Kinship Care and How it Relates to Foster Care in Virginia

Couple playing with a child on a beach by the water

How Can Kinship Care Help My Family?

Did you know that in 2019 over 672,000 children spent time in foster care? In December 2019, 5,577 children were in the foster care system in Virginia.

Child welfare agency workers want to ensure that children are safe and remain in-home. However, the child welfare system must take action when children aren't safe in their homes. When children get removed from the home, one of the options for placement is a kinship care placement.

If you are the relative of a child in Virginia, who has been removed from their home, keep reading to learn more about kinship care and see how you can help a child.

What Is Kinship Care?

Kinship care is placing a child with a family member, which means that a child removed from their home lives with a relative instead of a foster family. However, there are varying levels of kinship care.

Informal Kinship Care

In an informal kinship care situation, children's services and the courts are not involved. Parents choose a family member to leave their child with while they cannot care for them. However, the biological parents retain custody.

One of the struggles with this situation is that the relative does not have legal custody. This can make it difficult to get benefits, enroll the child in school, authorize medical care, or get health insurance. For a family in Virginia, this can be even more difficult. To register a child in school as a kinship caregiver, the school requires that you have custody or a kinship placement. 

standby guardianship agreement is an exception that can be put into place. Some situations are military families, families with parents with a severe or terminal illness, or when a power of attorney is sufficient.

Temporary Guardianship

In this situation, a relative takes temporary guardianship of a child. This gets done through the court. A parent can willingly give temporary guardianship. But if the parent is unwilling, a relative can petition the court.

Voluntary Kinship Care

In voluntary kinship care, children's services involvement occurs. However, the courts remain uninvolved, so the state will not take legal custody. In this circumstance, parents willingly agree to allow their children to live with a relative.

There will be a case plan and, at times, a document where the parent agrees to the living situation. This is often referred to as a safety plan. It gives children services time to assess the situation. It also gives parents time to receive care, all while ensuring the child's safety.

Formal Kinship Care

At this level, local departments of social services and the court get involved. The court will often put the child in the custody of the state. Then, they will collaborate with the family to decide whether to place the children in a foster or kinship care placement.

In this situation, the kinship care placement must meet specific requirements put forth by the state. Kinship placements must meet all the requirements of a foster home. Though, timelines are typically adjusted due to the emergent nature of the situation.

In formal kinship care, the court can also choose to give custody to a family member rather than the state. Children's services are still involved and work on a plan to return the child to their biological parents.

Why Kinship Care?

Why kinship care instead of foster families? When children get removed from their homes, it can be traumatizing. Placing children in kinship care gives them more tools to make the adjustment easier. It keeps siblings together, preserves cultural identity, and maintains their connections within the community.

When children cannot return to their biological parents, kinship care improves the chances of permanency. When looking at permanency, 32% of children adopted get adopted by relatives. 9% of children who exit foster care get placed in the custody of a family member.

As children age out of foster care, having connections in the community and the family is essential to success. Kinship care can help accomplish this. 

Resources for Kinship Care

Are you interested in providing kinship care for a child in your family? If you are ready to fill that role, kinship guardianship assistance and support services are available at the state and federal levels.

Caseworker

While children's services and caseworkers often get a bad reputation, they are there to assist you in meeting the child's needs. Your caseworker will be one of the most valuable tools. They will refer you to various services and share community resources you may not have known existed. 

Monthly payments

You can receive monthly payments if you become an approved kinship care provider. The amount of these payments will depend on the child's individual needs and age. 

TANF

TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. You can qualify for these under child-only benefits. These benefits are for families that have custody versus the state having custody. Child-only benefits include a monthly payout. 

Child support

You can apply to receive child support from the parents. However, if you receive TANF benefits for the children in your care, the child support will go to the state. This reimburses the state for the money that is paid out through TANF. If the child support exceeds the cost of TANF, the extra child support will be paid out to you.

SSI

Supplemental Security Income may be available to caregivers or children with disabilities. You can also apply for survivor's benefits if you are caring for a child due to the death of their parents.

SNAP

Another option for financial assistance is to apply for SNAP. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is also commonly referred to as food stamps. The amount of support you can receive through SNAP depends on income and the number of individuals in the household.

School lunches

Many schools offer subsidized lunch programs. In addition, children in the state's custody automatically receive free lunches.

Child care

If you need help paying for child care, subsidies are available. There are several ways you can qualify. One of the ways is if children's services are involved. 

CHIP

You can apply for CHIP or Medicaid for children in your care for medical needs. Children in state custody will have medical benefits through the state as well. 

KinGAP

If the children will not be reuniting with their biological parents, KinGAP is an option for kinship caregivers. KinGAP stands for the Kinship Guardian Assistance Program. It is in place to promote permanency for children by allowing them to leave foster care.

KinGAP helps family members meet the child's financial needs by providing monthly payments. The requirements to qualify for these benefits include the following:

  • The child must be related by marriage, adoption, or blood to the individual providing kinship care
  • The individual providing kinship care must be an approved foster parent
  • The child must have been in foster care and their kinship placement for a minimum of 6 months
  • Adoption and return home are no longer viable options

The kinship care provider will become a permanent legal guardian for the child. They are responsible for medical care, school, contact with other family members, and therapeutic services.

KinGAP is a discussion that should occur before custody is transferred. Once the state no longer has custody, payments and services may need to change. Therefore, kinship care providers will be better prepared if they have this conversation early in the process.

Federal Adoption Assistance

In the case of adoption, some children will qualify for Federal Adoption Assistance. This funding is available to adoptive families of children with special needs. In the state of Virginia, some factors to qualify include:

  • A hereditary or congenital condition
  • A physical, mental, or emotional condition diagnosed before adoption
  • Six years old or older and in foster care for a time greater than 18 months
  • A member of a minority group
  • A close relationship with one or more siblings in the same placement
  • Significant emotional ties to the foster parent after placement of 12+ months
  • Returning home to biological parents is not an option
  • Adoption is not viable without adoption assistance

Give a child their best future

Removing children from their homes is traumatic. Kinship care can help give children their best future. Resources are available to help you if you are interested in caring for a child in your family. 

Do you want to learn more about becoming a kinship care provider and a qualified foster care placement? You can start on your path to changing a child's life today. Contact FosterVA today for more information or to answer any questions.

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