Topic:
JUVENILES; DAY CARE; TEMPORARY ASSISTANCE TO NEEDY FAMILIES; GRANTS;
Location:
WELFARE - AFDC;
Scope:
Other States laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report


October 11, 2000

 

2000-R-0954

RELATIVE CAREGIVER GRANTS IN FLORIDA, MICHIGAN, AND OREGON

By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst

You asked for information on “enhanced child-only grants” for relative caregivers in Florida, Michigan, and Oregon.

Your phrase, “enhanced child-only grants,” suggests that these states' payments to relative caregivers supplement the child-only grants they provide under the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Family (TANF) block grant. Oregon does not use TANF funds for its caregiver subsidy (but we describe it nonetheless). We have included information on California and Wisconsin, which also use TANF funds to pay relative caregivers. But we were unable to obtain any information on Michigan.

SUMMARY

Caregiver Relative Payment Alternatives

Relatives who care for their kin typically receive funds from a state in two ways. They become licensed foster care providers and receive payments through the state's child protective services (CPS) agency (the Department of Children and Families in Connecticut). The federal government reimburses the state for these payments through its Title IV-E program. In these cases a court must have placed the children in the state's custody after it determined they were abused or neglected. Relatives who do not wish to become licensed foster caregivers or who care for a child who has not gone through the CPS system can receive a TANF child-only grant from the state's welfare agency.

Each of these systems has different goals. The CPS goal is to protect children who have been abused or neglected until a permanent placement can be found for them. Placement with relatives is one alternative if the children cannot be reunited with their parents; foster care and adoption are others. TANF is a welfare program. Its goals are to aid needy families, end their dependence on government benefits by promoting job preparation and work, prevent and reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

Some states have adopted alternatives to these two systems, and these, too, have different goals. California, like Connecticut, seeks to move foster children living with relatives out of the CPS system while assuring that they have permanency. Florida seeks to help relatives who are unable to serve as a caregiver without the payment, which could put the child at risk of placement in foster care. Missouri recognizes that grandparents and relatives over age 50 need resources, parent training, and other supportive services to care for children (its Grandparent as Foster Parent Program is described in OLR report 2000-R-0838, http://cgalites/2000/rpt/olr/htm/2000-r-0838.htm).

State Programs

Florida, California, and Wisconsin use TANF funds to pay relative caregivers. Payments in the latter two states equal the amounts they pay foster parents; Florida pays about 70% of the foster care rate, but the payment is still higher than its TANF child-only grant. In California's Kin-GAP program, TANF funds cover about two-thirds of the relative caregiver payment; state and county funds make up the difference. Wisconsin pays $215 per month, the same as its TANF child-only grant.

Oregon uses federal IV-E funds under a waiver that allows it to pay for children after they leave the CPS system, which is not otherwise allowed under federal rules. (Federal officials have reported that IV-E waivers are no longer available to pay for kinship care.) Children in most of the states are also eligible for Medicaid.

The programs share some common criteria for determining children's eligibility. These are outlined in Table 1.

Table 1: Child Eligibility Criteria

State

Criteria

 

Adjudicated as Abused or Neglected

Specified Time in CPS or with Guardian

TANF-Eligible

Florida

Yes

No

Yes

Oregon

Yes

No

No

California

Yes

12 months (6 with guardian

No

Wisconsin (guardian program)

Yes

12 months with relative

No

Wisconsin (nonguardian program)

Yes

Guardianship not required

No

Table 2 outlines the basic eligibility criteria for the relative caregivers.

Table 2: Relative Eligibility Criteria

State

Criteria

 

Licensed as Foster Home

Court-Appointed Guardian

Home Study

Criminal Background Check

Florida

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Oregon

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

California

No

Yes

No

No

Wisconsin (guardian program)

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Wisconsin (nonguardian program

No

No

No

Yes

FLORIDA

Florida enacted its relative caregiver program in 1998 (Fl Stat. 39.5085) and uses federal TANF block grant funds to pay relatives who care for abused or neglected children. Children are also eligible for Medicaid, Title XX social services benefits, and TANF “at-risk” child-care payments.

