Kinship care is the term used by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to describe care provided by relatives and other people with a significant relationship to a child or family when a child can't live with their birth parents. Living with kinship caregivers can help children of all ages achieve positive permanency while maintaining connections to their siblings, family members, culture, community, school, and other supports while they are in care. Also, since kinship caregivers may already have a relationship with the family, visitation may be more flexible, creating opportunities when appropriate to make family time together a less formal experience.
If a kinship caregiver meets certain qualifications, financial support is available until the child turns 18 under the Permanency Care Assistance (PCA) program. Courts are required to notify kinship caregivers that appear before the court of the option to become a licensed caregiver and qualify for PCA.
A few legal practices to support kinship caregivers and positive permanency are identified below.
Ensure the Child Care Giver Resource Form is completed before the Adversary Hearing.
If it is available in your jurisdiction, refer cases to Texas CASA’s Collaborative Family Engagement program.
- Develop a process to identify every relative and fictive kin for a child in care, including maternal and paternal connections. For example, utilize court staff to identify who appears on each case.
- Ensure children are asked at every hearing about relatives and important adults in an age-appropriate manner.
- Be proactive about the licensing process. For example, confirm that the licensing process was initiated early in the case, and identify possible barriers to licensing and what solutions might be available to kinship caregivers to support licensure.
- Assess PCA eligibility as early as possible, including any policy or licensing waivers that may be needed and inquire at hearings about any PCA application documents that are missing.
- Explain to parents what concurrent planning is and why it is necessary; then discuss permanency options including PCA.
- Consider an order for DFPS to conduct expedited and concurrent home studies.
Even if a relative or fictive kin caregiver cannot serve as a placement for the child, maintaining these connections can be a source of support for both parents and children throughout the case and after final orders. For older youth and young adults, these connections can be critical to the transition to adulthood.
Support and guidance is available for kinship caregivers to help them provide for children in their care. The Children’s Bureau developed materials designed to help kinship caregivers navigate the relationship with parents and support their efforts at reunification including factsheets, podcasts, and video testimonials, as well as resources for professionals. DFPS created a Kinship Manual in English and Spanish, and publishes a quarterly kinship newsletter. The Texas Kinship Caregivers Facebook page dedicated to sharing resources is also available including kinship support groups. For more about the importance of kinship connections, see the DFPS Relative and Other Designated Caregiver Program Report and the Children’s Bureau’s information on the impact of kinship care on permanency outcomes.