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Estimating Financial Support for Kinship Caregivers

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Document date: December 21, 2004
Released online: December 21, 2004

No. B-63 in Series, "New Federalism: National Survey of America's Families"

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).


Responsibility for the care of children rests largely with biological or adoptive parents. However, 2.3 million children live with relatives without either parent present, an arrangement commonly called kinship care. Children are placed in kinship care for many reasons, such as when living with their parents is infeasible, when child abuse or neglect is suspected or confirmed, or when a parent is deceased, incapacitated, incarcerated, or temporarily absent.1 When kin caregivers assume responsibility for children, the government may offer financial support through different payments on behalf of the children. Eligibility for these payments varies by the circumstances under which a child enters kinship care; likewise, the amount of financial support varies by the type of kinship care.2

In this brief, we examine how many children in kinship care receive the benefits they are eligible to receive. These benefits could help many kinship care families, considering over half of all children in kinship care live in families with income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. But according to previous research, financial assistance receipt for children in kinship care has been low, even among those in poverty (Ehrle and Geen 2002). We find that children's receipt of financial assistance is still low, given their levels of eligibility.3 Many, if not most, families that could be eligible for a foster care payment (the most generous payment available) do not receive it. Children ineligible for foster care payments have surprisingly low levels of receipt for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) child-only benefits, often their only source of financial assistance.

Our findings are based on data from the 2002 round of the National Survey of America's Families (NSAF), a nationally representative household survey. The NSAF provides a random sample of focal children under age 18 and corresponding responses from the caregivers in the household who are most knowledgeable about the children's care. Findings are weighted to represent children in the nation.


Notes from this section

1. This number differs from the approximately 6 million children living in any relative-headed household. The larger estimate includes multigenerational households in which grandparents or other relatives may head a home but at least one parent lives with the child.

2. The payment amount and eligibility requirements for some payments also vary by state of residence.

3. The number of children in kinship care receiving any type of payment did not change significantly between 1999 and 2002. In 1999, only 33.4 percent of all children in kinship care received any type of financial payment (including SSI and Social Security). Three years later, data indicate that approximately the same percentage (32.7 percent) received any payment.


Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).



Topics/Tags: | Children and Youth | Poverty, Assets and Safety Net


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