The stated purpose of the law is to (1) recognize that living with relatives may provide permanency for children otherwise at risk of foster care placement and (2) as these situations do not need intensive court and Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) supervision, conserve the state's limited casework resources for children who do not have this option.

Child Eligibility

A court must determine that a child has been abused, neglected, or abandoned and must place the child with the relative as part of a dispositional plan. The placement can be (1) temporary legal custody under Department of Children and Family Services supervision or (2) as part of a permanency plan. The former type of placement is made when the department and court believe the child could be reunited with his parents; the latter occurs when reunification is impossible or highly unlikely. The relative does not have to assume legal guardianship for the child. DCFS operating procedures state that as long as the court has adjudicated the child as dependent and placed him with the relative, the relative becoming the child's legal guardian will not affect caregiver payments (DCFS Operating Procedures, 1-9g).

The child must be eligible for Florida's Work and Gain Economic Self-Sufficiency (WAGES, Florida's TANF program) child-only grant.

The child's eligibility for the program is reviewed every six months. The payment can be adjusted to reflect changed circumstances such as the child's receiving Social Security benefits, Supplement Security Income, or child support payments. A child's eligibility ends when he turns age 18, leaves the relative caregiver's home, or is adopted, whichever occurs sooner.

Caregiver Eligibility

The relative caregiver must be within a specified degree of relationship to the child: sibling or stepsibling; aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew; grandparent or great-grandparent; first cousin (or first cousin once removed); or the legal spouse of any of the above.

DCFS must complete a home study and recommend the relative to the court. The home study is the same as required for foster parents. It includes (1) interviews with the adult caregivers, (2) child abuse and criminal background checks on everyone in the household over age 11, (3) a physical assessment of the home, (4) a determination of the proposed caregivers' financial security, and (5) if age appropriate, determination of the child's attitudes about living with the relatives. If the home study is unfavorable, the relatives must be given notice of why and a chance to appeal to a Caregiver Home Study Committee (DCFS Operating Procedures, 1-6).

Subsidy Amounts

The statute limits the relative caregiver payment to 82% of the statewide monthly foster care rate. DCFS's operating procedures set it at 70%. This translates into the following payments:

AGE

PAYMENT

0 to 5

$242

6 to 12

$249

13 to 18

$298

Children living with relative caregivers are also eligible for Medicaid and Title XX social services. Their caregivers can receive subsidized child care and DCFS funds, if available, to help them provide for the child's safety, growth, and healthy development and its family preservation and support services.

In FY 1999-00 relative caregiver payments amounted to $17,358,337. During that year, the number of children living with paid relative caregivers grew from 3,976 to 9,111.

Administration

Two DCFS offices—the Family Service and Public Assistance offices—

jointly administer the relative caregiver program. The Family Safety Office monitors, evaluates, and assesses services and the progress of children's case plans and completes judicial reviews. Specifically, it conducts the home studies, performs activities necessary for the court's adjudication of the case and placement of the child, and keeps Public Assistance Office staff current on case changes that may affect relative caretaker benefits. Public Assistance staff determine the child's initial and ongoing eligibility for relative caregiver and Medicaid benefits, maintain case files, and communicate with Family Safety staff as needed.

OREGON

Oregon operates its guardianship assistance program as a three-year demonstration project under a federal IV-E waiver it received in July 1999. The State Office for Services to Children and Families (SOSCF) administers it (SOSCF Client Services Manual I, 413-070-0900 to 0975).

Child Eligibility

A child must be in foster care and receiving a IV-E foster care payment to be eligible. He must have been in SOSCF custody for at least 12 months and living with the potential guardian for at least six months (these requirements can be waived in certain situations).

