Keeping families together by helping relative foster families become legal guardians
Kinship Care picture

When a child is placed in foster care by the court, sometimes a relative is approved to become the foster parent of the child. After the child has been placed in this relative foster home, in some circumstances—if the court determines that the child can never be returned to the parent, and the child cannot be adopted—it’s possible for that child to either stay in foster care with the relative foster family, OR for the relative foster parent(s) to become the child’s permanent legal guardian(s).

For these children, almost always teenagers, the opportunity to have a permanent family can become a reality. But many relatives, though they may wish to become the child’s permanent guardian, may hesitate to do so due to the costs. Relatives may have children of their own whose needs they are responsible or maybe their grandparents are on a fixed income.

Kinship Guardian Assistance Program (KinGAP) would allow those relative foster families to receive some funds to help support their relative child when the child leaves foster care and they become their legal guardian. They may need assistance to pay for a larger apartment, for bedroom furniture, or other costs.

Unlike in foster care, the relative family would not be entitled to receive the monthly foster care maintenance payment. They may receive an amount for fixed costs (such as furniture), or a monthly payment to cover ongoing expenses–which may change over time–but never more than what foster care payments would have been.

Kinship guardians provide one of the best opportunities for children to thrive when their parents are unable to care for them. In 2016, 71,000 kids in Virginia lived in the care of grandparents.  That’s 4% of Virginia kids. An additional 55,000 live in kinship care with other relatives: 3% of Virginia kids. While fewer than 20 of these families would qualify for KinGAP, it’s a start.

Who is eligible?

Only a few kinship families would actually qualify for KinGAP payments under federal law.

●          In order for a family to be eligible for KinGAP, the child must be related by blood, marriage, or adoption to the foster parent, have been placed with the relative in foster care for 6 months, and the options of reunification with the birth family or adoption must have been ruled out by the court. The relative must demonstrate a commitment to permanently care for the child.

●          While there are many families who take in relative children, ONLY those children who were first in foster care placement with the kinship guardian, and who cannot be adopted, would be eligible. Children who come to live with relatives through other pathways would not be.

How is KinGAP funded? 

Title IV-e of the federal Social Security Act provides approximately 50% of the funding for KinGAP for each child eligible. As in adoption and foster care, the additional funding is the responsibility of the state or locality.

How can we afford KinGAP? 

Without KinGAP, the state is likely to continue to be responsible for payments to support the child in foster care. Under KinGAP, costs will be minimized when the child becomes permanently placed with the relative.

Why does KinGAP matter? 

KinGAP provides another means for children to exit the foster care system when adoption is not an option– yet still provide a permanent placement for the child.

●          Through KinGAP, trauma is reduced — children will no longer wonder where they belong or if someone is going to show up at the door and move them to a new placement.

●          Children maintain a relationship with family even if their parents cannot parent them.

There are three KinGAP bills pending in the General Assembly: HB1333 (Brewer); SB44 (Favola); and SB636 (Dunnavant). The House version of the bill is pending in Appropriations; the Senate bills are on the Senate floor.

KinGAP will give these foster children a permanent home with members of their own family. Contact your legislator and ask them to support KinGAP funding.