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 parents 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 grandparent’s 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 the child welfare system 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. In most counties in Nevada, the resources available to formal kinship families include those offered to traditional foster parents, if the kinship family chooses to get licensed. Formal kinship caregivers may also choose to remain unlicensed.
2- Private placements, where placement is made by a relative without child welfare involvement, represent the largest number of kinship care arrangements. Private kinship placements include guardianship or other custody granted through the courts (independent of child welfare involvement), temporary guardianship and physical custody only*.
3- Increasingly there is a category of kinship caregiver known as “voluntary”. This describes caregivers who were asked to take legal custody by the child welfare agency to prevent the child from entering the foster care system. Some consider this “diversion” or foster care prevention. The resources available to voluntary kinship families are the same as those available to private families*.
*The category of private and voluntary kinship care is also called "informal" kinship care.
Q: How Many Children in Nevada are in Kinship Care?
A: Based on the U.S. Census, Annie E Casey estimates that 33,000 children are in kinship care in Nevada without a parent present in the home (2018), which would mean approximately 25,000 are located in Clark County, NV. Nationally, 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 another relative (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001).
Q: How many Children are in Kinship Foster Care in Clark County, NV?
A: Around 1,400 children are in relative foster care (Clark County Department of Family Services, March 2018). Children in kinship foster care in Clark County make up about 41% of the total caseload (Clark County Department of Family Services, July2019), which is above the national average of 30%. While many children in kinship foster care are in unlicensed homes, a DFS partnership with Foster Kinship works to ensure all kinship caregivers of children in foster care understand their rights, responsibilities, and have access to training and financial support.
Q: Does Kinship Care Help the Community?
A: Looking at the large number of children who are being cared for by relatives versus the number of children who are being cared in the foster care system, it is reasonable to assume that grandparents and other relatives 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 (Generations United, 2017).
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 compiled 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:
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 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 Kinship 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. Attend an Information Session to learn more:
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 can be adopted. You may have the option to adopt, or pursue another form of legal custody such as KinGap, 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.
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. While there is no cost to petition the court for guardianship, there is a cost if you are using a lawyer, and/or your petition is contested, it 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:
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.
Q. This is all overwhelming- is there help?
A: YES. Foster Kinship’s Navigator and Child Welfare Training programs will help you with all resources you are eligible for, and provide case management and emotional support along the way. Our services are free, effective, and convenient. Please call (702) 546-9988 to get started.