On Their Own Terms: Supporting Kinship Care Outside of TANF and Foster Care. The Grandparents and Kinship Program



Denver, Colorado

Program Development

The Grandparents and Kinship Program in Denver, Colorado grew out of a grassroots, informal support network begun in 1993 and first received TANF funding in 1999 by the Department of Human Services, Family Employment and Resources Division (the TANF agency). The program serves only kinship families residing in the City and County of Denver.

Mission and Goals

The Grandparents and Kinship Program is designed to assist persons who have assumed primary child raising responsibility for their grandchildren and/or relative kin by providing professional and peer support, informational, educational, financial, and advocacy services to support them in successfully raising their grandchildren and kin. The primary goals are to:

  • Provide services which help relatives successfully raise their grandchildren and other kin;
  • Minimize the need for protective services and/or foster care due to the inability of relatives to adequately meet the physical, financial, medical, emotional, and/or educational needs of their grandchildren and other kin;
  • Identify and address early indicators that the child's placement with the relative is in danger of disruption; and
  • Provide follow-up services and monitoring when the family has concluded services by the Family and Children's Services Division (the child welfare agency).

Target Population and Eligibility Criteria

Both the child and the relatives are considered the primary clients of the program. Program requirements include the following:

  • Families must have a dependent child living in the home of a caretaker relative (cannot be foster parents of that child or receiving TANF for themselves);
  • There is an active TANF cash assistance case for the dependent children (i.e., child-only);
  • The relative must have physical custody of the child more than 50 percent of the time during the month for which assistance is requested;
  • The child must be under the age of 18 or between 18 and 19 if a full-time student in a secondary school or the equivalent level of vocational or technical training, and are expected to graduate before age 19;
  • A court order is not needed to establish care and control, however, children under court jurisdiction are also eligible.

Organizational Structure

Denver's Grandparents and Kinship Program operates within a specialized unit of the TANF agency and is staffed mainly by TANF eligibility workers. Program staff collaborate with the Family and Children's Services Division (also within the Department of Human Services) and outside agencies, particularly Catholic Charities. The Program funds Catholic Charities to develop and facilitate grandparent support groups throughout Denver.

Referrals come primarily from TANF workers but continuing attempts to collaborate with the Family and Children's Services Division have increased referrals from this division. Community advocates at local family resource centers also make referrals to the program.


Services include a monthly "child-only case supportive payment," clothing allowances, transportation assistance, support groups, respite care, recreation services, professional and peer support, informational, educational, financial, and advocacy services. Referrals are made for mental health services, medical services, legal services, and child care.

Participants receive a monthly supportive payment for each relative child in the home. As of August 1, 1999, the TANF grant standard for one child in a child-only case was $99; the additional supportive payment was $313. An additional $40 payment is given per child in a one- or two-child size household. In contrast, foster care payments range from $369 to $1,000 per month per child depending upon the child's level of need. Under the Grandparents and Kinship Program, a relative home with one child receives an amount close to the foster care payment; payments for more than one child are lower than the foster care payment. Additional emergency financial assistance is available to relative families and can be used for new tires, car repairs, home repairs, etc. There is no limit per family except for an annual clothing allowance of $1000.

Services most frequently accessed (other than financial and grandparent support groups) are clothing allowances, assistance with educational issues, and referrals for child and family counseling. There is no waiting list for any services and the program has the capacity to serve many more grandparents and families. Timeframes within which families can begin receiving some type of services varies from worker to worker depending on their availability and caseload. Ideally, the program manager would like to see all families receive some sort of assistance within a week of intake. Beds and clothing are often needed quickly as some children arrive at the home with few clothes or other personal items. Mental health services often are requested a few months after the child arrives in the home. Clients are encouraged to access the TANF agency's "Family Counseling Program," an in-house mental health program for TANF recipients.

Major Funding Sources

The Grandparents Program is entirely TANF-funded (from the TANF block grant and surplus funds) and administered (operating expenses are funded through general administrative funds). The total budget for the Grandparents and Kinship Program equals approximately $269,000 per month for the child-only TANF payments and an additional $200,000 per month for the kin supplemental payment. There are approximately 1,300-1,400 families in the total caseload with an average household having two children.

Key Contact

Twilla Stiggers
Family Employment and Resources Division, Department of Human Resources
1200 Federal Boulevard
Denver, CO 80204