WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT KINSHIP CARE
You received a call from a county or tribal agency asking if you would be able to care for someone close to you who has been removed from their home. The children just arrived so what do you do now? The first thing is take a breath, everything does not need to happen today. You may want to get a notebook or use an electronic app on your phone to keep notes and to write down questions to ask the placing worker and things you need to know.
There will be a worker from the responsible county or tribal community working with the family who is responsible for assisting the caregivers and children to resolve the identified concerns in order for the children to return home. Be sure to obtain the workers name, agency, and contact information and the after hours contact information in case there is an immediate need.
If you have questions, call the placing worker as needed to ask questions. If the worker is not available, leave a message with the questions and ask them to call you back. The first few days of a new foster care placement are hectic, so don’t expect a return call immediately but within a day or so. If the call is more urgent and you can’t reach the worker, call the main number and ask for a coverage worker or supervisor to assist you.
Adding children to the home can be overwhelming. Be sure to take breaks when you can and begin thinking about who you will use for respite care. Some agencies require background studies to be completed before someone can provide care. Check with the children’s placing worker and your identified licensing worker on their process.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW/DO?
Welcome the child:
- The family is experiencing a crisis and the children will likely be exhibiting some behaviors or emotions related to being removed from home.
- Make them feel welcome, give them lots of reassurance. Don’t make promises. If they ask questions about something you aren’t sure about, say you don’t know but you will find out. Then ask the placing worker.
- Don’t ask them questions about what happened. If they tell you, listen and write it down. You don’t want to influence what they say.
- If age appropriate, can you get the children to their home school district or do the children need to change schools?
- Talk to the placing worker about school and discuss who will contact school about transportation changes or to enroll them into a new school.
- Ask if the placing worker will notify the school about limiting contact with the parents.
- Does the child have clothing and required medication or medical equipment that is needed?
- You may need to go purchase some items. You may or may not be reimbursed. Keep all your receipts.
- Don’t overwhelm the children with rules. Identify the top 2-3 rules they must follow and go over the other ones later after they have adjusted.
- Don’t assume the children “know” what your expectations or rules are. Visiting for a few days or hours is different than living with you.
- Explain and explain again. It may be difficult for them to remember due to the trauma of being removed from home.
Initial Home Inspection:
- The placing worker will want to look at your home prior to or immediately after placement to make sure it is safe for the children, it doesn’t have to be guest ready.
- The placing worker will verify you have beds for the children or can acquire then in a timely fashion.
- Minnesota law requires licensed foster care providers to comply with specific safe sleep standards and training requirements for infants.
- These standards and training requirements are considered critical because unsafe sleep environments have been associated with unexpected infant deaths, including deaths in licensed child care. These requirements are in Minn. Statutes, section 245A.1435.
- You will be asked for demographic information to complete a local background check. Ensuring the safety of a child is the top priority when placing a child into a foster home. A finger-print based background study is required as a part of the licensing application. Any criminal record is reviewed by the licensing entity on an individual basis, with an important factor being when the incident occurred and the current situation of the family. It is important to be honest with your agency and worker about any criminal history that does exist, as failure to do so may lead to you being denied for foster care. To learn more about criminal barriers to foster care and adoption, please visit: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=245C.15
- Determine, along with the county or tribal worker, what agency you will work with to become licensed as the agency that placed the child may not be the licensing agency. You may work with your local county or tribal social service agency, or a private agency.
- You will be given forms to complete and turn into the county to begin a Foster Care License. The children can be placed with you while you complete your foster care license. In the first 10 days, you will need to complete the application, individual fact sheet, and background study information sheets. Once these are turned in, you will receive a letter explaining the process to have your finger prints scanned and submitted. This needs to be completed timely! More information can be found here: Emergency Foster Care license process.
- Read the DHS bulletin called Family Matters: Information for relative considering becoming foster parents. This will give you more information about the foster care and what to expect as you navigate the foster care process
- Do not discuss the case with anyone! Your family and friends may ask you questions about the case, what happened, why you have the children, etc. As a foster parent you MUST respect confidentiality. Many relatives have been reprimanded for talking about the case with others.
- Do not post pictures of the children on social media or send pictures via your phone! Even though the children are your relatives or kin, they are now foster children in your care and posting or sharing photos can be identified as a violation of the child and family’s data privacy rights. This is a common error kinship providers make. Please discuss policies regarding the use of pictures and social media with your foster children’s county placing worker before posting or sharing with others.
- Ask the placing work if the parents know the children are being placed with you. Ask the placing worker what contact, if any, is approved and that it is important to follow the approved contact plan as it may be considered a safety issue. Discuss with the placing worker your comfort level in supervising contact.
- If the parent shows up at your home, do not allow them to come in to see the children unless it has been previously approved, and it has been communicated directly to you by the placing worker. Ask them to leave and if they refuse, it will be difficult, but call the police for assistance. Also, do not allow the parent to stay overnight at your home, even if they tell you they have nowhere else to go! Unauthorized visits or people in your home is a common reason children are removed from relative/kin homes.
- Be sure to keep any comments about the child(ren)’s caregivers positive or neutral even if you are angry and frustrated with the them. Don’t promise the children they are going home soon or over state what the parents are doing to get them to return home. Children often have divided loyalties between their parents and caregivers. Supporting their relationship with their caregiver can help minimize the feelings of divided loyalties.
- It can be difficult to transition into the role of a foster parent and follow county/tribal rules and policies, this can change the relationship between you and others in your support network.
- Visitation has been set up with the children and parents. Remember to stick to the schedule, don’t allow extra contact without approval. Ask the placing worker what you should do if the parents call to cancel, show up late, show up early, or do not call or show.
