Topic:
CHILDREN AND FAMILIES DEPT.; CUSTODY OF CHILDREN; GUARDIANSHIP; JUVENILES; LIABILITY (LAW); PROBATE COURT; GRANTS;
Location:
JUVENILES; LIABILITY, LEGAL;

OLR Research Report


January 19, 2007

 

2007-R-0056

GRANDPARENTS RAISING GRANDCHILDREN

By: Susan Price, Principal Legislative Analyst

You asked us to highlight differences when grandparents raise their grandchildren as (1) Department of Children and Families (DCF)-subsidized guardians or (2) probate court-appointed guardians. We understand your question to be limited to programs exclusively for these families and thus have not included programs such as food stamps and housing assistance whose eligibility rules are not directly tied to these living arrangements.

SUMMARY

Grandparents who become guardians of children involved in the child welfare system (e.g., victims of child abuse or neglect) qualify for substantially higher monthly state payments and than grandparents who become guardians of children who have not. But the former are initially subject to the same DCF licensing and supervision as non-relative foster parents and the latter are generally not subject to the agency's regulation.

DCF SUBSIDIZED GUARDIANSHIP

When DCF places court-committed abused or neglected children in a grandparent's care, it makes monthly foster care payments of between $698 to $785 for each child depending on the child's age (payments for children with medically complex problems are higher). The grandparent must obtain a foster care license, the living arrangements must meet DCF standards, and the department monitors and provides case management and other support services to the same extent that it does for non-relative foster parents. The children are automatically eligible for medical assistance (HUSKY A).

After six months, grandparents may ask DCF to make them subsidized guardians. DCF can do so if it determines:

1. reunification with the child's parents in the foreseeable future is not a viable option;

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.

After it approves the application, DCF files a motion in the Superior Court to transfer guardianship to the grandparent. Once the court grants its motion, the grandparent receives the same monthly foster care payment as before, adjusted upward as the child becomes older.

PROBATE COURT GUARDIANSHIP

A grandparent whose grandchild has not been committed to DCF may nevertheless apply to become his or her guardian. These cases are handled in the local probate court, which has flexibility to make the grandparent sole legal guardian or co-guardian with the child's biological parent or other responsible adult or to order a “springing” guardianship (one that becomes effective when an anticipated event, such a parent's incarceration or death, occurs). These arrangements are not formally subsidized by the state, although a child living in such an arrangement may be eligible for a Temporary Family Assistance (TFA or cash welfare) payment through the Department of Social Services (DSS).

In most parts of the state, a qualifying guardian receives a monthly “child only” TFA payment of $333 for the first grandchild. Table 1 below shows the monthly increase for each additional child for whom the grandparent assumes guardianship.

Table 1: Monthly TFA Payments by Household Size

Children Under Guardianship

Total Monthly TFA Payment

1

$333

2

443

3

543

4

639

5

731

Source: DSS (1/17/07)

Children eligible for TFA automatically qualify for medical assistance (HUSKY A).

Kinship Fund Grants

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.

SP/HN:ro