A group of child welfare advocates is urging California to level out assistance to relatives caring for children who are removed from their homes.
California is the last remaining state that provides no foster care support at all to relatives of children who are not eligible for federal foster care support, according to John Burton Foundation Policy Director Amy Lemley.
Instead, Lemley said on a web meeting on Feb. 13th, California pays out a welfare benefit to the relative that is far below what a foster parent would receive to care for the child.
A relative caring for a teen that was ineligible for federal reimbursement under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act would receive a $351 monthly support payment through CalWORKS. A non-relative foster parent would receive $820 per month to care for the same child.
California has a higher rate of kinship placements than the nation (36 percent versus 28 percent), and the percentage of kinship placements within the state has slightly increased over the decade.
But advocates believe that children without IV-E eligibility are being placed into homes that will find it financially difficult to support them. Title IV-E eligibility is determined by the income of the birth parents, and is tied to a monthly income test from 1996.
This creates the possibility of IV-E ineligible children from families who are poor by more modern income standards, and does not account at all for a child taken in by a relative of lesser means.
The advocates, in a solicitation to sign a petition for foster care benefits to all California caregivers, called it “an irrational foster care funding rule that places many children living with relatives into deep poverty.”
A number of national child welfare organizations have called for an end to the IV-E eligibility test, which would likely mean a lower federal reimbursement rate, but one that covered any child placed into foster care. Such a change would erase this particular issue in California because all of the children in question would be covered by federal reimbursement.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of the Chronicle of Social Change