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May 2016Vol. 17, No. 3Supporting Permanency Through Placement With Relatives

A recent post in the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare's (CASCW's) Child Welfare Policy blog explores a Minnesota benefit program meant to promote the placement of children in out-of-home care with relative custodians and reduce prolonged stays in foster care.

In 2013, Minnesota passed Northstar Care for Children, a program that aimed to level the disparities related to benefits and assistance available for foster care, adoption, and relative custody. Before the program was passed, relative custodians and adoptive parents received less assistance than did foster parents, and there was concern that these disparities were affecting the permanency outcomes for Minnesota's children in care. Northstar Care for Children equalized assistance levels across the three programs for children ages 6 and older.

Northstar Kinship Assistance, a component of the program, replaced the previously existing relative custody assistance to provide benefits for children whose relatives become their permanent legal and physical custodians. Northstar Kinship Assistance and the previous program differ in several ways, including that the previous program was dependent on available State funding, while Northstar Kinship Assistance funding is already factored into the State budget. Also, Northstar Kinship Assistance does not require children to meet special needs criteria, and the family's gross income does not determine eligibility. Other eligibility criteria include the following:

  • The child must meet citizenship and immigration requirements (or the prospective relative custodian must, if the child does not meet these requirements).
  • Background study requirements must be met for the prospective relative custodian.
  • The child must have lived with the prospective relative custodian while the same was licensed to provide child foster care for 6 consecutive months (unless given an exemption).

The blog post goes on to describe some additional eligibility criteria and offers other resources for more information. To read the entire post "Supporting Permanency of Children in Foster Care Through Relative Placement," by Heidi Ombisa Skallet, visit the CASCW website at