Thursday, May 17, 2007

Subsidized Guardianship Legislation Introduced in House

By Mary Boo, NACAC assistant director

On May 10, 2007, Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) and Congressman Tim Johnson (R-IL) introduced H.R. 2188, the Kinship Caregiver Support Act to mark the 10th anniversary of Illinois’ highly successful subsidized guardianship program. As Davis explained, this bill would provide kinship caregivers with the necessary resources to meet their children’s needs.

Currently federal financial assistance is available only to foster and adoptive families, with only a few states having a waiver that enables them to receive federal support for guardianship families. In his statement, Davis noted:

“Adoption is not a viable option for many children to exit foster care. For example, courts explicitly rule out this permanency option for approximately 20,000 children in relative care each year. Moreover, adoption is not equally availed by families of all races and ethnicities, especially those in African-American and Native-American communities. Thus, subsidized guardianship is an important path to permanency for many abused and neglected children."

In addition to federally funding subsidized guardianship, the bill would:

• implement additional supports for kinship caregivers, such as establishing informational navigator programs to assist grandparents and relatives in accessing appropriate services and supports
• allow states to establish separate licensing standards for relative foster parents and non-relative foster parents and require state agencies to provide prompt notice to all adult relatives when children are removed from parental custody
• expand eligibility for the Foster Care Independence Program so that education and training vouchers as well as independent living services are available to young people who exit foster care after age 14 to guardianship or adoption

Congressman Johnson, in a press statement, explained that the Kinship Caregiver Support Act serves not only meets the aims of family cohesiveness but long-range savings in tax dollars as well: “We are now in effect penalizing grandparents who have the heart and compassion to raise their own but not always adequate means,” Rep. Johnson said. “We can achieve family unity and all the blessings that confers along with saving resources over the long-term. This is a common-sense, bipartisan proposal that deserves to become law.”

This bill is a companion to Senate bill 661 of the same name, introduced by Senators Clinton (D-NY) and Snowe (R-ME).

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