Benefits and Services

Services and support when raising a relative’s child can be a lifesaver. Getting answers to questions and finding services, programs, and support can be confusing and overwhelming. We are here to help.

Kinship Navigators or Resource Persons

Kinship Navigators are people whose job it is to help you “navigate” through the system. They will talk with you and help you find local services and programs. Currently, Kinship Navigators are available to answer questions for relatives who live in 30 counties. In some other communities, Resource Persons who are support group leaders or provide other kinship services are available to help you. You can see Washington State's Kinship and Tribal Navigators Serving Grandparents and Relatives Raising Children  or go to the Kinship Care Services listing to find your Kinship Navigators or Resource Persons.

Financial Help

Short-term support to pay for food, housing, clothing, school supplies, legal services
Funds are for relative caregivers not involved in the child welfare system through the Kinship Caregivers Support Program (KCSP). Find the KCSP in your county or on the statewide directory.

On-going financial assistance
Cash and medical assistance for children who are in the care of a relative or other adult through a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families - TANF child-only grant. The caregiver must meet certain income guidelines to qualify for assistance on behalf of the child. Recipients of child-only TANF can also get additional one-time cash payments for help with emergency housing or utility needs. Go to DSHS Child only grant to learn about the program.

To apply, contact your local Community Services Office - CSO or apply on-line using the Online Application for Services.

Emergency, short-term funds to pay for furniture, clothing, school supplies
These TANF funds are for children placed by the Division of Children and Family Services - DCFS through the Relative Support Services program and are to facilitate or maintain DCFS placements.

Contact your DCFS worker or the local DCFS office.

Tax benefits information

Relatives may be eligible to receive various tax benefits.

Working Grandparents May Be Eligible for Earned Income Tax Credit

The Internal Revenue Service wants working grandparents raising grandchildren to be aware of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and correctly claim it if they qualify. 

The EITC is a federal income tax credit for workers who don't earn a high income ($53,505 or less for 2016) and meet certain eligibility requirements. Because it’s a refundable credit, those who qualify and claim the credit could pay less federal tax, pay no tax or even get a tax refund. The EITC could put an extra $2 or up to $6,269 into a taxpayer’s pocket.

Grandparents and other relatives care for millions of children, but are often not aware that they could claim the children under their care for the EITC. A grandparent who is working and has a grandchild who is a qualifying child living with him or her may qualify for the EITC, even if the grandparent is 65 years of age or older. Generally, to be a qualified child for EITC purposes, the grandchild must meet the dependency requirements.

Special rules and restrictions apply if the child’s parents or other family members also qualify for the EITC. Details including numerous helpful examples can be found in Publication 596, available on IRS.gov. There are also special rules, described in the publication, for individuals receiving disability benefits and members of the military.

Working grandparents are encouraged to find out, not guess, if they qualify for this very important credit. To qualify for EITC, the taxpayer must have earned income either from a job or from self-employment and meet basic rules. Also, certain disability payments may qualify as earned income for EITC purposes. EITC eligibility also depends on family size. The IRS recommends using the EITC Assistant, on IRS.gov, to determine eligibility, estimate the amount of credit and more.

Eligible taxpayers must file a tax return, even if they do not owe any tax or are not required to file. Qualified taxpayers should consider claiming the EITC by filing electronically: through a qualified tax professional; using free community tax help sites; or doing it themselves with IRS Free File.

Many EITC filers will get their refunds later this year than in past years. That’s because a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds claiming the EITC and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until mid-February. The IRS cautions taxpayers that these refunds likely will not start arriving in bank accounts or on debit cards until the week of Feb. 27. Taxpayers claiming the EITC or ACTC should file as soon as they have all of the necessary documentation together to prepare an accurate return. In other words, file as they normally would.

Benefits Checkup

Benefits CheckUp - BCU is a FREE comprehensive online service to screen for federal, state, and some local public and private benefits for adults ages 55 and over. BCU can help you connect to programs that help pay for prescription drugs, health care, utilities, and other needs. BCU also provides a detailed description of the programs, contacts for additional information, and materials to help successfully apply for each.

Child Care and Comprehensive Preschool

Seasonal Child Care program for seasonal agricultural workers
Homeless Child Care program for families who are temporarily homeless

A Seasonal Child Care program for seasonal agricultural workers and a Homeless Child Care program for families who are temporarily homeless (living in a shelter, car, tent, park, transitional housing, or temporarily with family or friends) through the Department of Early Learning.

Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program - ECEAP

ECEAP provides free services and support to eligible children and their families. They serve children who are from low income families or who have developmental or environmental risk factors that could interfere with school success. The program works closely with caregivers to support children’s health and education and to meet family goals and help children get ready for kindergarten through the Department of Early Learning.

Free or reduced price food

Nutrition education and counseling, nutritious foods, and assistance with access to health care
For children under the age of five who are income-eligible and at nutritional risk. Available through the Women, Infants, and Children - WIC program. Find a WIC clinic or apply for WIC.
Free or reduced price meals
Breakfast, lunch, and snacks in many before and after school day care programs in many public and private schools. Available through the National School Lunch / School Breakfast Programs and the Child and Adult Care Food Program - CACFP. Contact your local school for more information.

Basic Food program
Find information about the state’s Basic Food program, school breakfast and lunch programs, summer meal programs, and other food resources at the Basic Food website or by calling 877-514-FOOD.

Locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables for WIC participants and lower income seniors through The WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.  WIC participants click here to apply.  Senior Farmers Market participants can contact their Senior Information & Assistance office at their local Area Agency on Aging to find out how to participate.

Foster care resources

For information about foster care visit the DSHS Children's Administration website.

Resources for a Child with a Developmental Disability and/or Delay

Early intervention services, for children, birth to three, are available through the Washington State Early Support for Infants and Toddler’s - ESIT program.

If you care for a child with a disability or have a concern about a child’s development, birth to three, call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 and ask for the name of a Family Resources Coordinator - FRC in your local community.  The FRC will help you find out if a child you care for is eligible for early intervention services.  You do not need a referral from a doctor to call.  The WithinReach website provides essential resources for family health.

For more information about Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (formerly ITEIP)
visit their website or call (360) 725-3500.
Please Ask, Babies Can’t Wait

Services for individuals diagnosed with a developmental disability and/or delay may be available through DSHS' Division of Developmental Disabilities - DDD .   For more information visit the DDD website.

Family Health Hotline

A statewide hotline provides information and referral on a broad range of health and social services related to raising children of all ages. Topics of interest to relative caregivers include health insurance, nutrition, immunization, dental health, child care, child development, child safety, teen health, children with special needs, and parent/sibling support. Call 1-800-322-2588 (TTY 711) or go to: Family Health Hotline.