Supporting Relative Caregivers of Children

2/13/2017

Nearly 3 million American children are cared for by relatives other than their parents.

Child welfare agencies in many states rely on extended families, primarily grandparents, to provide homes for children who cannot safely remain with their parents. In fact, relatives care for 27 percent of children in foster care—about 107,000—according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.

drawing of familyMedical consent and school enrollment: Read State Educational and Medical Consent Laws to view the chart of state laws allowing relatives to enroll children in school and to obtain medical care and treatment for children in their care. Read Big Decisions for Little Children, NCSL State Legislatures magazine article.

Relative notification: The Fostering Connections Act of 2008 requires that within 30 days after the child has been removed from parental custody, the state shall exercise due diligence to identify and provide notice to all adult grandparents and other adult relatives of the child. The notice will be sent to any other adult relatives suggested by the parents, subject to exceptions due to domestic violence. Read NCSL Child Welfare Policy Update State Response to the Fostering Connections to Success Act of 2008 Relative Notification Provision  to view relative notification enactments.

Subsidized guardianship:The Fostering Connections Act of 2008 also allows states the option to provide kinship guardianship assistance payments on behalf of children to grandparents and other relatives who have assumed legal guardianship of the children and states will be able to use federal title IVE funds for this purpose. In order to receive payments, a state must negotiate and enter into a written binding kinship guardianship assistance agreement with the prospective relative guardian. Read Child Welfare Policy Update State Response to the Fostering Connections to Success Act of 2008 Kinship Guardianship Assistance Provision to view kinship guardianship assistance enactments.

Relative Support: A number of states have enacted legislation to expand support for grandparent and relative caregivers.  The chart below reflects legislation enacted between 2012 and 2016.  The categories identified include:

The box allows you to conduct a full text search or use the dropdown menu option to select a state.

State Legislative Enactments Supporting Relatives, Kinship Care Providers and Grandparents 2012-2016

EASES LICENSING

REQUIREMENTS/WAIVERS/ VARIANCES

Virginia

2016 HB 674
Act No. 25

Relates to kinship foster care. Relates to waiver of foster home approval standards, allows local boards of social services, subject to approval by the commissioner of the Department of Social Services, to grant a waiver regarding the board's standards for foster home approval, set forth in regulations, that are not related to safety.

Nebraska

2013 LB 265

Changes foster care licensure, kinship home and relative home provisions. Relates to children placed in settings other than the home.

Nebraska

2013 LB 269

Requires HHS to adopt new foster care licensing regulations that minimize the mandates for nonsafety issues and provides alternatives to address nonsafety issues regarding housing and provide assistance to overcome licensing barriers, especially in child-specific relative and kinship placements.

Colorado

2012 HB 1047

 

Act No. 42

Concerns the waiver of nonsafety licensing standards for kinship foster care. Provides that a county director of social services may limit or restrict a license issued to a kinship foster care entity or require that entity to enter into a compliance agreement to ensure the safety and wellbeing of a child or children in that entity's care.

Indiana

2012 SB 286

Act No. 48

Provides that a person may operate a foster family home for a related person without a license. 

Virginia

2012 SB 299

 

Act No. 568

Provides that the commissioner of social services may grant a variance for approval of foster homes for children if the placement is a kinship foster care placement and the variance will not adversely affect the safety and well-being of the child. Provides that a local board or child-placing agency may approve as a kinship foster care parent an applicant convicted of drugs or arson under certain circumstances.

EXPANDS DEFINITION OF RELATIVE

Illinois

2016 HB 5551
Act No. 836

Amends the Children and Family Services Ac. Amends provisions requiring the Department of Children and Family Services to develop a case plan for clients for whom the department is providing placement services. Relates to incarcerated parents' ability to participate via teleconference or videoconference, a certain best interest standard, the definition of fictive kin, termination of parental rights, adoption and other matters.

Michigan

2016 SB 530
Act No. 228

Relates to juvenile care and supervision. Modifies the definition of relative and adds a definition of a half-sibling, provides that the term sibling includes the term as defined by an American Indian or Alaskan Native child's tribal code or custom.

