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Kinship Care
Rhode island Department of Children, Youth and Families
Policy: 900.0025
Effective Date:  April 28, 1986
Revised Date:  November 16, 2009
Version:  5
 
Child safety, permanency and child and family well-being are the desired outcomes of our work with children and families.  The Department will maintain a child in his or her home whenever possible; however, certain events in a child’s life may require consideration of a temporary or long-term placement outside the home.  It is the policy of the Department to provide the child with an out-of-home placement which is least disruptive to the child and family, which offers the child the most familiar and family-like setting possible and which encourages and promotes stability and permanency for the child.  Therefore, the Department gives utmost consideration to a relative or kinship placement for the child prior to seeking a non-relative placement.
 
Kinship care is the full time care, nurturing and protection of the child by a relative, member of a tribe or clan, godparent, stepparent or any adult who has a kinship bond with the child.  When biological parents are not able to raise their child, kinship care allows the child to grow to adulthood in a family environment.  Placement with a kinship caretaker, with whom the child has an established, supportive, caring relationship and by whom the child will be protected and provided for, can be of crucial importance to the future of the child, the family and the community.  For this reason, identification of a kinship resource must be pursued during the initial family assessment.  The kinship resource may be able to play a supportive role in maintaining the child in the parental home, as well as providing a placement for the child if it becomes necessary to place the child out of the home in the future.
 
A child removed from the parental home experiences physiological and emotional trauma.  Kinship care allows the child to remain within the protective and supporting arms of the extended family and can substantially lessen the degree of this trauma.  The child is able to maintain cultural and ethnic ties and identity.  A kinship arrangement usually provides a child with more stability and less disruption than other placements.  In most kinship care arrangements, a child is better able to remain in contact with his or her parents and visits can often take place in a more natural manner and setting.  The impact of being separated from both parents and siblings at the same time cannot be overstated.  A kinship home is more often able to provide what the child welfare system cannot - a caretaker who is willing and able to provide a home for a sibling group.
 
For the purposes of this policy, kin or relative means an individual who is related to the child by blood, marriage or adoption.  In addition to relationships by blood, marriage or adoption, consideration may be given to placing a child with an individual, also considered to be kin, who is part of the family support system, such as a non-related godparent, caretaker, close family friend, neighbor, clergy or other adult who has a close and caring relationship with the child.  Placement with a member of the family support system holds many of the same benefits for the child as placement with a relative, particularly in regard to the decrease in placement trauma and the maintenance of consistency in the child’s life.  For purposes of licensing, kinship includes such members of the family support system.
 
Federal law acknowledges the value of kinship care and provides resources and background check requirements for caretakers in the following statutes:
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Department utilizes licensed homes and group care facilities for children who are in need of placement.  Federal law requires that a relative placement is subject to the same licensing standards and foster parent training that apply to a non-relative foster home.  Certain licensing requirements, not related to safety, may be waived on an individual case basis for a kinship placement, as set forth in RIGL 23-28.13-27 through 23-28.13-34.
 
Additionally, if the child is already residing in an unlicensed kinship foster home, or if it appears that the best interests of the child will be served by placing the child in the home prior to licensing, the Department may, in accordance with RIGL 14-1-34, authorize the placement in the home pending licensure for a period not to exceed six (6) months, provided that the Department has conducted a DCYF records check pursuant to RIGL 40-13.2-3.1 and a statewide criminal records check.  If the Department is unable to complete the licensing process within six (6) months of the child's placement in the kinship foster home and if the Department determines that continued placement of the child in the home is in the child's best interest, the Department shall file a petition with the family court to seek authorization to allow the child to remain in the kinship foster home pending completion of the licensing process.  The Department provides notice of all such petitions to the Office of the Child Advocate, the child’s parent/guardian and CASA attorney.
The need to identify and assess a kinship placement may come up more than once in the life of a case.  If a child’s placement must be terminated for any reason, the parents should again be consulted regarding potential kinship caregivers.  If the parents are not available, a current kinship caregiver or other relative might be able to indicate another caregiver within the family.
 
The Department, other state departments and private social service agencies recognize the invaluable service that kinship caregivers provide to the children in their care and to the community as a whole.  Public and private agencies collaborate to offer support services to assist relative caretakers. Supports cover a wide range, including financial, training, some forms of housing assistance, mentoring and respite care.  Eligibility for certain financial and supportive services may depend upon the degree of relationship of the caregiver to the child.
 
