Relatives Caring for Kids

Grandparents and other family member are frequently asked to help care for a relative’s child. Nearly 40% of the children placed in out-of-home care by Children’s Administration are placed with a relative or person known to the child and/or family. We understand the financial, legal, and emotional issues of raising a relative’s child can be challenging. If you have been asked to care for a relative’s child by Children’s Administration while his or her parent(s) work on providing a safe home, you can find information here on helpful resources.

Relatives play an essential role in helping to meet the needs of children who are unable to live with their parents. The connection to family, relatives, and community is important to a growing child:

  • Children can live with people they already know and trust.
  • Children can maintain their personal and cultural identity.
  • Families learn to rely on their own resources and strengths.
  • Relatives participate as responsible and integral members of the child and family's support team.

Relatives not closely related to a child may need to be licensed. Contact your local office for information.

Kinship Providers (licensed & unlicensed) can take all classes provided by the UW Alliance for Child Welfare. See their training page for courses and class schedules.

In order for a relative to be a placement resource, the relative must:

  • Have an existing relationship with the child.
  • Have a safe and suitable place to live.
  • Pass a background check. Anyone 16 or older must also pass the background checks.
  • Have their home inspected for health and safety hazards.
  • Have a review of the family's living and sleeping arrangements.
  • Cooperate with the service plan for the family.

Background Check Requirements Prior to Placing a Child in Your Home

Relatives caring for dependent children are expected to:

  • Provide a safe home for the child.
  • See that the child is cared for and loved.
  • See that school age children attend school.
  • Provide supervision for the child.
  • Cooperate with the goals of the service plan.
  • Cooperate with visitation between child and parent.
  • Cooperate with court ordered services.
  • Make sure the child keeps all appointments.
  • Keep the social worker and court informed of the child's progress.
  • Explain to the child in a positive way why the parent is not able to provide care right now.

A relative may be able to receive one of two types of government financial assistance while the child is placed in the home of a relative:

  1. TANF - Temporary Assistance for Non-Needy Families
  2. Foster care payments, if licensed

The relative may not receive both types of assistance at the same time.

Other assistance and support for relatives that may be available:

  • Relative Support Services Fund - Relatives caring for children who are in the custody of the state may be eligible for Relative Care Support Funds to help with some expenses for the child. This link will provide you with information that was sent to state social workers about the funds.
  • Medical care. Call 1-800-547-3109 to obtain more information on free medical care through the Foster Care Medicaid Unit. Non-licensed relatives should contact the local DSHS Community Service Office (CSO) or the DSHS Medical Eligibility Determination Services office at 1-800-204-2469.
  • Clothing Vouchers. If the child comes into foster care or a relative placement with little or no clothing, Child and Family Services (CFS) may purchase limited clothing for the child. A clothing voucher is a one-time payment per child.
  • Transportation Costs. CFS may pay relatives for mileage when they drive the child to activities that are part of the child's service plan. Mileage reimbursement may be claimed for trips made only for the benefit of the child. Mileage forms can be obtained from the child's social worker and must be submitted to CFS for payment on a monthly basis.
  • Child Specific Care Plans. This is available only to relatives who are licensed foster parents. Some children have medical conditions that require special care; CFS may authorize support and financial assistance for children above the basic foster care rate.
  • Respite Care. In some cases CFS may allow the child to stay with another caregiver for brief periods of time, such as a weekend, in order to give relatives a break from demanding parenting responsibilities.
  • Child Care. Child care services are available to relatives who work. CFS will work with caregivers to make child care arrangements. CFS may also pay for child care to reduce the stress of providing daily care for several children or for a child who has severe behavioral or developmental problems. Child care is funded through TANF.
  • Assistance with Physical Care. If the child's physical and personal care needs are assessed to be extremely high, you will be referred to Medicaid Personal Care.
  • Counseling. Children with serious emotional problems often receive mental health services from agencies that accept Medicaid. The child's social worker can help a relative locate a local mental health agency that accepts Medicaid. In some cases, DCFS may pay for counseling if the chosen counselor does not accept Medicaid. These decisions are made as part of the child's service plan.

If a child is not able to safely return home in a reasonable time, the DCFS social worker must find another permanent living arrangement for the child. If relatives want to keep the child with them permanently, the social worker will meet with them to discuss various permanent plans. Some of those plans include:

  • Adoption
  • Third Party Custody
  • Guardianship