members observed that such options had been tried unsuccessfully for children in foster care in several States (including Illinois and Colorado). The unintended effect was to discourage permanent family arrangements for the child because the relatives had the elements of custody they valued even while the child remained in the State’s legal custody. The relatives saw no advantage in the State’s relinquishing custody, so legal permanence was delayed. For children living informally with kin, such arrangements may have some advantages, but the Advisory Panel discouraged our further consideration of such mechanisms for children in State custody.
HHS Position: We will query other agencies to identify any problems they have encountered and will be vigilant to any conflicts that might need resolution.