I am extremely excited about a new program designed to help the hundreds of grandparents, aunts, uncles and other kinship caregivers who take care of children in our custody.
In May, we launched a kinship stipend program and early this month will begin paying kinship families $350 per month, per child if they are caring for children in agency custody.
This is the first time JFS has ever provided a kinship stipend and helps fulfill a long-desired goal of providing additional support to kinship caregivers. We know from experience and research children are more likely to thrive in the care of someone connected to them. Kinship caregivers - grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or other relatives and family friends caring for a child in our custody - can also help in keeping the child connected to family, friends, neighborhood and school, and could assist with reunification efforts.
For those who don't know, when a child is abused or neglected and can no longer safely stay in their home, they may come into the care of JFS. In this situation, we try to find the right "placement" for them. Kinship care is always the first choice.
Kinship care refers to an arrangement in which a relative, or non-relative adult who has a long-standing relationship or bond with the child and/or family, takes over the full-time care of the child until they can be safely returned to their home.
Absent a suitable kinship caregiver, foster care is the next option. We would much rather place child with someone they know versus a stranger.
One key to a successful kinship placement is the caregiver's financial ability to take in the child, or children. For some grandparents on fixed incomes, it might not be possible.
The stipends make sense for us. This is best practice and best for families and children. We will improve outcomes if we increasingly have the option of kinship care over foster care.
The stipends are available to all families, regardless of household income, unless they are already licensed foster parents and receiving payments for the care of the child. There are no restrictions; only that the money to provide and maintain a home for the child placed in their care. To qualify, the child must be in the custody of JFS. Kinship caregivers who are taking care of children through family and other arrangements will not be eligible.