New Mexico

2016 HB 28
Act No. 54

Amends the Abuse and Neglect Act. Provides notice to grandparents and other relatives when a child is taken into custody by law enforcement or a department petition. Changes procedures for permanency hearings. Modifies and expands confidentiality provisions. Provides that fictive kin means a person not related by birth, adoption or marriage with whom a child has an emotionally significant relationship. Relates to legal custody.

North Carolina

2015 HB 669

 

Act No. 2015-136

Makes various changes to the juvenile laws pertaining to abuse, neglect, and dependency. Relates to each county's child welfare agency. Defines nonrelative kin as an individual having a substantial relationship with the juvenile. Establishes that the juvenile's parent shall be a party unless the parent's rights have been terminated. Establishes that the juvenile's parent shall be a party unless the parent has relinquished the juvenile for adoption, unless the court orders that the parent be made a party.

Oregon

2015 HB 3014

 

Act No. 216

Changes definition of "grandparent" in laws pertaining to notice to grandparents of juvenile dependency hearings regarding grandchildren, and that authorize grandparents to request visitation or other contact or communication with grandchildren when grandchildren are in legal custody of Department of Human Services.

Utah

2015 HB 39

 

Act No. 142

Permits placement of a child in an emergency placement with a friend, designated by the custodial parent or guardian, who is not a licensed foster parent. Modifies the definition of relative as it relates to abuse, neglect, and dependency proceedings. Permits the division to place a child in an emergency placement with an adult who is an adoptive parent of the child's sibling. Permits the court to award custody of a child with an adult who is an adoptive parent of a child's sibling.

Maryland

2014 SB 144

 

Act No. 39

Lowers the age that a person must be to serve as a kinship parent for a child in need of out-of-home placement from 21 to 18. Repeals a provision authorizing a local department to waive the age requirement for a potential kinship parent who is at least 18 years of age and who lives with a spouse who is at least 21 years of age.

California

2012 AB 1712

 

Act No. 846

The bill would expand the definition of a relative for purposes of the federally funded Kin-GAP program to include guardians who are nonrelated extended family members, tribal kin, or current caregivers of foster children, as specified.

Colorado

2012 SB 66

 

Act No. 86

Concerns expanding those people eligible as guardians in the guardianship assistance program to include people ascribed by the family as having a familylike relationship with the child or who have had a prior significant relationship with the child.

 PRIORITIZES RELATIVE

PLACEMENT/

EMPHASIZES IMPORTANCE OF RELATIVE PLACEMENT

California

2016 SB 1336
Act No. 890

Relates to dependent children and placement with relatives. Requires the juvenile court to make a finding as to whether the social worker exercised due diligence in conducting his or her investigation to identify, locate, and notify the child's relatives.

 

Georgia

2016 HB 887
Act. No 337

Relates to dependency proceedings and termination of parental rights. Prioritizes the placement of a child with an adult who is a relative or fictive kin when such individual is qualified to care for such child and it is in the best interests of the child. Provides for the creation, authorization, procedure, revocation, recision and termination of a power of attorney from a parent, guardian or legal custodian of a child to a kinship caregiver.

Nebraska

2015 LB 243

Relates to children. Creates a pilot project relating to family finding services. Provides and changes duties for the Department of Health and Human Services. Provides for appropriations, rules and regulations. Relates to juvenile courts, independence hearings, health care and medical assistance. Changes provisions relating to services and support provided under the bridge to independence program and permanency review hearings. Requires certain documents and proceedings to be confidential.

Nebraska

2015 LB 296

Adds all parents who have legal custody of a sibling of the child to those who must be notified by the Department of Health and Human Services upon the removal of a child from his or her home. Provides a definition of sibling.

Virginia

2015 SB 284

 

Act No. 530

Requires the Department of Social Services to review current policies governing facilitation of placement of children in kinship care to avoid foster care placements and shall develop recommendations for regulations governing kinship placements which shall include specified recommendations.

