Kinship care is more widespread now than ever, but the challenges facing kinship families are just as varied as they always were. With the rise in the number of extended family members caring for their relatives and close friends comes an increase in the amount of services needed to help these families succeed. It’s never easy helping a child overcome a history of abuse or neglect, but thanks to the new national focus on kinship care, no kinship family has to do it alone.
The focus on kinship care is the result of the Fostering Connections Act of 2011, which stressed the importance of maintaining family connections for children who’d endured abuse or neglect. Since its passage, thousands of American families who’d never asked to be involved in relative care found themselves on the receiving end of phone calls from Child Protective Services.
“Would you be willing to take your niece/your nephew/your grandchild or your close family friend into your home?”
Thousands of American families have answered, “Yes.”
Many of these families did so without hesitation. But no matter how you view it, taking a child into your home is a challenge. Everyone who takes on such an important task deserves some help.
The best help is available to kinship parents who become licensed through their state’s child welfare agency. Many states provide monthly living stipends for licensed families that help offset the costs involved with raising a child in your home. Becoming licensed also means you’ll have access to the many training opportunities and family resources that your state offers.
Families who take on the challenge of providing kinship care without becoming licensed can look for help in federal programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). In some states TANF funds are used to fund kinship care support programs, while in others the funding can be used to provide monthly stipends to relative caregivers.
In New Jersey, TANF funds can be used for both funding programs and providing stipends. The program’s services are time-restricted and may only be accessed for five years.
The statewide Kinship Navigator Program is also available to unlicensed families. It provides opportunities for relatives who have non-biological children in their care to easily access information regarding available assistance and services.
Kinship caregivers in New Jersey can also dial 2-1-1 to get help addressing immediate problems relating to financial services, healthcare coverage, child support collection, housing assistance, help paying for legal services, furniture, tutoring services, clothing, moving costs and summer camp.
Licensed kinship providers in New Jersey can access a wealth of free services and resources that Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) offers. Kinship providers can start by calling our Information Line at 800.222.0047 or by visiting the Kinship & Relative Caregiver Support page on our website.
Relative caregivers can call our FAFS Family Advocates on weekdays between 9AM and 5PM if they need help locating services, navigating state websites and phone lines or help finding resources to learn about managing difficult behaviors and medical needs.
The resources available to kinship providers are almost as varied as the unique challenges they face every day. Be sure to be aware of how federal and statewide resources can help you keep it all in the family.