Procedure
 
a.     Relatives of the father will be considered if his name appears on the child’s birth certificate, if the father has admitted paternity in a court of proper jurisdiction, or if the father has signed an affidavit for DCYF or DHS.
b.     Spouses of any of the persons in the above group continue to meet this relationship requirement even after the marriage is terminated by death or divorce.
 
i.     The Department must make reasonable efforts to place siblings together in the same kinship foster home unless it is contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings.
ii.     If siblings cannot be placed together because it is contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings, the Department must make reasonable efforts to facilitate visitation or ongoing contacts with siblings that cannot be placed together.
 
1.     The placement of a child in a kinship home prior to completion of the licensing process requires the verbal and written approval of a CPS, FSU or JCS administrator.
a.     Verbal approval must be provided prior to placing the child.
b.     Written approval must be documented by administrator in RICHIST in a Case Activity Note (CAN) within two (2) working days of the verbal authorization.
2.     Criminal Records Check - Placing worker completes statewide BCI and documents results on DCYF #034.
a.     As part of the criminal records check, worker must obtain the details of any available record of arrest and/or conviction from the arresting police department.
b.     A child will not be placed in a home where a caretaker or member of the household has a history of disqualifying criminal activity.
c.     A child will not be placed in a home where a caretaker or member of the household has a history of non-disqualifying criminal activity until the following steps have been completed.
i.     If there is a history of criminal activity, the worker must provide an explanation of the details of his or her findings.
ii.     If worker believes that it is in the best interest of the child to be placed with a caretaker who has a history of non-disqualifying criminal activity, worker must bring this information to the attention of his or her supervisor and administrator.
iii.     This information is summarized in an attached memo to the DCYF #036A, Preliminary Assessment of a Child Specific (Kinship) Home in sufficient detail to justify the decision to place child(ren) in the home, allow the supervisor to make an informed recommendation to the administrator and enable the administrator to make an informed decision on the suitability of the caretaker to foster the child.
3.     DCYF Records Check - Placing worker completes DCYF records checks and documents results on DCYF #035.
a.     Worker must review all DCYF case records relating to any foster care applicant(s) and all household members, including records relating to the applicants and household members as children and juveniles.
b.     A child will not be placed in a home where a caretaker or member of the household has a history of disqualifying information.
c.     A child will not be placed in a home where a caretaker or member of the household has a history of non-disqualifying information until the following steps have been completed.
i.     If there is a history of non-disqualifying information, the worker must provide an explanation of the details of his or her findings.
ii.     If worker believes that it is in the best interest of the child to be placed with a caretaker who has a history of non-disqualifying information, worker must bring this information to the attention of his or her supervisor and administrator.
iii.     This information is summarized in an attached memo to the DCYF #036A in sufficient detail to justify the decision to place child(ren) in the home, allow the supervisor to make an informed recommendation to the administrator and enable the administrator to make an informed decision on the suitability of the caretaker to foster the child.
4.     Preliminary Assessment of Child Specific (Kinship) Home - Worker meets with caretaker, completes a visual inspection of the caretaker’s home and the child’s sleeping quarters prior to placing the child and completes the DCYF #036A.
5.     Child Abuse and Neglect Registry Checks in Other States
a.      Worker informs applicant that the licensing process includes a Child Abuse and Neglect Registry Check of the State Central Registry in each state that the prospective caretaker(s) and any other adult(s) living in the home have resided in the preceding five (5) years.
b.      Worker obtains written authorization to conduct this records check from applicant or household member on the DCYF #007B (Authorization to Obtain Confidential Information).
6.     Worker obtains written authorization from the caretaker(s) on the DCYF #007B, Authorization to Obtain Confidential Information for a Physician’s Reference.
7.     Worker informs kinship caregiver of the following:
a.      Caregiver and adult household members are required to schedule an appointment with the DCYF Office of the Chief Child Protective Investigator within three (3) business days and undergo nationwide criminal records checks, including fingerprinting, within seven (7) business days.
b.      Fire inspector will contact caregiver within seven (7) business days to schedule fire inspection.
c.      Caregiver is required to contact the Permanency Support Unit within seven (7) business days to schedule training.
d.      Caregiver must work together with DCYF Licensing staff to schedule and complete the home study process as soon as possible.
e.      The licensing process must be completed within six (6) months.  If the licensing process has not been completed within this time frame, foster board payment from DCYF may be terminated.
8.     Worker must assess the need and arrange for community services to assist the family in providing foster care.
9.     Worker reviews with caregiver(s) the Kinship Caregiver Information and Signature Document, emphasizing the importance of completing the licensing process within six (6) months, and obtains caregiver(s) signatures on both the DCYF and Kinship Caregiver copies of the document.  Worker provides the Kinship Caregiver Copy to the caretaker.
10.     Worker submits completed Preliminary Assessment Packet (DCYF #036A, with attached DCYF #034, DCYF #035, DCYF #007B and, if applicable, a memo with details of criminal or DCYF history or physical or behavioral health issues of concern) to supervisor for approval.
11.     Supervisor submits Preliminary Assessment Packet to administrator for approval.  Administrator documents approval in RICHIST in a CAN within two (2) standard working days of the verbal authorization.
12.     Worker forwards to Licensing the completed Preliminary Assessment Packet (DCYF #036A, with attached DCYF #034, DCYF #035, DCYF #007B and, if applicable, a memo with details of criminal history, RI DCYF history and physical or behavioral health issues of concern) approved by supervisor and administrator and retains a copy for the record.
13.     If the placement is made by CPS, a copy of the packet is forwarded to FSU if the family is open to FSU, Juvenile Probation if the youth is open to Probation or to Intake with the Partial Packet if the family is not active.
 
