On Their Own Terms: Supporting Kinship Care Outside of TANF and Foster Care. Program Administration, Structure, and Staffing


Alternative kinship care programs may be administered by public agencies-including administrative entities responsible for TANF, child welfare, and aging services-or by private, community-based agencies.

Alternative kinship care programs may be administered by public agencies--including administrative entities responsible for TANF, child welfare, and aging services--or by private, community-based agencies. All subsidized guardianship programs identified are publicly administered. However, both private and public agencies operate the remaining alternative kinship care programs. Of those identified, 14 are administered by public agencies and 9 are administered by private agencies.

  • Locus of Administrative Responsibility. Of the seven alternative kinship care programs visited, two are administered by private, nonprofit organizations and five are administered by the public agency responsible for human services (see Table 1). The locus of administrative responsibility within the larger human services agency differs across program sites. For example, in Kentucky and Florida, the child welfare division administers these states' alternative kinship care programs. Denver's program is administered by the TANF program division, and Oklahoma's efforts are spearheaded by the Aging Services Division. Finally, Kentucky's support group program, a separate initiative coordinated by the state on behalf of kinship families, provides an interesting collaborative administrative arrangement involving the Office of Family Resources and Youth Service Centers, the Office of Aging, and the Cooperative Extension Service.
  • Program Structure and Staffing. Alternative kinship care programs are structured and staffed in a variety of ways. They may be specialized units or programs within the larger agency, jointly staffed by different programs, or freestanding programs devoted entirely to providing services to kinship families.
Table 1:
Type of Organization Administering the Alternative Kinship Care Programs,
by Study Program
Program Administering Entity
Child Welfare TANF Aging Private Agency Other
A Second Chance, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA)       X  
Grandparents and Kinship Program (Denver County, CO)   X      
Relative Caregiver Program (Florida) X        
The Kentucky Kinship Care Program (child welfare) X        
The Kentucky KinCare Project (support groups)     X   X
The Kinship Support Network (San Francisco, CA)       X  
Oklahoma     X    

In Denver, the TANF agency created a specialized staff unit composed of different types of staff--a social worker, a case manager, and TANF eligibility workers--to operate its alternative program. In addition, an intra-agency team representing TANF, Family and Children Services, Child Support Enforcement, and Adult Services was formed in order to ensure that the alternative kinship program is integrated into the agency's overall offerings without duplication of services.

In Florida's Relative Caregiver program and Kentucky's child welfare alternative program, there is some local-level variation in how the program is structured and staffed. In general, however, the financial eligibility and payment component is handled by TANF eligibility workers and the case management component of the program is handled by child welfare workers. This arrangement prompted several administrators in Florida to characterize their alternative kinship care program as representing the nexus of the public welfare and child welfare systems.

Kentucky's support group program staff believe that their location within public schools is critical to their success.

Kentucky's support group program is overseen by a statewide steering committee. The steering committee provides guidance and direction to the local program staff, develops grass roots strategies and models for implementation, and identifies and promotes a grandparents agenda (e.g., medical and educational consent laws, TANF funding). At the local level, Kentucky's support group program operates through school-based Family Resource and Youth Service Centers with Family Resource Center Coordinators as staff members. Kentucky's support group program staff believe that their location within public schools is critical to their success. Among other things, it allows them to easily identify children being cared for by grandparents and other relatives and to reach out to these families.

"One thing I really like about the pro-gram is the fact that it provided us with work. When you are overwhelmed with responsibility, and on the dependen-cies that go with it, it's so dreadful to not have work to do - you know, something that [lets] you say, 'I do this and I'm under orders, I account to someone. You know I'm paying for my ser-vices' It's like a value-for-value thing. It seems to [give] you the pleasure you get from work. That's how the program helped me, it gave me back my self-esteem."

The two private nonprofit programs visited focus solely on providing services to kinship care families. A Second Chance, Inc. in Pittsburgh was established for the purpose of providing services to kinship families referred by the county child welfare agency. A board of directors and an advisory board provide oversight. The Kinship Support Network in San Francisco operates under the auspices of the Edgewood Center for Children and Families, with oversight by its Board of Directors. The Edgewood Center operates primarily as a residential treatment facility. The Center's Kinship Support Network is located in a different part of the city from the Edgewood Center and has its own organizational identity, although program respondents noted the Kinship Support Network had derived significant benefits from having a supportive, well established, and respected parent organization.

In part because the community-based programs visited provide a more comprehensive set of services in-house than the other programs, they employ a larger number and mix of staff than the publicly administered programs visited. Of particular note, both programs find it valuable to use members from their client target populations to fill some staff positions. For example, a birth parent previously served by A Second Chance in Pittsburgh facilitates ongoing support groups for other birth parents in the program. Similarly, many of Edgewood's Kinship Support Network's full-time case managers and support group facilitators are older caregivers themselves. In fact, the case manager position historically was filled solely by caregivers in the community. As the program and its services became more comprehensive, staff with more specialized training and experience were added. It was emphasized in our discussions with administrators and staff that drawing upon members of the community allows staff positions to be filled by individuals who understand and relate well with program participants because of their common experience. It also lends a certain amount of credibility to the program in the eyes of participants.

Administrators from both programs feel that the fact that they are private, community-based organizations en-hances their ability to gain the trust of kinship care families and meet their needs.

Program staff from A Second Chance and Edgewood's Kinship Support Network generally feel that there are several significant advantages to operating programs for kinship caregivers through a community-based organization. Administrators from both programs feel that the fact that they are private, community-based organizations enhances their ability to gain the trust of kinship care families and meet their needs. They believe community based organizations are in a better overall position to tailor their services to the needs of the families they serve because they are less constrained by rules and regulations than their public counterparts and have a more sensitized and comprehensive understanding of the local community, culture and residents.

Finally, Oklahoma's efforts in the area of alternative kinship care represent a collection of services and resources available to relatives caring for children that has evolved under the leadership of the Division of Aging Services within the Department of Human Services. Other agencies and programs are involved in different pieces of this effort and a taskforce has been formed to facilitate and promote ongoing collaboration.