Common questions related to kinship care in general and more specific aspects of kinship care in Clark County, NV. Have a question that is not answered here? Let us know and we will work to get you the answer.
Q: What is Kinship Care?
A: Kinship care includes the full time care of a child by relatives or other adults who have a bond with the child (Child Welfare League of America, 2007). Kinship Care refers to the care, nurture and protection of children by relatives or significant adults when children cannot stay in their own home because of child protection concerns.
Q. What are Some Other Names for Kinship Care?
A: Families and individuals who are raising their relative’s children are called “grandfamilies”, “second time parents” and “relative’s as parents”. “Kin care”, “kinship foster care” and “kinship care” are some terms for the arrangement.
Q: Why is Kinship Care important?
A: By maintaining family, cultural or community ties, Kinship Care helps the child through the experience of being out of the parental home. It is the oldest form of family preservation and an important safety net for children whose parent’s are either unable or unwilling to care for them.
Q: Why Would a Child be in Kinship Care?
A: Reasons for kinship care can include parental incarceration, death, mental or physical illness, substance abuse, and neglect and abuse of children by parents. In addition, recent increases in kinship care may be attributed to the recession as parents turn to grandparents’ homes because of losing a job and or financial resources (Strozier, 2011).
Q: What are the Types of Kinship Care Arrangements?
A: 1- Kinship care can include “formal” placements, also known as relative foster care or kinship foster care, where the child welfare system places the child with the caregiver and maintains custody of the child. Increasingly, courts, communities and child welfare systems are beginning to recognize and formalize the rights of relatives when placing children in foster care, and relative placement is considered best practice.
2- “Informal” placements, where placement is made by a relative without child welfare involvement, represent the largest number of kinship care arrangements. Informal placements include guardianship, temporary guardianship and physical custody only.
Q: How Many Children in Clark County, NV are in Kinship Care?
A: Based on the 2010 U.S. Census, the number of children in the Clark County, NV living in grandparent-headed homes is 35,451. True statistics are not available regarding the number of children being raised informally by relatives other than grandparents, but it is estimated that of children in kinship care arrangements, 69% are being raised by grandparents, with 31% being raised by an aunt, uncle or other relative (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001). Based on these percentages we can roughly estimate that grandparents or other relatives are helping to raise over 51,000 children in Clark County, NV.
Q: How many Children are in Kinship Foster Care in Clark County, NV?
A: 1,374 children were in relative foster care (Clark County Department of Family Services, 2011). Children in kinship foster care in Clark County make up only 35% of the total caseload (Clark County Department of Family Services, 2011).
Q: Does Kinship Care Help the Community?
A: Looking at the large number of children who are being cared for by relative’s versus the number of children who are being cared for by Clark County Department of Family Services, it is reasonable to assume that grandparents and other relative’s play an important role in keeping kids out of the system, in familiar environments, and indirectly help the County save money. National estimates put the savings at $5.5 billion dollars annually.
Q: What are the A Demographics of typical Kinship Caregiver?
A: Because kinship caregivers are usually grandparents, kinship caregivers are more likely older, more likely to be single, more likely to have less education and lower incomes, and more likely to report being in poor health than parent caregivers (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001). In addition, 1/5 of the children who live in relative headed households live in poverty (Children’s Defense Fund, 2009). However, individuals who are raising their relative’s children can be found in every age group, ethnicity, income bracket and location. It is not a problem isolated to one group. This is why Foster Kinship ensures our services are available to all kinship caregivers, regardless of caregiver age, or income level or the custody status of the child.
Q: What Services do Kinship Caregivers Need?
A: Many individuals who step in to raise their relative’s child or children are unprepared. They may lack the short term financial ability, an understanding of the educational, medical, and legal systems they will be required to navigate for the child, or the knowledge of their options. In most cases, kinship caregivers are dealing with a family system that is broken on some level, and keeping the child safe will mean sacrificing some of their own comfort. In 2008 the Junior League of Las Vegas complied a report entitled “Kinship Care in the Las Vegas Valley”. 50 kinship caregivers contributed to conversations about their needs in Vegas. The specific needs they stated are:
- A safe place to come together
- vouchers for diapers
- legal services
- place for seniors and children to live (lots of senior housing does not allow children)
- More awareness of kinship “problem”
- Computers for caregivers to utilize with children
- More education
- More voice in the “system”- not just called on when system determines a problem.
These results of this report were the starting place for designing Foster Kinship’s services, as we aim to “stand in the gap” for caregivers and provide the services they themselves are requesting. Where services are not already available in the community, we will work to provide assistance to this population.
Q: What is Informal Custody?
