October 12, 2004
PROGRAMS THAT HELP GRANDPARENTS RAISING THEIR GRANDCHILDREN
By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst
You asked for a description of programs that help grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.
Two state-funded programs target grandparents who assume legal guardianship of their grandchildren. The Department of Children and Families' (DCF) subsidized guardianship program is for grandparents and other relatives who care and become guardians for abused and neglected children committed to DCF's custody. The Children's Trust Fund provides kinship grants that help grandparents who become guardians of children who did not come into DCF custody pay for some nonrecurring costs of child rearing such as a bed or summer camp.
In FY 04, DCF provided $10,353,938 to grandparents and other guardian relatives through its program. And the legislature appropriated $275,000 in FY 05 for the Children's Trust Fund's kinship grant program.
A child who is being cared for by a grandparent guardian may also be eligible for a Temporary Family Assistance (TFA) payment from the Department of Social Services (DSS). If the relative is not herself eligible for TFA benefits, she receives on behalf of the child a “child only” payment of between $333 and $402 a month, depending on where she lives. If she is then appointed guardian of the child's sibling, she receives $110 a month on behalf of that sister or brother ($50 if the child is subject to the TFA family cap). Children receiving TFA are automatically eligible for HUSKY A coverage.
A statewide network of local grandparents as parents support programs has been established over the past several years thanks to a Brookdale Foundation grant to DSS. Network members provide advocacy, support, respite, and other services. They are funded through a mix of local, private, and some state funds. Another local group, Casa Otonal in New Haven, is developing a 30-unit housing project specifically for grandparents.
DCF SUBSIDIZED GUARDIANSHIP
When DCF places a court-committed abused or neglected child in a grandparent's or other relative's care, she receives a monthly foster care payment of between $698 to $785 depending on the child's age (payments for children with medically complex problems are greater). The grandparent's home must meet DCF standards, and she and all adult household members must pass a drug screen. She receives an additional foster care payment for each additional grandchild placed in her care. The child is also automatically eligible for HUSKY A medical coverage.
When a child in DCF custody has been living with a relative for at least 12 months, she can ask DCF to make her a subsidized guardian. DCF will approve the application if it determines:
1. reunification with the child's parents is not a viable option in the foreseeable future,
2. the relative can provide for the child's needs without DCF's continued involvement and support,
3. the relative has established a nurturing, stable relationship with the child, and
4. the relative is able to determine the appropriate level of ongoing contact with the child's biological family based on the child's best interests and safety.
After it approves the application, DCF files a motion in Superior Court to revoke commitment and transfer guardianship to the grandparent. Once guardianship is transferred, DCF determines the amount of subsidy it will pay. This amount is the same foster care rate the relative had been receiving as a foster caregiver—between $698 and $785 a month, depending on the child's age—minus any income or assets available to the child such as TFA, Social Security, or child support.
PROBATE COURT KINSHIP CARE GRANTS
The Children's Trust Fund provides funds to probate courts for grants to help grandparents and other relative guardians pay for some nonrecurring costs of child rearing. The grants can pay for such items as a bed or winter coat or for activities like summer camp or tutoring. The funds are available through the Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, West Haven, Waterbury, New London, Killingly, and Norwich probate courts; the new regional children's probate court in New Haven; and the Norwich DSS office.
To obtain a grant from this Kinship Fund, the guardian must ask the court in writing for the money, indicating the amount she needs and what she intends to use it for. If the probate judge approves the request, the court gives the relative a check. After purchasing the goods or services, she must give the court a receipt.
Casa Otonal, a New Haven Latino organization, recently announced plans to build 30 housing units in the city targeted to grandparents who have permanent custody of their grandchildren. Casa Otanol has asked the Department of Economic and Community Development for $870,000 in grants, the quasi-public Connecticut Housing Finance Authority for $1.2 million in loans and $4.2 million in low-income tax credits, and the city for about $650,000 in grants and loans. It anticipates opening its Casa Familia project in December 2005.
A 1998 grant from the Brookdale Foundation supported DSS establishing a grandparents as parents support (GAPS) program. When this funding ended, the program evolved into a network of nearly 30 agencies and organizations across the state that help grandparent caregivers and their grandchildren. The group meets quarterly to discuss issues and plan events. The list of group members is attached.