Proposed Bill Looks To Help Relatives Who Support Kids
If you haven’t heard of the “BAGs,” which is short for “Bad-Ass Grandmas” yet, you will soon. They are making some noise about the injustice of the state’s child-welfare system. In fact, they have been making so much noise that state lawmakers are taking steps to help close the gap between how much the state pays for a child in a foster home and how much they pay relatives who take a child in.
When the state’s Department of Child Safety determines that a child can no longer live with their parent(s), they either place them with a relative or into a foster home. The preference is certainly to place a child with their relatives. The best interest of the child should always be to keep them around people they are familiar with.
Much of the time, this relative ends up being a grandparent, but can also be an aunt or uncle. What the BAGs have pointed out, and what many lawmakers want to change, is the amount of money that the state gives to support relatives who take children in.
Currently, they pay the relative $75 a month for taking a child. If that child were to be placed into a foster home, they would receive $600.
Does that seem fair for anyone involved?
Imagine the sudden burden that would be placed on the relative. When DCS makes the determination that a child needs to be placed somewhere, the decision is often made quickly.
“Many things happen right away,” says Ann Nichols, head of the Grandparent Ambassadors. “There’s often the need for a bed or a crib. Then there’s the scramble to get shoes, clothing, maybe dental work.”
Maybe a person can take care of those things with $600 a month, but certainly not $75. Grandparents are often on a fixed income, so they need help. But as one grandparent in the story said, “No grandmother is going to refuse to take in her grandchild.”
A bill introduced by Sen. Lela Alston of Phoenix would boost the monthly amount given to relatives to $250. It is not $600, but it is a step in the right direction. Another bill introduced in the state Senate makes access for enrollment in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families automatic.
If You Are A Relative
The DCS has procedures in place defining a kinship caregiver. This means “an adult relative or person who has a significant relationship with the child and who is caring for the child under the care, custody and control of the Department (DCS).”
The Department does not just leave a needy child with any relative. The person must:
- Be 18 years of age
- Undergo fingerprinting and a background check
- Be cleared by DCS records check for child abuse and neglect reports
- Be able to meet the child’s placement needs (health and safety)
Anyone living with the kinship caregiver who is over 18 must also go through those same checks before a child can be placed into their care.
What You Can Expect
Even if you become a kinship caregiver, you may wish to establish legal guardianship or custody on a permanent basis. To do this, you need to the court to award you sole responsibility for personal decisions regarding the child’s wellbeing. Doing this can become complicated. The level of complication often depends on whether or not the child’s parents give written consent for the guardianship transfer.
An Arizona family law attorney can help you through this process and walk you through the steps necessary to prove your standing with the child.
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