Virginia

2015 SB 400

 

Act No. 257

Relates to kinship foster care. Relates to removal. Provides a child placed in kinship foster care shall not be removed from the physical custody of the kinship foster parent, provided the child has been living with the kinship foster parent for six consecutive months and the placement continues to meet approval standards for foster care, unless the kinship foster parent consents to the removal, the removal is agreed upon at a family partnership meeting, is court ordered, or warranted under existing law.

Colorado

2014 HB 1362

 

Act No. 374

Amends provisions concerning visitation rights of grandparents and disputes concerning grandparent visitation to include great-grandparents, without changing the eligibility requirements or process outlined in the existing statutes.

Kentucky

2014 SB 176

 

Act No. 69

Requires the cabinet for health and family services to create a centralized, statewide service program that provides information and referrals through a statewide toll-free telephone number to grandparents and other caregivers who are caring for minors who are not their biological children. Relates to a caregiver's ability to authorize health care treatment for a minor and to make school-related decisions. Relates to the health care authorization portion of an affidavit.

Maryland

2014 HB 178

 

Act No. 86

Expands search, contact, and reunion services to include contacting specified relatives of a minor in out-of-home placement to develop a placement resource or facilitate a family connection if the minor was adopted through a local department of social services and a local department determines that reunification with the minor's adoptive parents is not in the minor's best interests.

Virginia

2014 SB 400

 

Act No. 257

Relates to kinship foster care. Relates to removal. Provides a child placed in kinship foster care shall not be removed from the physical custody of the kinship foster parent, provided the child has been living with the kinship foster parent for six consecutive months and the placement continues to meet approval standards for foster care, unless the kinship foster parent consents to the removal, the removal is agreed upon at a family partnership meeting, is court ordered, or warranted under existing law.

Virginia

2014 SB 284

 

Act No. 530

Requires the Department of Social Services to review current policies governing facilitation of placement of children in kinship care to avoid foster care placements and shall develop recommendations for regulations governing kinship placements which shall include specified recommendations.

North Carolina

2013 HB 510

 

Act No. 2013-326

Provides for the foster children's bill of rights under the laws pertaining to control over child placing and child care that include a safe foster home, first priority regarding placement in a home with siblings, the ability to communicate with the assigned social worker, allowing a child to remain enrolled in school the child attended before placement in foster care, having a social worker identify and locate all in-laws and adult siblings, or other relatives relating to placement of the child

Oregon

2013 HB 3249

 

Act No. 436

Requires the Department of Human Services to exercise due diligence to locate a grandparent of a ward in the department's custody and to give grandparent notice of hearings concerning ward. Requires court to give grandparent of ward opportunity to be heard but does not make grandparent party to juvenile court proceeding. Allows grandparent of ward to request visitation under certain circumstances. Requires service of adoption petition on a grandparent and allows a motion for visitation after adoption.

South Carolina

2013 HB 3464

 

Act No. 58

Relates to expedited relative placements of children at the probable cause hearing. Encourages placement of the child with a grandparent or other relative of the first or second degree under certain circumstances. Sets forth criteria for the court to consider when deciding whether to place a child with a grandparent or other relative of the first or second degree at the probable cause hearing. Requires the consideration of a parent before other relatives.

Utah

2013 SB 255

 

Act No. 171

Requires a court, in determining primary permanency and concurrent permanency plans, to prioritize a kinship placement, consider guardianship placement, and utilize an individualized placement goal as a last resort only, eliminate the 8-month time frame for a child younger than 36 months in the custody of the division.

Kansas

2012 SB 262

 

Act No. 2012-115

Requires substantial consideration of a grandparent who requests custody when a court evaluates what custody, visitation, or residency arrangements are in the best interest of a child who has been removed from custody of a parent and not placed with the child's other parent. The court must consider the wishes of the parents, child and grandparent; the extent that the grandparent has cared for the child; the intent and circumstances under which the child is placed with the grandparent; and the physical and mental health of all involved individuals. The court is required to state this evaluation on the record. If the court does not give custody to a grandparent, but places the child in the custody of the secretary of Social and Rehabilitation Services for placement, then a grandparent who requests placement shall receive substantial consideration in the evaluation for placement, using the factors listed in the bill. If the grandparent is not selected for placement, the secretary shall prepare and maintain a written report with specific reasons for the finding.

