Financial Support for Kinship Care
Kinship caregivers often begin caring for the children in their care with little notice, preparation, or training. While the needs of children served by kinship caregivers are similar to the needs of those placed in nonrelative foster care, the caregivers themselves are quite different. Approximately 20% of kinship caregivers are living below the poverty line, and many kinship caregivers are grandparents, who may be on a fixed income or have their own health care needs. Kinship caregivers may need to cut back on work hours or quit their jobs entirely to care for their relative's children. Just like nonrelative foster caregivers, kinship caregivers need financial support to provide care for the children. However, the options for financial support are limited and may vary by state.
Kinship caregivers may qualify for the following supports:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) - TANF provides time-limited assistance to families with low incomes. Each state determines the income eligibility for its TANF program and the amount of assistance to be provided to families. Caregivers do not need to have legal custody in order to apply for TANF benefits, but they do need to meet their state's TANF definition of a kin caregiver.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - SNAP is available to families with incomes below a certain level. In this case, the entire household's income is considered, and the relative children can be included in family size for determining benefit amount.
- Kinship Guardianship Assistance (KinGAP) - KinGAP provides relatives caregivers with legal authority and financial assistance to care for children when adoption is not appropriate. Availability, eligibility, and payment amount for programs vary by state.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be available to children in kinship care who are disabled.
To address the financial needs of kinship caregivers, some states have begun offering formal financial support. The Kinship Permanency Incentive (KPI) program in Ohio is one example. It was created to support children in the homes of family or friends who have committed to caring for them when birth parents cannot. KPI is administered by the public children services agencies and provides time-limited incentive payments to families caring for their kin. Eligible kinship caregivers (substitute caregivers that have obtained legal custody or guardianship of a child) will receive an initial payment to defray costs of initial placement and may receive subsequent payments at six-month intervals to support the stability of the child's placement in the home. The maximum incentive amount may not exceed eight payments. For more information about KPI, please contact Rebekah Murray, LISW, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Rebekah.Murray@jfs.ohio.gov.
Additional information on support for kinship caregivers can be found at