A: Informal custody is when the caregiver has physical custody of the child but it is not a relationship codified legally. The overwhelming majority of kinship caregivers have physical custody only. Physical custody refers to where the child lives, eats, and sleeps, but it does not grant legal rights.
Q: What are the Benefits of Informal Custody?
A: Informal caregivers can apply for and receive public assistance for the children, Informal care-giving relationships may avoid the family strife that results from court involvement.
Q: What are the Challenges of Informal Custody?
A: Informal kinship caregivers lack the authority to consent to the child’s medical care, and informal kinship caregivers often run into issues enrolling children in school. Informal kinship caregivers have no legal say, and the rights of the legal parents or guardians will supersede those of the kinship caregiver. This can be damaging to the child, who may feel their stability can be threatened anytime.
Q: What is a Kinship Foster Parent?
A: Kinship Foster care is when a relative agrees to care for the child if the child has been removed from their parents due to neglect, abuse, death, or another traumatic situation where Child Protective Services (CPS) was called in. In 1979 the Supreme Court ruled relatives could not be arbitrarily excluded from participating in foster care programs. It is now best practice across the country and in Clark County for social workers to first reach out to relatives to see if they are willing to care for the child before considering an unfamiliar foster home. Relatives will need to go through background checks and other procedures to have children placed in their homes.
In Clark County, NV, relative caregivers are required to meet standard foster care requirements in order to be a licensed foster home (receive payments), but is not a prerequisite of taking in children. As a formal kinship foster parent, the children remain in the custody of the state- in this case, in the care overseen by the Clark County Department of Family Services. Legal rights reserved to kinship foster parents are few and the official guardian of the child while in foster care will be a specific social worker assigned to their case. DFS is the legal custodian for the child and foster parents are the authorized caretakers. Adoptive parents become the legal custodian once the adoption is finalized in court.
If you are a kinship foster parent, you will have regular involvement with the family court system, the caseworker, and other medical and mental health workers assigned to the child. While you are caring for the child, the court is working with the parents to complete their case plan, at the end of which the judge will determine if the parent is able to resume care of their child or terminate the parental rights of the parents (called TPR).
Q: What is the Process to be a Licensed Foster Home in Clark County, NV?
A: You can expect the following, per the Clark County DFS Foster Care website. Some requirements may be waived as a relative caregiver:
Completed Department of Family Services foster care and adoption program application
Approved background check
Complete 30 training hours
Housing (can be a rental)
Financial stability (we do not run credit checks)
Home and car Insurance
Lifestyle free from drug/alcohol or law enforcement difficulties
CPR Training if you have a swimming pool or body of water in your housing development
First Aid Training Five (5) satisfactory references
A home inspection
Q: What Happens if the Parents Rights have been Terminated?
A: If you are a kinship foster parent and the parent’s rights have been terminated, the child goes up for adoption. You may have the option to adopt, or pursue another form of legal custody, another family member or friend can adopt, or the child can be adopted by an outside family. The caseworker should work with you to help you make this important decision. A permanent home is a priority for DFS caseworkers, so continuing in foster care in perpetuity after the court has revoked the parent’s rights is not usually a first or second option.
Q: What is Legal Custody?
A: Legal custody is obtained when a judge in a court of law gives the kin carer the legal right to care for the child. This is not an option while the child is in the care of the DFS system.
Q: What are the Benefits of Legal Custody?
A: Legal custody allows the caregiver to make medical and educational decisions. Legal custody can allow caregivers to add the child to their health insurance policy. Getting de facto or permanent custody will put you on equal footing with biological parents in the eyes of the court. It also protects the child from unstable parents.
Q: What are the Challenges of Legal Custody?
A: Grandparents and other relatives often face conflict when deciding to pursue custody of their grandchildren in court. The family can be torn apart. For some advice in this area, consider this following excerpt from divorcesource.com:
“In any situation where a grandparent goes to court in an attempt to secure visitation rights, it is naturally assumed that there must be animosity amongst the respective family members. The rationale is that if such animosity did not exist, there would be no need for the intervention of the court. Case histories have amply demonstrated that even when the grandparents are awarded a visitation schedule, the parents who oppose are not likely to comply with the court order. While grandparents do have outlets to enforce court orders, such as contempt and incarceration, it is generally recognized that the existing animosity will only increase. Often, the court takes this into consideration as they feel that such situations only serve to increase the stress placed upon the child(ren) and therefore work against the “best interests” theory.
Courts will always be concerned that such animosity between parents and grandparents will be openly displayed towards one another in the presence of the child(ren). Such displays are considered to be harmful to the child(ren). Also, the court assumes that it is not unnatural for a visiting grandparent to express negative thoughts towards the parent; this, too, is also considered to be harmful to the child(ren). In cases where the grandparents are financially secure and can afford protracted litigation, the court is aware of the fact that children are apt to become mere pawns in the struggle between the parents and grandparents.