Pennsylvania

2012 HB 1261

 

Act 2012-80

The bill changes the Adoption Opportunities and Kinship Care sections within the Public Welfare Code by creating a Subsidized Permanent Legal Custodianship Program and expanding the definition of child up to age 21. This permits an adoption subsidy or a subsidized permanent legal custodianship to continue for a child as long as they are: 1. Under the age of 21, 2. 13 years of age before the adoption assistance agreement or subsidized permanent legal custodianship agreement became effective, and 3. Either pursuing additional education or training, employed for at least 80 hours a month, or incapable of doing either due to a medical or behavioral health condition

Utah

2012 HB 161

 

Act No. 281

Emphasizes the importance of in-home services and kinship placement over other forms of state intervention. 

Utah

2012 HB 241

 

Act No. 214

Requires DCFS to have "clear and convincing evidence" before it could remove a child from a relative's care based on age or health-related problems alleged to be incapacitating. Amends the procedure for taking a foster child away from a foster parent who is that child's relative. Prohibits the Division of Child and Family services from removing a foster child from a foster parent who is the child's relative without clear and convincing evidence that the relative is incapable of caring for the child.

 PAYMENT/REIMBURSEMENT/SUBSIDIES PROVISIONS

Arizona

2016 HB 2452
Act No. 133

Allows an eligible dependent child to receive cash assistance during the period in which the dependent child is in the legal custody of DCS, a tribal court, or a tribal child welfare agency and is placed in kinship foster care with a nonparent relative. Provides for cash assistance if the court has placed a child with a nonparent relative, the child's parents are deceased and the child is living with a such relative, or if a non-parent relative has custody of the child because the child is abandoned.

Connecticut

2016 SB 72
Act No. 16-11

Concerns a notification of support for foster parents and relative caregivers. Develops a notification of support to inform foster parents and relative caregivers of their privileges under various state programs. Requires providing a copy of the notification of support to foster parents and relative caregivers at the time of the placement of the child.

Georgia

2016 HB 962
Act No. 409

Authorizes the Department of Human Services to provide a separate link or portal on its website that provides kinship caregivers with information and access necessary to apply for public assistance benefits. Provides for the creation, appointment and duties of a kinship care enforcement administrator. Provides that certain dependents of a military service member shall maintain eligibility and priority for certain medical assistance and developmental disability services.

Michigan

2016 SB 529
Act No. 227

Amends the Guardianship Assistance Act. Provides that successor guardians may receive guardianship assistance payments if the guardian meets specified criteria. Requires a successor guardian to apply for and maintain on behalf of a child any public or private medical insurance or assistance for which the child is eligible.

Wisconsin

2016 SB 202
Act No. 166

Relates to appeals of denials of kinship care payments based on arrest or conviction record. Permits a person who is aggrieved by a decision denying kinship care payment based on arrest or conviction record to petition the Department of Children and Families for a hearing on that decision. Provides the department must give the petitioner an opportunity for a fair hearing. Provides the decision of the hearing is final, subject to judicial review or revocation or moderation.

Wisconsin

2016 SB 253
Act No. 143

Relates to eligibility for monthly subsidized guardianship payments of a person who develops a familial relationship with a child or the child's family during the child's placement in out-of-home care, provides an exemption from emergency rule procedures. Grants rule-making authority.

Wisconsin

2016 SB 308
Act No. 129

Permits the appointment of a successor guardian for a child in need of protection or services to assume the duty and authority of guardianship on the death or incapacity of the child's guardian. Specifies the conditions that such successor must meet to be eligible for monthly subsidized guardianship payments.

