Last week, the Administration for Children and Families finalized a rule that allows states to set standards for kinship foster homes that are specific to kin.
Why is this significant?
For decades, kinship caregivers have been held to identical standards as nonrelated foster parents in order to get monthly foster care payments. While states, including Texas, have some supports for kinship caregivers who do not become licensed (aka verified), that support is time-limited and significantly lower than that offered to a verified foster home.
Being required to meet the same standards as nonrelated foster parents has led to consequences besides just lower financial support. Here are some:
- Irrelevant and burdensome training requirements. Families may already be caring for their relative children but are still made to take basics on child-rearing or parenting. Training can be as long as 32 hours, which is difficult for families to do period, not to mention while also caring for children and often working.
- Child Placing Agencies need to submit individual waivers and variances for standards that are ill-fitting for many families, especially those living below the poverty line—such as requirements around how big the space must be, whether bedrooms can be shared, how bedrooms are lit, etc.
- Disproportionate impact to families of color. Many of the relatives stepping up to care for their family members are persons of color who are at or below the poverty line – meaning those who are often most in need of support and who have been most systematically excluded from child welfare programs and resources have had the most hurdles.
- Families being excluded because of prior criminal or CPS history. While relatives can request approval for outdated criminal or CPS history, the burden is technically on the person who has the history to request it and also requires the support of the CPA. That means some families simply do not move forward—often even when they continue to care for the same children who are supposedly at risk for that history. Families of color have also disproportionately had enforcement actions taken against them by law enforcement and child protection agencies, meaning this exclusion again impacts families of color more than their white counterparts.
So where are the standards that are just for kin?
The standards still need to be developed by HHSC (in consultation with DFPS). The legislature has instructed the agencies to move forward but there is not a specific deadline.
So what happens now?
For now, the same rules apply to kinship and non-kinship foster homes. Families will still need considerable support to navigate the process. Providers who serve those families can refer to the Best Practices Manual for Child-Placing Agencies in Texas for more information on working within the current rules and framework.