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


While some programs have very specific eligibility requirements for caregivers and children, others serve virtually any kin caregivers seeking support and services.

Alternative kinship care programs visited vary considerably in terms of their eligibility requirements (Table 3). While some programs have very specific eligibility requirements for caregivers and children, others serve virtually any kin caregivers seeking support and services. Twelve of the non-subsidized guardianship programs identified have specific eligibility criteria; 11 have no criteria and provide services to any kinship care family in need.

Table 3:
Eligibility Requirements, by Study Program
Program Eligibility Requirement
TANF case(15) Child welfare case Court order/ adjudicated dependant Physical custody Temporary legal custody Child age 18 or younger(16) Caregiver relationship to child Coperation with CSE Residency Home study/ background check
A Second Chance, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA)   X(17) X              
Grandparents and Kinship Program (Denver County, CO) X (18)     X X X   X    
Relative Caregiver Program (Florida) X (19)   X     X X(20) X X X
The Kentucky Kinship Care Program (child welfare) X (21) X     X(22) X X X   X
The Kentucky KinCare Project (support groups)                    
The Kinship Support Network (San Francisco, CA)                 X  
Oklahoma                 X(23)  
"I don't draw in money for my granddaughter and the reason why I don't is because I choose not to. Because my son, he helps me with her, and if I draw money for her that's going to send them after him, and I want him to get himself together because he has two more daughters."
  • Requirements for caregivers. Three of the programs visited have eligibility requirements that focus on the caregiver. For example, in Kentucky's child welfare alternative program, the caregiver must meet specific criteria regarding his/her relationship to the child (e.g., related by blood, marriage, or adoption), participate in an annual TANF eligibility review, and participate in a home study. In Florida, the caregiver must be related to the child, complete a home study and criminal background check, and participate in annual TANF eligibility reviews. The home study and caregiver background check in both states are less stringent than those required of non-kin foster parents in the child welfare system. In addition, programs in Florida and Denver, and Kentucky's child welfare alternative program require participants to cooperate with the child support enforcement agency, due to the fact this is an eligibility requirement for TANF cash assistance. In Oklahoma, respite care vouchers are available to families in which a grandparent has the primary caregiving role and is at least 60 years of age, and the household's income does not exceed $45,000.
  • Requirements for children. Among the programs visited, those with a child welfare orientation have eligibility requirements linked to the child's circumstances. For example, A Second Chance in Pittsburgh and the Relative Caregiver Program in Florida require that a child be adjudicated as abused or neglected as a pre-condition for participating in their programs. In addition, A Second Chance only serves kinship care families for whom the child welfare agency maintains an open case of protective supervision. The programs in Denver and Florida, and Kentucky's child welfare alternative program require that the child be no older than 18 years of age.
"I allow my daughter to continue to receive [TANF] for my grandson, because she said she would take him back otherwise. So I get no financial assistance."
  • No eligibility requirements. Two programs visited have open eligibility for participation and receipt of services. The Kinship Support Network is entirely voluntary and has no eligibility criteria other than a San Francisco residency requirement. In Kentucky and Oklahoma, there are no eligibility requirements for the kinship support group programs.

In some cases, eligibility requirements may serve as deterrents to program participation. For example, staff in Kentucky noted that some families choose not participate in the state's child welfare alternative program because they do not want to commit to permanent custody. Others may not want to be financially supported beyond medical assistance for the child. Some do not want a child welfare worker in their home and some feel there is a stigma attached to being involved with welfare. Many caregivers do not want to seek child support from the birth parents, although workers reassure caregivers that they will need to seek it eventually, anyway. In TANF-funded programs, some kinship caregivers noted that they were reluctant to cooperate with child support enforcement because they did not want to take money from their children or they were fearful that the birth parents would demand their children back.


15. For the child.

16.Or 19 years if enrolled in school, with the exception of Florida's program.

17 Family must be referred by the child welfare agency.

18 Must have an active TANF case for the dependent child(ren) (i.e., child-only).

19. Caregiver must participate in annual TANF eligibility reviews.

20. Child must be within the 5th degree of relationship to the relative caregiver.

21. Caregiver must participate in annual TANF eligibility reviews.

22. Willingness to accept permanent custody after 12 months.

23. For respite voucher, only. All other services are open to all kin caregivers.