The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently announced nearly $18 million in federal grants to states for Kinship Navigator programs, a model for connecting relatives caring for foster youth to benefits, counseling and other forms of assistance.
Many of the existing 70-plus kinship navigators began after the passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, when several grants were made available to assist in launching them. Now these programs are being expanded as part of the first phase of the recently passed Family First Prevention Services Act.
The funding was made available in this year’s spending bill to develop, enhance or evaluate Kinship Navigator programs. Another round of $20 million is currently included in fiscal 2019.
Under Family First, the programs are required to meet certain “evidence-based” standards, but the criteria to meet those have not yet been created by ACF. While testifying over the summer about progress on implementing the Family First Act, Children’s Bureau Commissioner Jerry Milner said there was concern that no Kinship Navigator model had yet to obtain “evidence-based” status.
This initial infusion of funding was to help states build and evaluate programs that might be categorized under these three designations. The 2019 continuation is headed for approval “because the Department has not yet identified which evidence-based programs are eligible for funding or issued other guidance to states about how to claim the IV-E matching funds for this purpose,” according to federal appropriations documents.
Appropriators “expect HHS to identify eligible approaches and issue guidance in time for states to use IV-E funds for kinship programs,” the documents said.
In his testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee, Milner said Children’s Bureau was working with the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (another division of the Administration for Children and Families) on a contract “designed to build evidence for promising programs” and that would include Kinship Navigator models.
By July 20, states had to apply for up to $20 million to receive reimbursement from the federal government for up to 50 percent of their expenses to develop, enhance or evaluate Kinship Navigator programs.
A total of $17.9 million was granted through 57 grants to states, territories and Native American tribes. Only South Dakota, Idaho and Delaware did not receive funding. The largest grants, both over $1 million, went to California and Texas.
Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel expressed excitement to be able to assist that state’s families on a greater level with the $250,608 that was received.
“I am extremely excited about the Kinship Navigator Program because it allows us to fill a gap that existed previously and provide quality, necessary support and services to parents and kinship caregivers in Kansas,” Meier-Hummel said in a press release. “This program is aimed at reducing stress on families and reducing disruptions in the caregiver process. This is great news for the children and families of Kansas.”
Once states meet the designation as promising, supported or well-supported practice that is required under Family First, they’ll be able to access a 50 percent match of federal funds for Kinship Navigators.
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