1.     A relative placement is subject to the same licensing standards and foster parent training that apply to a non-relative foster home.
2.     Under certain circumstances, a waiver may be granted regarding particular licensing requirements.  Waivers are granted by the Licensing Administrator on a case-by-case basis for requirements other than those relating to safety.
3.     Foster Care Licensing Unit Supervisor or designee ensures that the following steps are completed within seven (7) business days of receipt of the Preliminary Assessment Packet (DCYF #036A, with attached DCYF #034, DCYF #035, DCYF #007B and, if applicable, a memo with details of criminal or DCYF history and physical or behavioral health issues of concern).
a.      Foster Care Licensing Application (DCYF #036) packet is sent to kinship provider.
b.      Physician’s Reference (DCYF #037) is sent to physician.
c.      Request for Child Abuse and Neglect Registry Check is sent to State Central Registry in each state that the prospective caretaker(s) and any other adult(s) living in the home have resided in the preceding five years.
d.      Review of the Preliminary Assessment Packet (DCYF #036A, with attached DCYF #034, DCYF #035, DCYF #007B and, if applicable, a memo with details of criminal or DCYF history or physical or behavioral health issues of concern) for completeness.
e.      Initiation of the licensing process by creating a pending license and assigning the case to a Foster Care Licensing worker.
4.     Foster Care Licensing worker is responsible to ensure that, in addition to all licensing steps outlined in DCYF Policy 900.0020, Licensing of Foster Care Homes, the following are completed in order for a foster home to be licensed:
a.      DCYF #036, Foster Care Application and DCYF #036B, Adoption & Foster Care Self-Assessment Questionnaire and home study process
b.      Completed DCYF #037, Physician’s Reference, which indicates that the applicant is physically, mentally and emotionally competent to be a foster parent
c.      Personal reference letters from three (3) individuals; two (2) must be unrelated to applicant(s)
d.      Fire inspection
e.      Foster Parent Training
5.     Foster Care Licensing worker ensures that there is fifty (50) square feet of sleeping area and one (1) bed per child.  This applies to all children in the home.
6.     Foster Care Licensing worker must directly contact a physician in any case in which the Physician’s Reference is ambiguous or raises questions regarding the suitability or competence of the applicant to be licensed as a foster parent.
7.     In the event that the DCYF #036A identifies that an applicant is currently engaged in behavioral health treatment, the licensing worker shall obtain the necessary releases and contact the treatment provider to obtain information on the status of treatment and the suitability or competence of the applicant to be licensed as a foster parent.
8.     Foster Care Licensing worker must conduct an independent review of nationwide and statewide criminal records checks of the applicants and household members as part of the licensing process and document in the home study the impact on the safety and service needs of any child to be placed in the home.
a.      Licensing worker cannot proceed with the licensing process if a caretaker or member of the household has a history of disqualifying or non-disqualifying information.  The licensing worker must review this information with his or her supervisor to determine if the licensing process should proceed.
b.      Results of this review, including justification for proceeding with the licensing process, must be documented in a Provider Activity Note (PAN).
9.     Foster Care Licensing worker must conduct an independent review of DCYF case record(s) relating to any foster care applicant(s) and all household members, including records relating to the applicants and household members as children and juveniles, as part of the licensing process and document in the home study the impact on the safety and service needs of any child to be placed in the home.
a.     Licensing worker cannot proceed with the licensing process if a caretaker or member of the household has a history of disqualifying or non-disqualifying information.  The licensing worker must review this information with his or her supervisor to determine if the licensing process should proceed.
b.     Results of this review, including justification for proceeding with the licensing process, must be documented in a Provider Activity Note (PAN).
10.     Foster Care Licensing worker must review information received from the State Central Registry in each state that the prospective caretaker(s) and any other adult(s) living in the home have resided in the preceding five years.
a.     Worker must document the results of the check on the DCYF #035.
i.     If another state does not maintain a registry or if the state has an Administration for Children and Families (ACF) approved delayed effective date, worker must document on the DCYF #035 and this will not affect licensure.
ii.     If another state does maintain a registry and is unwilling to provide this information, a license may not be issued until the information is received.  Worker must document on the DCYF #035 and inform the Licensing Administrator or designee, who will notify the ACF regional office.
b.     If an applicant or household member has a history disqualifying or non-disqualifying information, the licensing worker must review this information with his or her supervisor to determine if the licensing process should proceed.
c.     Results of this review, including justification for proceeding with the licensing process, must be documented in a Provider Activity Note (PAN).
11.     At any time during the licensing process, if CPS, FSU or Juvenile Corrections staff and Licensing staff do not agree about the fitness of a caretaker, the issue is resolved through the mutual chain of command.
12.     The Department may authorize the placement of a child in a kinship foster home pending licensure for a period not to exceed six (6) months.  This approval may be granted only upon the completion of the DCYF records check, statewide criminal records check and approved DCYF #036A.  If the licensing process has not been completed within this time frame, foster board payment from DCYF may be terminated.
13.     A foster care license cannot be granted to a kinship home when the child’s natural parent or legal guardian resides with the relative caretaker of the child, unless an exempting condition is present.  Specific exemptions may be granted with written documentation from a reliable professional that the natural parent or legal guardian is not capable of parenting the child due to a physical or emotional handicapping condition.
14.     The Department will immediately remove a child from any home when there is reasonable cause to believe that there exists imminent danger to the child’s well being.
15.     If the kinship applicant does not meet the Department’s required standards for licensing, is not granted a waiver, or refuses to cooperate in the licensing process, it will be necessary to terminate the child’s placement and locate a placement which meets the Department’s standards. The applicant will be notified in writing of the Department’s decision regarding licensing, the reason for denial if it is decided that the home will not be licensed and of the right to appeal.
16.     If the request of a relative for placement of a child or children is denied by DCYF, that relative shall have the right, in accordance with RIGL 14-1-27, to petition the court for review.  Within five (5) days of the request, the court shall conduct a hearing as to the suitability of temporary placement with said relative.  The court will then issue orders regarding the suitability of temporary placement with the relative, based upon the information provided in the hearing.
 
