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Dec/Jan 2005Vol. 5, No. 10Children Find Permanence in Subsidized Guardianship

Permanence could be established for many children currently in long-term foster care with grandparents or other relatives if States established subsidized guardianship programs for these children, according to a new report from Fostering Results.

The report uses data from the 2002 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) to show that approximately 19,250 children currently live with relatives in long-term foster care, and a court has determined that neither adoption nor reunification are options for these children. The underutilized option of legal guardianship with their relative caregivers would seem to provide the permanence that these children need while reducing the need for the child welfare system and court to monitor the placement. Unfortunately, guardianship is not an option for children in these cases if their relatives cannot afford to raise them without foster care subsidies. According to the report, establishing subsidized guardianship programs for these children would meet their permanence needs, as well as the needs of the caregivers for financial support.

Seven States have been given waivers by the Federal Government to experiment with using some of their Title IV-E funds for subsidized guardianship programs. In these programs, the States provide a monthly stipend to relatives who become guardians of children who had been in foster care; the amount of the stipend is equal to or less than the foster care payment, and approximately half of the amount comes from Federal funds. In addition, 17 States have established subsidized guardianship programs using TANF or other State funds.

Preliminary results from these programs show that the amount of the stipend impacts permanency rates. In programs that paid legal guardians at the same rate as foster parents, there was a much higher rate of guardianship establishment than in programs that paid guardians significantly less than foster parents. For instance, Illinois, which subsidized guardians at the same rate as foster parents, saw a 42 percent decrease in children in long-term foster kinship care from 1999 to 2001. In comparison, Maryland, which reimbursed guardians at half the rate of foster parents, saw only a 24 percent decrease. In addition, the Illinois program found an overall increase in permanency achievement through adoption, guarianship, or reunification (78 percent in the experimental group compared to 72 percent in the control group); in Maryland the permanency difference was negligible. Programs that were able to use Title IV-E funds were more successful as a whole than the State-funded programs.

The Administration's proposed Child Welfare Program Option would allow States the option to receive their Title IV-E foster care funding as a flexible grant for a period of 5 years. States choosing this option would be able to use the funds for a wider range of child welfare activities, including subsidized guardianships, while continuing to meet child protection standards. Read more about the Child Welfare Program Option in "HHS Assistant Secretary Testifies Before Congress on the President's Child Welfare Proposal" from the August 2003 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

The recommendations of Fostering Results for the Federal Government to provide funds for subsidized guardianship echo those made in May 2004 by the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care. These recommendations are accompanied by suggestions for eligibility limitations and other restrictions that focus on ensuring the safety and well-being of the children involved.

Fostering Results is a public education and outreach campaign established by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to the Children and Family Research Center at the School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This report, "Family Ties: Supporting Permanence for Children in Safe and Stable Foster Care With Relatives and Other Caregivers," can be found at (Editor's note: Link no longer active)

Related Items

Read more about funding for kinship care in the following Children's Bureau Express articles:

  • "More Flexible Child Welfare Funding May Improve Child Outcomes" (June 2004)
  • "New Research Sheds Light on Kinship Care Issues" (August 2003)