Topic:
STATE AID; PROBATE COURT; CUSTODY OF CHILDREN; GRANTS; GUARDIANSHIP; JUVENILES;
Location:
JUVENILES;

OLR Research Report


January 31, 2008

 

2008-R-0048

GRANDPARENTS RAISING GRANDCHILDREN

By: Gerald Barrett, Legislative Fellow

You asked us to give an overview of the financial assistance programs the state provides to grandparents raising their grandchildren. Specifically you wanted to know (1) how much the cash benefit is under these programs and (2) if the gap between benefit amount has increased or decreased.

SUMMARY

Several state programs provide financial assistance to relative caregivers, including grandparents raising grandchildren. The Department of Children and Families' (DCF) Subsidized Guardianship Program provides the largest benefit followed by the Department of Social Services' (DSS) “child only” Temporary Family Assistance (TFA) program. Finally, small grant programs for relatives who assume guardianship of a child are administered in several local probate courts and one DSS regional office.

Under the Subsidized Guardianship Program, grandparents receive monthly stipends equal to that of foster care payments (CGS 17a-126(c)). Payment rates have increased by approximately 23% since 1996. The current monthly rates range from $746.17 to $875.44, depending upon the age of the child, the intensity of his or her needs, and the number of days in the month.

Grandparents receiving The DSS “child only” TFA, on the other hand, receive a substantially smaller benefit. For example, a grandparent living in Hartford and raising one grandchild receives $344 per month. Before July 1, 2007, the rate was $333 per month and had not been increased in more than 15 years. Thus, the gap between DCF and DSS payment levels has widened, although the 2007 (TFA) increase has slightly narrowed it.

DCF SUBSIDIZED GUARDIANSHIP PROGRAM

Generally, DCF requires grandparents raising children who have been placed in the department's care due to allegations of abuse or neglect to obtain foster care licenses. The department provides caseworkers and other support services just as it does for non relative foster parents. Grandparents may apply for subsidized guardianship once the child has been living with them for six months. DCF may grant such requests when it determines that:

1. reunification with the child's parents in the foreseeable future is not a viable option due a death or inadequate living environment provided by the parents;

2. the grandparent can meet the child's needs without DCF's continued involvement and nonmonetary support;

3. the grandparent has established a nurturing, stable relationship with the child; and

4. the grandparent is able to decide the appropriate level of ongoing contact with the child's other biological family members based on the child's best interests and safety.

Once guardianship is granted, grandparents receive monthly payments equal to foster care rates, less a deduction for the child's assets and income as determined by DCF policy (DCF Policy 41-50-6).

Increase in DCF Payment Rates Since 1996

Table 1 below shows the increase in foster care and subsidized guardianship per diem rates from 1996 to present. From 1996 to 2004, rates increased only every two to four years. However, since 2004 rates have been increasing regularly every year. The monthly stipend grandparents receive depends on the number of days in a given month.

TABLE 1: DCF FOSTER CARE AND SUBSIDIZED GUARDIANSHIP RATES

Foster Care & Subsidized Guardianship Rates (Per Day)

Age Group

7/1/96

7/1/97

9/1/99

7/1/01

10/1/04

7/1/05

7/1/06

7/1/07

Age 0-5

$20.44

$20.44

$21.62

$22.60

$22.96

$24.21

$24.84

$25.73

Age 6-11

$21.10

$21.10

$22.25

$23.12

$23.49

$24.63

$25.20

$26.03

Age 12 and over

$23.27

$23.27

$24.51

$25.41

$25.82

$26.89

$27.43

$28.24

Source: DCF (1/15/08)

DSS CASH ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS

Grandparents raising grandchildren who have not been committed to DCF do not qualify for the department's Subsidized Guardianship Program. But they may qualify for monthly cash assistance under DSS' “child only” TFA rules. For many years, the “child only” benefit was $333 per month, in region B, which constitutes roughly 67% of Connecticut towns (rates differ slightly in regions A and C).

Beginning July 1, 2007, payment rates increased to $344 per month for one child in region B under a new law that authorizes rates to increase by up to 5% per year (PA 07-2, June Special Session). Table 2 shows the amount of the TFA “child only” benefit for region B, before and after the increase.

TABLE: 2 MONTHLY “CHILD ONLY” TFA PAYMENTS BY HOUSEHOLD SIZE & REGION

Number of Children

Total Monthly TFA Payment (Before July 1, 2007)-Region B

Current Total Monthly TFA Payment-Region B

1

$333

$344

2

443

457

3

543

560

4

639

659

5

731

754

Source: DSS (1/10/08)

PROBATE COURT PROGRAMS

A new law directs the New Haven Regional Children's Probate Court to establish an extended family guardianship and assisted care pilot program. Its aim is to reduce the number of abused or neglected children by placing them in the care of family members and encouraging the family members to become guardians. Guardian relatives qualify for cash grants of up to $500 per child (PA 07-4, June Special Session).

In addition, the Children's Trust Fund provides funds for one-time grants to help grandparents pay for some nonrecurring child rearing costs. These can pay for such things as a bed or winter coat or for activities like summer camp or tutoring. The funds are available only through (1) probate courts in Bridgeport, Hartford, Killingly, New Haven, New London, Norwich, West Haven, and Waterbury; (2) the regional children's probate court in New Haven; and (3) the Norwich DSS office.

Grant amounts range from $50 - $250 per child, with a family maximum of $1,000.

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