 
Support Services
1.      The Department is cognizant of the invaluable service that kinship caregivers provide to the children in their care and to the community as a whole and provides support services to caregivers to assist them in their work.
2.      If a child was eligible for TANF funding before coming into care, a relative caretaker who is a blood relation may choose to continue to receive TANF payments and medical assistance for the child under TANF guidelines.  In addition, such a relative may be eligible to receive TANF and medical assistance for themselves if they meet the income guidelines established through the RI Department of Human Services.  (It should be noted that all kinship placements must be licensed, regardless of their choice of funding.)
3.      Kinship caregivers who do not wish to receive TANF funds (or not eligible for such funds) will receive foster board payments from the Department.  The amount of the foster board payment is based on the age of the child and the types of activities, beyond what would be considered to be routine, that the foster parent performs for the child.  A child receiving foster board also receives medical coverage through the Department.
4.      There are resources available that may assist relatives to improve their own property to conform to licensing standards.  Additionally, there are programs that will help families move to more appropriate rented and/or subsidized housing if their present residence is not in compliance with space requirements or other safety codes.  This information is available to the foster parents through the Foster Parent Association, and the Foster Parent Liaison.
5.      The Rhode Island Foster Parents Association maintains a Help Line and a Mentor Program for both non-relative and relative foster parents.  Kinship caregivers are linked with other experienced kinship care providers who are able to provide information and support pertinent to the needs of kinship foster homes.
6.      Respite care is available to kinship caregivers in situations where they must be absent and will be unable to care for the child for a period of time.  Respite care may be required due to a family emergency, a planned vacation that cannot include the child, or situations where the caseworker and caregiver agree that respite may be necessary for the survival of the placement (refer to DCYF Policy 700.0205, Respite Care Services).
 
Permanency and Concurrent Planning