SOSCF must determine that reunification or adoption is not a viable permanency option for the child. It must determine that (1) its efforts to secure an uncontested termination of parental rights have not been successful and that an attempt to terminate them in an adversarial situation is not viable; (2) a child over age 12 child, or a younger child who the agency determines is capable of deciding, will not consent to be adopted; or (3) the parent is unable to care for the child.

SOSCF must find that (1) the child has no ongoing care and financial needs beyond basic maintenance and does not need a SOSCF case manager's services, (2) has needs, but they do not require agency funding (e.g., therapy is covered by insurance), or (3) has needs that can be met through the guardian's use of community resources.

A child is eligible until (1) he turns age 18 or becomes emancipated; (2) his custody or guardianship is awarded to someone else or his guardian dies; (3) he is incarcerated for more than three months; (4) he leaves home for an extended period with no plans to return; (5) he is adopted, marries, or dies; (6) his guardian is no longer legally responsible for his financial support; or (7) his guardian fails to file the required annual report on time.

A child who begins receiving a guardianship assistance payment before the June 2002 (when the demonstration ends) will continue to receive payments until he turns age 18 or becomes ineligible for another reason. These payments will come from the state's general fund.

Caregiver Eligibility

The potential guardian must be a certified foster home caregiver and meet agency standards as determined by a family study or a court-ordered guardianship assessment. He must have a means of financial support and connections to community resources and require no ongoing SOSCF case work services once the guardianship is established. He must agree to complete the Division of Child Support's application for child support services to enforce or modify an existing parental support order or to establish a new one.

The guardianship can be permanent or temporary. It can be established by juvenile court or probate court. But assistance is not available if the guardianship order requires continued SOSCF supervision of the child.

Subsidy Amounts

The guardianship assistance payment is basically equal to what the child received while in foster care. It is:

1. the child's most recent basic foster care rate (which depends on the child's age),

2. plus any Medicaid personal care payments (made when a child needs special care because of physical or mental problems),

3. minus any regular monthly benefit (e.g., Social Security) or child support payment (irregular or intermittent support payments are averaged over a 12-month period and the average deducted from the monthly subsidy).

Guardianship assistance payments do not increase automatically. A guardian must ask for an increase when (1) the child's age triggers a foster care rate increase (2) a cost of living adjustment raises rates, or (3) child support or benefit payments are not received. (Assistance payments can be reduced if support or benefit payments are greater than expected.)

Children are also eligible for all Medicaid services.

Administration

Before the guardianship is established, SOSCF provides an orientation to make sure all family members understand their and the agency's responsibilities. SOSCF pays attorneys to represent potential guardians during the guardianship establishment process. It will either designate an attorney with whom it contracts for services ( a “vendor attorney”) or pay the vendor rate to an attorney the guardian retains.

Guardians have the same access to SOSCF services as adoptive parents, including access to post-adoption resources and crisis intervention services.

The guardian must sign a written agreement with SOSCF that includes (1) the monthly benefit and the guardian's acceptance of it and (2) the guardian's understanding that the benefit may be adjusted annually by mutual agreement. SOSCF reviews the agreement annually.

SOSCF also reviews eligibility for assistance annually. Each year, the guardian must file a written report with the court and submit a copy to SOSCF within 30 days of his appointment anniversary. If he does not submit the report, SOSCF will withhold the monthly payment.

Guardians and applicants for guardianship assistance are entitled to a fair hearing if they are not satisfied by an agency decision.

CALIFORNIA

The Department of Social Services (DSS) implemented a kinship guardianship assistance payment program on January 1, 2000, called Kin-GAP. Legislation authorizing it was enacted in 1998 (Cal. Welfare and Institutions Code, 11360 to 11375).

Child Eligibility

A child must be under age 18. The juvenile court must have adjudged the child “dependent,” that is abused or neglected. The child must have been living with the relative for at least 12 consecutive months and had a kinship guardianship established with the relative as part of a court-ordered permanency plan.

