LJWorld.com weblogs Notes from John
Congress and President Bush Bailout Kansas Grandparent Caregivers
In response to the bleak economy and falling state revenues this week Governor Sebelius once again asked state agencies to cut their budgets. The current request is for 3% cuts. Previous requests were for a 2% cut and a worst case scenario of 5%. We don't seem to be at the 5% level yet.One of the programs that the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) has identified as taking a cut is Grandparents as Caregivers. This program provides financial support to low income grandparents who assume responsibility for taking care of their grandchildren who have been in state custody. SRS proposes to shift funding for this program from state funds to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families federal block grant. The program would not die but these grandparents would receive an average of $136 per child per month rather than the previous $200 (limited to a maximum of $600). $136 doesn't go very far these days.Grandparents taking care of their grandchildren is now widely recognized as a safe, nurturing and culturally sensitive alternative to foster care. Paying for it is another matter. The Silver Haired Legislature was instrumental in getting the Kansas legislature to create the Grandparents as Caregivers program and financing it with state funds. Interestingly the federal government helps states finance foster care and adoption but they have not helped states subsidize relatives assuming care of children who have been in foster care. Federal support for subsidized adoption has been around for years. This fiscal year they are helping out Kansas families to the tune of over $13 million to support an average 6,835 children per month. This provides adoptive parents a monthly average of $337 per child (a lot more than $136). For those of you doing the arithmetic state funds make up the $14 million difference.Congress and President Bush in the depths of their approval ratings have come to the rescue. While you were paying attention to the protracted election battle they got together and passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. President Bush signed this into law in early October. Among the provisions of this act is federal support for kinship guardianship. To over simplify, this provides federal funds to support relatives, including grandparents, who assume guardianship of a child who has been in foster care. So this has the potential of bailing out the state Grandparents as Caregivers program as well as the SRS Permanent Custodianship program. Haven't heard of the Permanent Custodianship program? This is another way for children in state custody to obtain a safe permanent home. When return home or adoption is not an option for a child in foster care it is possible for someone else to obtain custody of the child and receive financial assistance. Frequently this is a relative such as a grandparent or aunt or uncle. This is primarily funded with state funds. So in this time of bleak economic news there is reason to be hopeful that Kansas will take advantage of this new federal law to bring the Grandparents as Caregivers and Permanent Custodianship programs together to provide a safe family for hundreds of Kansas foster care children for which return home or adoption is not an option. Currently about 25% of Kansas foster children are placed with relatives. This is a tremendous opportunity for these children.