District of Columbia

2015 B 99

Amends, on an emergency basis, due to congressional review, the Grandparent Caregivers Pilot Program Establishment Act of 2005 to allow the Grandparent Caregivers Program subsidy to be transferred to a relative caregiver when a grandparent is no longer able to care for the child.

Missouri

2014 SB 532

 

Enacted

Allows relative caregivers, acting under an affidavit, to consent to medical treatment and educational services for a minor child with whom such caregiver lives if consent of the legal parent or guardian cannot be obtained through reasonable efforts. Provides that a parent may also delegate such consent authority to the caregiver in writing, specifies the required information that must be contained in the affidavit.

Missouri

2013 SB 47

 

Enacted

Repeals a provision authorizing similar subsidies as those available to adoptive parents for relatives of children granted guardianship of such children, enacts in new section related thereto. Provides for subsidies to close nonrelated persons.

Montana

2013 HB 262

 

Act No. 387

Extends Medicaid eligibility for minors placed in a subsidized guardianship.

Oregon

2013 SB 601

 

Act No. 231

Authorizes a relative caregiver with whom a minor child lives to consent to medical treatment and educational services for a minor child if consent of legal parent or guardian cannot be obtained after reasonable efforts. Specifies required information in relative caregiver affidavits. Relieves health care provider and school of criminal and civil liability for medical treatment or educational services provided in good faith.

Texas

2013 SB 502

 

Act No. 426

Relates to procedures for placement of children with certain relatives or other designated caregivers. Requires provision of medical and other information about the child, relates to cash payments.

Texas

2013 HB 2619

 

Act No. 688

Relates to educational needs of children in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Virginia

2013 SB 960

 

Act No. 779

Relates to public schools, relates to residency of children in kinship care, allows a child receiving kinship care from an adult relative to enroll in the school division where the kinship care provider resides, allows local school divisions to require one legal parent and the kinship care provider to sign affidavits detailing the kinship care arrangement as well as a power of attorney authorizing the adult relative to make educational decisions regarding the child.

California

2012 AB 1712

 

Act No. 846

Existing law authorizes payment of CalWORKs aid to a non-minor dependent placed in the approved home of a relative, as specified, if the non-minor dependent is involved in certain educational or employment activities.  The new legislation authorizes the CalWORKs payments to be made out of state when the non-minor dependent is placed in the approved home of a relative who resides in another state. 

 

This bill would also revise the provisions relating to state-funded and federally funded Kin-GAP payments, and would make Kin-GAP and Adoption Assistance Program payments for non-minor former dependents between 20 and 21 years of age contingent upon appropriations by the Legislature. 

New York

2012 AB 8339

 

Act No. 607

Expands the categories of children who could be eligible for the kinship guardianship assistance program to include destitute children, thereby expanding permanency options for such children.

     RELATIVE ADOPTION PROVISIONS

Arizona

2012 SB 1128

 

Act No. 15

Eliminates the possibility of a home study when an adoption involves a child's relatives. 

      MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

Alabama

2016 SB 95
Act No. 2016-129

Relates to foster care and kinship guardianship. Provides for the appointment of successor guardianships when a kinship guardian dies or is incapacitated. Requires the juvenile court to consider services needed to assist a child to make the transition from foster care to independent living. Defines age or developmentally appropriate childhood activities and reasonable and prudent parent standard for caregivers. Provides that the standard would apply for purposes of caregiver liability.

Colorado

2016 HB 1448

Provides for qualifying legal relationships and situations that are eligible for the program in situations where a child or children cannot be returned to the physical custody of such child's or children's parent, kin, or legal guardian and adoption and reunification are either unavailable or not appropriate permanency options for the child or children, provides for financial assistance, relates to foster parents. 06/15/2016 - Session Law Chaptered. Chapter No. 359

Connecticut

2016 SB 187
Act No. 16-124

Concerns transfers of guardianship. Permits the transfer of subsidies in cases where a guardian is removed and another is appointed. Permits a permanent transfer of guardianship to a fictive kin or relative caregiver. Relates to foster care. Requires any person of a specified minimum age or older living in a foster household to submit to state and national criminal history records checks prior to issuing a license.