Contact with providers:
- You and the children will likely have at minimum 1 visit with the county or tribal worker a month. This generally happens in the home, but may occur at court, therapy, or school. You will also likely receive several phone calls per month.
- If the children have a Guardian at litem (GAL) assigned, the GAL will usually at a minimum, visit the child prior to every court hearing. You will also receive phone calls from the GAL.
- You will receive a copy of the children’s medical cards or at a minimum something identifying the children’s ID number and type of insurance.
- Ask the county worker if the child(ren) have any medical needs you need to be aware of including allergies, medications, dietary restrictions, etc.
- The children need to be seen by a doctor and a dentist within 30 days of arriving at your home if they have not been seen recently. Provide copies of any medical information you receive at the appointment to the county worker. Keep track of your mileage to these appointments (odometer readings at beginning and end) in case there is reimbursement for medical mileage.
Foster parents receive reimbursement for taking care of the children placed in their homes. Some children qualify for additional payments based on the level of parenting needed. Children receive supplemental payments to cover the expenses of extra needs and the additional efforts caregivers provide to meet those needs.
Effective July 1, 2017, the Northstar Care for Children basic monthly payment for all three programs was increased by 15 percent, as follows:
- Ages birth to 5: from $525 to $650
- Ages 6 to 12: from $670 to $770
- Ages 13 and older: from $790 to $910
Some children qualify for additional payments based on the level of parenting needed. Children receive supplemental payments to cover the expenses of extra needs and the additional efforts caregivers provide to meet those needs. For additional information on the reimbursement payments, please review https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Public/DHS-6736-ENG.
Medical Assistance is a federally funded insurance program that is available to children who are in foster care. It overs medical and dental needs for foster children. Medical coverage and the needs of the child should be discussed with the placing worker prior to the child being placed in your home.
Other possible financial supports for foster children may include:
- Foster children up to age 5, are eligible for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). It is a food supplement program. Please contact your local health department.
- Medical Assistance
- Free/Reduced breakfast and lunch at school
- Clothing allowance in the first 60 days of the initial placement.
- Forgotten children’s fund for special purchases. The Forgotten Children’s Fund, provides up to $300 per child, one time, so foster families can purchase special items and services for children. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
- SELF fund for items related to independent living (work uniforms, driver’s ed., etc.)
- MN ADOPT’s supportive services, including: resource packed website, Education Program, HELP Program: www.mnadopt.org
Possible informational and emotional supports for children and families:
- North America Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) has information and support groups for youth and families. https://www.nacac.org/help/be-a-youth-advocate/
- Head Start promotes school readiness for children birth to five. Foster children are generally eligible for this program. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohs
- Early Learning Scholarship pays for high-quality child care and early education to help children get ready for school. https://education.mn.gov/MDE/fam/elsprog/elschol/
- Parent to parent support network
- Peer support to youth
- Family Activities
- Crisis Services
- Mental Health Services * Helpline for foster, kinship, and adoptive families. https://www.mnadopt.org/help-prog/
- Pre-adoption training
- Training for foster, kinship, and adoptive families. https://www.mnadopt.org/education/
- Adoption information and referral. https://www.mnadopt.org/fostering-network/
- Foster care information and referral. https://www.mnadopt.org/fostering-network/general-fc-information/
- Post adoption search resources. https://www.mnadopt.org/search/
- Photography and video recruitment for children under State guardianship.
Please talk to your agency for additional resources that may be available.
Relatives are generally the best option for placing children when they are removed from their home, as It helps with consistency and belonging. Counties are required to notify relatives if a child enters foster care, as well as consider family members or kin to provide foster care and adopt, but sometimes relatives run into barriers to doing it. These barriers may be due to: *Distance from the children’s home county.
- Not living in the same community as the child. *Not being able to pass a background study.
- Concern the removal family member will have access to the home/child. *Not being able to provide suitable housing: not enough space, being in senior housing, not meeting building, zoning or fire code.
- Health of the potential caregiver.
- Not following children’s case plan
So What Can I do?
*MN Statute 260C.221 states relative may participate in the care and planning for the children in care. This includes, but is not limited to, participation in case planning for the parent and child, identifying the strengths and needs of the parent and child, supervising visits, providing respite and vacation visits for the child, providing transportation to appointments, suggesting other relatives who might be able to help support the case plan, and to the extent possible, helping to maintain the child’s familiar and regular activities and contact with friends and relatives.
- Follow the children’s case plan, advocate for the child, and report issues timely.
- Meet with the placing worker and express your commitment to the children.
- Meet with the guardian-at-litem and express your commitment to the children.
* MN Statute 260C.221 states the agency needs to inform relatives/kin about family foster care licensing requirements, including how to complete an application and how to request a variance from licensing standards that do not present a safety or health risk to the child in the home under section 245A.04 and supports that are available for relatives and children who reside in a family foster home.
- Complete and submit a foster care license application to begin the process to become licensed to care for your relatives/kin.
*MN Statute 260C.221 states relatives have the right to ask to be notified of any court proceedings regarding the child, to attend the hearings, and the right to be heard by the court as required under section 260C.152, subdivision 5.
- Request to be a party to the case and express your commitment to the children to the court and receive court notices.
- Attend the court hearings.
*This link will connect you to court documents: http://www.mncourts.gov/GetForms.aspx?c=5
*Hire an attorney legal Advice Clinic lookup: http://www.mncourts.gov/Help-Topics/Self-Help-Centers.aspx
Information for Grandparents/Relatives caring for children:
- ProJustice MN Kinship Caregivers Legal Steps manual
- Kinship Caregiver Resources-Lutheran Social Services:
- University of Wisconsin-Extension: Development and Parenting Information
- University of Wisconsin-Extension: National Resource Information
- Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Relative Kin Foster Parent Trainings (Mitchell Hamline School of Law)
Relative/Kin training videos