July 29, 2014
by Shannon Pavell
Relative caregivers are the backbone of California’s foster care system. Statewide, 36% of California’s 60,000 foster children live with a family member. Unfortunately, California is the only state in the country that doesn’t provide state foster care funding to relative caregivers, meaning many of these relatives receive little or no financial assistance to provide for a child’s basic needs.
A study done by U.C. Davis found that the minimum rate necessary to care for a child ranges from $657-$820 per month. Non-relative caregivers receive that from federal and state funding while relative caregivers receive only $369 per month from CalWORKS. Many of these caregivers are seniors on fixed incomes or lower-wage workers. They can barely afford food and clothing for their foster child – not to mention the ‘extras’ that are essential to the child’s development and well-being, such as sports uniforms, dance or music lessons, a bicycle, etc.
In October 2013, the Step Up Coalition was formed to ensure that foster children placed with relatives receive the benefits, supports and services they need to thrive. YMCA Youth & Family Services, along with other California youth organizations, partnered with Step Up to share resources and kinship care expertise. On June 20, 2014 their advocacy paid off. Thanks to the diligence of Step Up members and critical support from Senators and Assembly Members, Governor Brown signed the budget that created the Approved Relative Caregiver Funding Option Program to provide new state funds for foster children living with relatives.
These funds will provide state foster care benefits to relatives curently only receiving CalWORKs for the foster children in their care because the children are not eligible for federal foster care benefits. This will make a huge difference in the lives of those children and families, increasing child safety, family permanence and well-being by better supporting foster children in the care of relatives. For more information, visit stepupforkin.org or yfs.ymca.org for YMCA Kinship Support Services.