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

09/01/2001

Financial payments are just one type of service that alternative kinship programs may provide. The programs we visited often include a case management component combined with an array of other types of supportive services. Some programs' service offerings are more comprehensive than others and some focus on providing services primarily designed to meet the needs of the adult caregivers while others focus more on addressing the needs of the children.

  • Case management services. The degree to which families receive case management services varies by program and by the needs of the families. While participants in the child welfare administered programs receive traditional child protective supervision, the level of supervision varied. In Pittsburgh, kin served by A Second Chance receive the same if not greater supervision than would otherwise be provided to non-kin foster placements.

    In Florida's Relative Caretaker Program and Kentucky's child welfare alternative program, supervision appears to be less intensive and for a shorter period of time. The goal of Florida's program is to close cases within six months; however, child welfare caseworkers are reluctant to do so when family needs remain unmet. Kentucky's kinship care program initially set a two-month period for case management but has extended this period to six months.

    Denver's program targets TANF child-only kinship families and provides limited case management services to some at-risk families. All relatives in the program who are caring for children involved with child welfare receive case management services from the child welfare worker. The program in Florida and Kentucky's child welfare alternative program are designed to close the child welfare cases after a six- to twelve-month period (though still retain the monthly financial payment to kin)

    "[The support group's] been a god-send, I hear other people's stories and I think, 'That's my story. That's exactly where I am.' And thank God we now have a group, now we have someone to turn to.... If I didn't come to the meet-ings, I wouldn't know about a lot of things. And it's just [knowing] that we are not alone in all of this, that we all have similar stories."

    In San Francisco, Edgewood's Kinship Support Network provides case management services to families referred by the child welfare agency (as well as other families needing additional supports). Case management includes visiting the relative's home once per month, meeting more frequently with clients if needs or circumstances warrant more intensive interaction, making referrals to other programs and services as needed, and advocating for clients in a variety of settings (e.g. accompanying the caregiver to court or to the child's schools). There is no limit on the amount of time families can receive case management. Case management services are terminated once a family has reached their case plan goals or case management is no longer needed. However, at any time families may request reinstatement of case management services if a crises occurs and they feel they need the additional support. It is also important to note that kinship families involved in the child welfare system receive monitoring and supervision by their child welfare worker in addition to the case management services provided by Edgewood's Kinship Support Network.

  • Most programs provide some supportive services to kin families.  Supportive services encompass a broad range of services including support groups, respite care, child care, education/ mentoring programs, and transportation. Of the 23 alternative programs identified not providing subsidized guardianship, 17 provide education services, 14 provide child care/respite care, 11 provide mental health services or counseling, and 7 provide health services.(24) In addition, 20 programs refer families for health care services, education services and mental health services; 19 refer families for financial assistance and 18 refer families for child care/respite care needs.