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December/January 2015Vol. 15, No. 11Federal and State Laws That Support Grandfamilies

Federal and State laws and policies that support the many grandparents and other family members who serve as caregivers for children whose parents are unable to care for them are examined in an article in the new journal GrandFamilies: The Contemporary Journal of Research, Practice and Policy. The article focuses on the growing recognition by State and Federal policymakers of the significant contribution of extended family in providing care to millions of children who otherwise would be at risk of entering or remaining in foster care.

The author notes that Federal legislation is focused on providing support and services to families who are involved with foster care. Most notable among recent legislation is the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. Some of the provisions of this law that specifically impact relative caregivers include:

  • Requiring States to identify and notify relatives when children enter foster care
  • Giving States the option to use title IV-E funds to finance guardianship assistance programs that enable children in the care of relatives (who are licensed foster parents) to exit foster care
  • Requiring child welfare agencies to make reasonable efforts to place siblings together
  • Authorizing family connection grants to establish kinship navigator programs that link relative caregivers to available services and supports
  • Giving States the option to waive nonsafety-related foster care licensing standards for relatives

The article also notes that far more children live with grandparents and other family caregivers outside the child welfare system. In fact, for every child living in foster care with a relative, about 26 children reside with relatives and are not in the child welfare system. For the relative caregivers raising these 2.7 million children in this country, the lack of legal custody or guardianship and a lack of financial resources can be a challenge. States have responded to these needs through legislative and policy changes. For example, many States have enacted health-care and educational consent laws that allow caregiver relatives to enroll children in school and provide consent to medical treatment. Other States provide financial support through their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs.

"Policy Update: Federal and State Legislation to Support Grandfamilies," by Ana Beltran, GrandFamilies: The Contemporary Journal of Research, Practice and Policy, 1(1), 2014, is available at