Kentucky's formal, child welfare administered Kinship Care Program is a program for kin caring for children that have been removed from their parent's home due to safety concerns. The program was piloted in 1998 in three counties and full state implementation began in August 2000.
Mission and Goals
The Kinship Care Program seeks to increase the use of kinship care, increase the stability of relative placements, and ensure timely permanency of kinship care children. The program seeks to avoid having the state take custody of children that can safely be cared for by relatives.
Target Population and Eligibility Criteria
The Kinship Care Program targets:
- Children in need of protection and unable to remain in parental home;
- Children removed from parental home for a protection issue;
- Children in placement with a caring relative who has been determined by the Cabinet to be a preferable alternative to a non-relative;
- Children at risk of commitment to the Cabinet; and
- Children on the TANF child only caseload with a prior protection case on record.
Program requirements include:
- Caregiver must be related to children by blood, marriage or adoption.
- The children's case must be active with CPS or was formerly active. The children must have been removed from their parent's home due to safety concerns.
- The caregiver must participate in the annual eligibility review with the TANF office. Children remain eligible until they leave home or turn 19 as along as they are a full time student.
- Caregiver must submit to home study which includes police record checks and child abuse and neglect checks (if there has been a conviction or substantiation on a charge other than minor traffic offense, caregiver can provide evidence of rehabilitation by submitting a character reference). The home study is the same for relatives and non-kin.
- Caregiver must cooperate with child support enforcement activities. If the parents are dangerous, child support can be set aside to protect the caregiver. Sometimes it is set aside for one parent and not the other.
- Caregiver must take temporary custody of children and follow all requirements that accompany this legal responsibility.
- Caregiver must agree to work with Cabinet social workers for 12 months to establish a permanent placement for the child.
- Caregiver must participate in case planning.
- Caregiver must accept permanent custody of the child after 12 months if the child cannot return to the parents. Permanency is the main goal of the program, so if the relative cannot make this commitment, they cannot be part of the program.
The Kinship Care program is state administered and operated through the local social services offices. While the local offices must follow the state Kinship Care regulations, they are not required by the central office to use their staff in any particular way to meet the needs of the Kinship Care program. Some localities use staff from their home evaluation units, others only use staff from ongoing services units. Family support staff, or K-TAP (TANF) workers, usually determine eligibility. Ongoing supervision is conducted by a child welfare worker who is not specialized in kinship care.
The Kinship Care Program provides a payment of $300/month per child (up to 6 children). The payment continues until the child is 19 if still in high school. A one time start-up payment of up to $500/child is available "for the purpose of supplying each child's immediate need for clothing, school supplies, additional furniture, a deposit on a larger apartment or other items or services needed to assist the child in establishing himself in the new environment." Approximately 75-80% of the families in the program receive this payment. In addition, preventive assistance funds up to $500/family are available once per year. Effective December 1, 2000, if a caregiver receives TANF for one child and takes care of a sibling through the Kinship Care Program, then both children become eligible for the Kinship Care payment.
In the Kinship Care Program, when a child is placed with a relative, there is 6 months of caseworker involvement (this was originally set at 2 months and then extended). They believe this makes it less intrusive than the foster care caseworker involvement. The relative can choose to become a foster parent. The levels of supervision in the Kinship Care program and foster care programs are different. The child is not committed to the state in the Kinship Care program and thus there is less supervision. However, the services provided are fairly similar. The services provided by the program include day care, mental health, respite care, and all other services given to non-kin families. There is no waiting list for services. Families in the program are also eligible for either Medicaid or K-Chip.
Major Funding Sources
The Kinship Care program is entirely TANF funded, $8 million in 2000. The program is adequately funded for this year; however, it is unknown how caseloads will accumulate over time. The Cabinet did consider applying for a IV-E waiver because of the options it would give them but did not apply because HHS limits waivers, and because they did not want to wait for the random sampling that occurs with demonstration projects.
Cabinet for Families & Children
275 East Main Street
Frankfort, KY 40621