Caregiver Eligibility

The relative must be related to the child within five degrees of kinship, which includes stepparent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, and sibling or stepsibling. It also includes the spouses of these relatives even if the marriage is dissolved or the relative has died.

Subsidy Amount

The Kin-GAP payment is equal to the foster care rate, which varies by the child's age (it averaged $893 for two children in 1999). The regional TANF child-only grant makes up most of the payment (approximately $565 for two children). The state and the county split the difference ($323) with general funds. Any savings DSS realizes as a result of the program (e.g. from reduced foster care caseloads) accrues to the General Fund.

Participating children receive Medicaid benefits. They are also allowed to keep up to $10,000 in savings.

The law specifies that Kin-GAP payments are not considered as the guardian's income for purposes of eligibility for any other program, unless federal law requires otherwise.

Administration

The law requires DSS to apply for any necessary federal waivers and specifies that any provision contingent on such a waiver will only be effective for the duration of the waiver.

DSS must report to the legislature in January 2002 and 2005 on the program's status. It must include data on (1) the number and characteristics of children who left the foster care system to participate in Kin-GAP, (2) the numbers and types of disruptions to the Kin-GAP system such as subsequent substantiated cases of child abuse and children returning to foster care, and (3) rates of Kin-GAP participation versus relative adoption and return to parents.

WISCONSIN

Wisconsin law establishes two similar but separate payment programs for kin caregivers. One (“guardianship subsidy”) is for relatives who have been appointed guardians of children who have been in a county CPS system for at least one year. The other (“nonguardian subsidy”) is for relatives of children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned or are at risk of these outcomes if they remain at home. A court or the CPS agency need not have placed the children there; their relatives can voluntarily take them. Payment for both programs is $215 a month, the TANF child-only rate (Wisc. Stat. 48.57 (3m) and (3n)).

Child Eligibility

A child under age 18 is eligible; an 18-year old is eligible if he is still enrolled in secondary school. For a nonguardian subsidy, a county child protection services agency must determine that the child has been abused, neglected, or abandoned or is likely to be if he remains at home (in Milwaukee County the state Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) makes the determination). For a guardianship subsidy, the child must have been in the CPS system for at least one year before his relative was appointed as guardian.

A child cannot be receiving federal Supplemental Security Income

or state supplemental payments.

A child living with a guardian is eligible until he turns age 18 (or 19 if he is still in secondary school), is placed out of the guardian's home or stops living with him, moves out of the state, or dies or the guardianship is terminated.

Caregiver Eligibility

The same relatives are eligible for both programs: stepparent, sibling or stepsibling, first cousin, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, any of these relationships in preceding generations (e.g., grandparent, great aunt), and any spouses of these relatives whether or not the marriage is still intact. The relative must apply to the county CPS agency or DHFS, as appropriate. For nonguardians, the agency must determine that the child needs to be placed with the relative and that doing so is in the child's best interest. Guardians must show proof of their status.

The CPS agency must conduct a criminal background check of the relative, any adult who lives in the relative's home, or any employee of the relative who may have regular contact with the child. The check is to determine whether any of these individuals have arrests or convictions that could adversely affect the child or the relative's ability to care for him.

The CPS agency must inspect the guardian's home, interview him, and determine that the child's best interests are served by placing him in the guardian's care.

Subsidy Amount

Both programs pay relatives $215 a month. The money comes from TANF block grant funds. DHFS pays relatives directly in Milwaukee County, elsewhere the county agency pays the relatives, and DHFS reimburses the county.

Relatives cannot receive payments under both programs. And guardians cannot receive foster care payments for the child.

Children living with a nonguardian relative may be eligible for Medicaid; DHFS makes the determination.

Administration

The CPS agency must annually review each case to determine if the child is still eligible. A relative dissatisfied with a decision about initial or renewed eligibility may ask for a DHFS hearing.

The CPS agency must refer the names of the child's parents to the agency responsible for child support enforcement. Any support payments received are assigned to the state. The agency must also require the child's parents to begin or continue health care insurance for the child.

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