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LJWorld.com weblogs Notes from John

Congress and President Bush Bailout Kansas Grandparent Caregivers

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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.

Comments

johnp 5 years, 5 months ago

lacoov,The Grandparents as Caregivers program does not require that the children be in state custody. I was unclear on that. It does however have very strict requirements which means very few grandparents are eligible.

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lacoov 5 years, 5 months ago

I've been raising my 11 yo grandson for 10 1/2 years, since he was never in state custody(thank goodness) I don't qualify for the Grandparents as Caregivers program. I do know $134.00 won't go far in this economy, the cost of keeping each child out of the system has to be saving the state money and the budget should be adjusted accordingly.

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costello 5 years, 5 months ago

I remember when the grandparents first got this money a few years ago. This talk of cutting the payments is discouraging to me. It would cost the state a great deal more to provide foster care for these kids, and the trauma to the children would be much greater. And traumatized kids will likely cost the taxpayer much more over the long haul. So the state's attempt to balance it's budget on the backs of these poor grandparents is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

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costello 5 years, 5 months ago

I agree that your blog is very useful in keeping us informed about kids issues. I don't know how the Citizens Academy works, but I hope you'll continue to blog in the future.I'm somewhat discouraged - but not terribly surprised - that you get so little discussion on most of your blog entries. Our kids should be one of our top interests, but somehow they get relegated to the bottom of the heap.I remember when the grandparents first got this money a few years ago.

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grammaddy 5 years, 5 months ago

johnpthank you for your help and encouragement.

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johnp 5 years, 5 months ago

grammaddyAs I understand it support of grandparents is primarily for those who accept responsibility for taking care of children who have been in state custody. TAF has been a way to support some other grandparents but has the problems you mention. The new law has some provisions that may evolve into helping a broader group of family members.If anyone reading this knows a way to help grammaddy please respond here or email one of us directly.Thank you for hanging in there and taking care of the two boys. I am sure that they are better off in your care than other options.

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grammaddy 5 years, 5 months ago

Does this program only apply to childrenwho have been in state custody prior to being cared for by their grandparents? I have been the caregiver to my two grandsons for over 4 years and my case worker has always treated it as another Temporary Aid to Families case. She recently cut off our TAF cash because their collected child support was grater than the amount of TAF cash they were receiving. Of course one of the absent parents recently changed jobs and child support enforcement has yet to garnish wages at her new job so I'm in a real financial mess. I was told by SRS that they average out the income over a period of 3 months so there's no way around it. Her last child support payment was in september so I must wait until January to reapply. In the meantime I must try to support the boys on approximately $220 per month until then. And with the new financial confirguration, our food stamp case dropped from $456 to $295. I think it is really unfair to treat any grandparent caregiver in this manner as most of us do this to keep kids out of foster care. I'm sure it would have cost the state much more to place them into foster care than the help I'm asking for.

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kansascrone 5 years, 5 months ago

john - i appreciate your updates on these social issues. as a grandmother, this subject is close to my heart. i admire and, at the same time, sympathize with grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. i love to keep my grandchildren but at the end of the day i am exhausted and ready to send them back to their parents. i can't imagine never getting a break. i have always wondered if there was a respite care program for these grandparents. i would be interested in being a part of something like that as a volunteer. - ginny

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Ronda Miller 5 years, 5 months ago

John, I hope you will continue to keep us informed. It is so important for children to be placed within their family if at all possible - it makes for less trauma when there are still some familar faces in their lives. It is also good when every loving bond between the child and the relatives doesn't have to be severed. Thanks, John. :)

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