Taking these considerations as a given, it is widely recommended that some sort of agreement between the parents and grandparents be reached outside of court. Often, the use of mediation by a third party is an effective means to that end. Sometimes the third party comes in the form of a mutually respected family friend, in some cases it requires the employment of a professional. In the unfortunate circumstance that agreement cannot be reached, grandparents are encouraged to seek the advice of legal professionals, as the applicable laws are sometimes difficult to understand and will differ from state to state.”
Q: What is Guardianship?
A: Guardianship is easier to get than custody, and the rights of the natural parents do not end when guardianship is granted. A guardian is one person agreeing to be responsible for another person, another person and their estate, or another person’s estate. A guardianship of the person allows the legal guardian the ability to make legal decisions regarding schooling, medical care, religion and other aspects of day-to-day life.
Outside of adoption, guardianship is the safest, most stable arrangement for a relative raising a child. It provides legal and physical custody. It is the legal transfer of custody to someone other than a parent. Guardianship does not terminate parental rights, but it does suspend them. The advantage to guardianship is control. It grants the guardian the legal authority to enroll the child in school, consent to medical treatment, living situations (within the state), and make many other decisions.
Guardianship has some downsides as well. The cost to petition the court for guardianship, especially if you are using a lawyer, and/or your petition is contested, can be expensive. In addition there are emotional risks. You must prove that it is in the child’s best interest to be with you, which means you are building a case against the parent.
Q. What are the options for Guardianship in NV?
A: In Clark County, guardianship cases are handled by Family Court- a division of the Eighth Judicial District. The laws governing guardianship are covered in Chapter 159 of the Nevada Revised Statues.
In Nevada there are two guardianship options to consider:
- Six Month Temporary Guardianship: NV law allows for an informal type of guardianship that does not require court approval. The parents of the minor child can fill out this form which appoints a temporary guardian. Temporary guardianships can be used for school and medical purposes. They can be renewed after the six months, and are renewal and terminable at will of the parent. Click here to download a Short-Term Guardianship form and instructions from the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. This type of guardianship works if you have a good relationship with the child’s parents, if the child’s parents consent, and if it is a short term situation.
- Court Ordered Guardianship: A legal guardianship requires a court order and it is a more complex legal process best done with the support of a lawyer. If you don’t follow the correct process of filing and notifying the right individuals your petition will not be granted. However, it is possible to do it yourself, provided you have the right information. The Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada has free classes and resources. Once appointed, a guardian must do what is necessary to provide the ward (child in care) with proper care, maintenance, education and support. This includes food, clothing, shelter, necessities, seeking child support from the parents, authorizing medical care, and ensuring proper education and training. The guardians must file an annual report with the court. Guardianship is terminated upon the death of the ward, 18th birthday or high school graduation, if the court feels the guardian is no longer necessary, if the ward moves to a different state, or if a parent petitions the court for termination of guardianship and the court decides to terminate.
Q: What are the Benefits and Challenges of Adoption?
A: Adoption can simplify relationships with schools, doctors and other professionals in a child’s life. Adoption will end the worry of if and when biological parents will show up to claim the child or challenge custody in court. Adoption can be expensive, frustrating and take a long time, but it provides permanent safety and stability for the child. Sometimes a grandparent or other relative cannot afford to adopt, as they will lose state foster care payments if child is currently in state custody. Some grandparents don’t want to adopt their grandchild because they hope their children will be able to parent someday.
Q: What is the Process of Adoption?
A: First and most importantly, the parental rights of the biological parents must be terminated in order to adopt the child. Parental rights can be voluntarily terminated or terminated by a judge after failure to work their case plan (if child in state care). Sometimes, if the grandparents are willing to adopt, the biological parent who is their child may willingly agree to a termination of their parental rights. Other times, terminating parental rights in court can create lifelong family hostility, as the grandparent must prove the child’s biological parent(s) is unfit.
Q: Does Nevada Provide Financial Support for Kinship Caregivers who are not Foster Parents?
A: If you are over 62, have legal guardianship of your relative’s child and are not seeking assistance for yourself, you may be eligible for monthly payments through the Kinship Care Program through the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services. You must meet several additional requirements. More information can be found here: Gen_KinshipCareBrochure-4 and you can apply at the nearest welfare office.
If you do not qualify for the Kinship Care program, you may be able to get cash assistance by applying for Non Needy Relative Caretaker TANF (NNRC). On your welfare application, be sure to write NNRC/CHILD ONLY TANF at the top, as there is no separate box to check if you are applying on behalf of your relative.