Idaho

2016 SB 1352
Act No. 148

Amends existing law to provide that a guardian's authority and responsibility for a minor shall terminate upon termination of the guardianship. Revises a provision regarding the resignation of a guardian. Provides for proceedings for the modification or termination of a guardianship.

Illinois

2016 SB 2512
Act No. 625

Amends the Juvenile Court Act concerning abused, neglected, or dependent minors, provides that the court shall ensure, by inquiring in open court of each parent, guardian, custodian or responsible relative, that the parent, guardian, custodian or responsible relative has had the opportunity to provide the Department of Children and Family Services with all known names, addresses, and telephone numbers of each of the minor's living maternal and paternal adult relatives.

Louisiana

2016 HCR 34

Requests completion of a study regarding continuing contact by parents and other relatives with children in need of care. 

Louisiana

2016 SB 313
Act No. 301

Relates to the Council on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Provides for the transfer of this council from the Department of Children and Family Services to the office of the governor. Provides for the council's membership, responsibilities and duties, and its fund. Provides terms, conditions, requirements and procedures.

Oklahoma

2016 HB 2431
Act No. 242

Relates to children. Relates to permanent guardianships for a deprived child. Prohibits guardianship if prospective guardian is not eligible for foster or adoptive placement.

Colorado

2015 SB 87

 

Chap. No. 263

Concerns the safe placement of children in foster care homes. Regards the regulation of foster care homes, kinship foster care homes, and noncertified kinship care. Clarifies the responsibilities for background checks between the State Department of Human Services and county departments of human or social services and licensed child placement agencies. Repeals the definition of salaried foster parent. Specifies sanctions that the State Department may place upon a county department or child placement agency.

Montana

2015 HB 165

 

Chap. No. 112

Revises grandparent, grandchild contact laws to allow for the appointment of a guardian ad litem.

New Mexico

2015 HB 277

 

Act No. 28

Relates to kinship guardianship. Removes the requirement to state marital status of the child. Updates the process of obtaining a hearing date. Changes the standard of proof in Indian Child Welfare Act cases to comport with the federal law.

Illinois

2014 SB 3283

 

Act No. 846

Amends the Children and Family Services Ac. Expands the definition of relative to include a fictive kin. Defines fictive kin. Requires a fictive kin with whom a child is placed to apply for licensure as a foster family home. Amends the Child Care Act. Restricts the removal of a child from the home of fictive kin on the basis that the kin fail to apply for licensure or fails to meet licensure standard. Provides all the other requirements needed for the relative to apply.

Arkansas

2013 SB 433

 

Act No. 490

Concerns permanency planning hearings. Allows additional reviews prior to the sixth month review hearing. Allows as permanency goals, placing custody of the juvenile with a fit parent at the permanency planning hearing or returning the juvenile to the guardian or custodian from whom the juvenile was initially removed at the permanency planning hearing. Provides for a relative to care for the juvenile.

Arkansas

2013 HB 1684

 

Act No. 478

Adds fictive kin as a placement option for juveniles. Defines fictive kin to mean a person not related to a child by blood or marriage, but who has a strong positive emotional tie to a child and has a positive role in the child's life, such as a godparent, neighbor or family friend.

California

2012 Senate Bill 1064

 

Act No. 845

Permits a court to place a child in any dissolution, dependency or probate guardianship proceedings with a parent, legal guardian or relative regardless of the relative's immigration status. Permits a relative's foreign consulate identification card or foreign passport to be used for initiating the criminal records and fingerprint clearance checks. Authorizes extension of review hearing periods under certain circumstances. Provides for information exchange and assistance in juvenile court cases.

About This NCSL Project

The Denver-based child welfare project staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience. Denver staff can be reached at (303) 364-7700 or childwelfare@ncsl.org.

NCSL staff in Washington, D.C. track and analyze federal legislation and policy and represent state legislatures on child welfare issues before Congress and the Administration. Staff in D.C. can be reached at (202) 624-5400 or cyf-info@ncsl.org.

Additional Resources