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Advocates for kinship caregivers call for equity to remove disparities with foster parents

Advocates for kinship caregivers call for equity to remove disparities with foster parents
Posted at 11:25 AM, Jan 29, 2021

CLEVELAND — One day you're a grandparent and the next you're in the role of parent all over again - welcome to the life of a kinship caregiver.

But in Ohio, kinship caregivers aren't afforded the same state aid as foster parents. The issue has sparked a legal battle over the disparity even after Governor Mike Dewine tried to make it right last month.

In December Dewine signed an executive order authorizing the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) to pay kinship caregivers. According to the state's website, across Ohio, more than 2,600 kinship caregivers are providing safe and loving homes to nearly 4,000 children in the custody of a children services agency.

But advocates for kinship caregivers said the executive order he signed still falls short of the help needed. Payments to caregivers only amount to $10.20 per child per day as payment for kinship caregivers for up to nine months.

Peggyellen Faulkner described to us the struggles she faced when becoming a kinship caregiver 10 years ago.

"I have two grandsons," she said. "They were 3 and 4 when they came to me. I got them because there was domestic violence in the home."

Faulkner said during the first two years she got no help from the state.

"It was hard because I wasn't prepared for what was to come," she said.

It was only after she gained custody that she learned about the state's Kinship Permanency Incentive program. But she said the aid wasn't much of an incentive. She recalled receiving slightly more than $280 for both of her grandsons.

Barbara Turpin is the co-secretary for the Ohio Grandparent Kinship Coalition. She said the state has placed obstacles in the way of kinship caregivers by placing a burden on them financially.

"Unless they go through the licensing process that non-relative foster parents go through, that's pretty much the only cash assistance that they can receive," Turpin said.

Karen Carter, with the group Fostering Hope, described the licensing process as tedious.

"It is a number of classes and a home study and you have to maintain that home study then," she said. "It does place additional burdens on kinship caregivers on top of - to get the financial resources and then they have to maintain that."

Turpin said foster care providers receive payments on a sliding scale—based on the needs of the children. However, kinship caregivers are frozen to that $10.20.

"There's no room for accounting for any kind of special needs for the children, any kind of additional supports that they might need," she said.

Faulkner said her grandsons are doing better and they're both teenagers now. But she wishes she'd had more help along the way.

"It doesn't matter whether you're fostering the children or you're kinship, you're still taking care of these children and they need to be provided for," said Faulkner.

Kinship care advocates in Ohio said the work to eliminate the disparities between kinship caregivers and foster families has to continue.