Care Initiatives in Florida
public and private agencies and grassroots coalitions of grandparents
and other relative caregivers have begun working together
to expand the services available to kinship caregivers who
are caring for children outside of the foster care system.
the major kinship care programs and supports are listed below.
Additional support groups can be found through the AARP Grandparent
Information Center Database. Call 1-800-424-3410, e-mail information
requests to firstname.lastname@example.org, or search AARP’s online kinship
care support group database at http://www.aarp.org/grandparents/searchsupport/.
Kinship Center: The Florida Kinship Center at the University
of South Florida School of Social Work has several programs
that benefit relative caregivers across the state. The Kinship
Care Warmline (1-800-640-6444) provides emotional support,
information and referrals for caregivers statewide. It is
available from 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday and messages
can be left 24 hours a day. The Warmline links caregivers
to community resources such as support groups, child care,
health care, transportation, and financial assistance. The
Center also has a quarterly newsletter containing information
on services available to kinship care families throughout
the state. In addition to these services, the Center
provides training to service providers and caregivers and
develops, maintains, and strengthens the Florida Kinship Advisory
Board and the Florida Kinship (FLKIN) Support Group Network,
a resource for more than thirty kinship care support groups
across the state. The Center has also developed “Kin as Teachers,”
a program to provide kinship caregivers with support and information
to raise their developing children ages 0 to 3. The
service is offered in the caregiver’s home based on the family’s
need. Contact: For more information, call toll-free in Florida
1-(800) 640-6444 or out-of-state (813) 974-1328, email@example.com,
or log on to http://www.flkin.org.
in Five Counties: Jacksonville Legal Aid assists low-income
caregivers and caregivers over 60 with court filings and establishing
the legal status of children to the caregiver through guardianship.
Assistance is provided to caregivers in Duvall, Clay, Baker,
St. Johns, and Nassau Counties. Contact: Call (904) 356-8371
or visit http://www.jaxlegalaid.org to make an appointment
with an attorney.
Support Services in Hillsborough County: The Kinship Care
Connection, another program sponsored by the Florida Kinship
Center, serves kinship caregivers in Hillsborough County.
It is a school-based intervention that places a social worker
in the local schools to help caregivers navigate the school
system, facilitates support groups for caregivers and children,
and conducts workshops to educate school staff about kinship
care. Contact: LaSandra McGrew, Program Coordinator,
at (813) 974-4921.
Group Network in Jacksonville: The Relatives as Parents
Program of Jacksonville (RAPPJAX) offers six educational support
groups each month to kinship care families. Past groups
have addressed such issues as financial assistance, stress
management, and behavioral problems. RAPPJAX also offers workshops
featuring professionals from the Duvall County community.
Prior topics have included age-appropriate discipline methods,
a relaxation workshop, and talking to children about sexuality
issues. Referrals are also provided for financial and legal
assistance. RAPPJAX serves Duvall County. Contact: Kristi
O’Neal, Program Coordinator, at (904) 280-7264 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advocacy and Training: The Children First Project of the
Nova Southeastern University's Shepard Broad Law Center is
a statewide legal reform group which advocates for kinship
caregivers and provides training around the state. Trainings
are provided on accessing public benefits, legal custody options,
and advocating/communicating with legislative representatives.
A handbook, Making the Relative Caregiver Program Work for
You, is also available from the Project. Contact: (954)
262-6030 for assistance and more information.
Statewide: Florida Legal Services, Inc. (FLS) is a legal
support center working to ensure that people with low-incomes
(including relative caregivers) have access to civil legal
services statewide. Contact: For more information about
legal services available in your community, visit the FLS
website at http://www.floridalegal.org or call (850)
Guide: The Elder Care Services of Leon County has a resource
guide containing information on organizations serving kinship
caregivers, legal issues, public assistance programs, and
tips on interacting with children at various ages and developmental
stages. The resource guide contains statewide information,
but focuses mainly on Leon County. Call to request the guide.
Contact: Ivy Nixson, Program Supervisor, at (850) 921-5554
Care and Florida’s Foster Care System
children in the care of the states are placed in foster care
with grandparents or other relatives. In Florida, the
Department of Children and Families reports:
of children in kinship foster placements: As of January
2002, the Department of Children and Families had more than
30,000 children in out-of-home placements. Of these children,
approximately 53% were placed with kin. Of the 53% of
children placed with kin, 13,453 children were in the Relative
for kinship placements: State policy requires that kin
be considered first when an out-of-home placement is sought
for a child under the Department’s care.
for kinship foster parents: In some instances, a kinship
caregiver becomes a licensed foster parent for the child in
their care. When this occurs, there is no separate licensing
program for kin foster parents. Kin have to meet the
same licensing standards and requirements and receive the
same foster care payment rate as non-kin foster parents.
Department of Children and Families Relative Caregiver Program:
Most kinship caregivers of children who have been adjudicated
dependent due to abuse, neglect or abandonment utilize the
Relative Caregiver Program instead of becoming licensed foster
parents. In this program, based on a home study performed
by the Department, the child is ordered by the court into
the temporary custody of the caregiver. In order to
be eligible, the caregiver must be within the fifth degree
of relationship to the parent or stepparent of the child.
Kin caring for a child who is not adjudicated dependent and
does not meet the other requirements are not eligible for
the Relative Caregiver Program payment.
or adoption is not possible for the child, the court may place
the child in the long-term custody of the caregiver.
The child must have been in the custody of the relative for
at least six months for long-term custody to be granted by
the court. Following an order of long-term custody,
supervision of the placement by the department is terminated,
the court retains jurisdiction, and eligible caregivers remain
eligible for the Relative Caregiver Program payment.
Children who are placed in the custody of a relative or non-relative
caregiver, whether enrolled in the Relative Caregiver Program
or not, are eligible for Medicaid coverage, subsidized child
care, and family support and preservation services including
housing, transportation, legal, and educational services (Fla.
Stat. ch. 39.5085). Contact: Call your Family Safety Social
Worker or visit http://www5.myflorida.com/cf_web/myflorida2/dcfcontacts.html
to find the Family Safety Program Office in your area.
care contact: Questions about kinship foster care placements
should be directed to Joel Atkinson, Foster Care Specialist,
Department of Children and Families, Family Safety Program
Office, at (850) 922-5055 or Joel_Atkinson@dcf.state.fl.us
or Nelson Simmons, Relative Caregiver Program Specialist,
Department of Children and Families, Family Safety Program
Office, at (850) 922-0375 or Nelson_Simmons@dcf.state.fl.us.
for kinship foster parents: Children's Home Society
of Florida in West Palm Beach provides a monthly support group
for relatives raising kin who are in foster care or at risk
of entering the foster care system. In addition to the
support group, caregivers receive information on public benefits,
resources, permanency options, and parenting skills.
Child care is available during the support group. Contact:
Darlene Levy, Program Director, at (561) 844-9785.
for Florida Kinship Care Families
by kinship caregivers are often eligible for a range of state
and federal programs. In most cases, kinship caregivers may
apply for these programs on a child’s behalf even though they
are not the child’s parent or legal guardian. Some examples
of these programs include:
Cash assistance may be available to children and their grandparents
and other relative caregivers through Florida’s Work and Gain
Economic Self- Sufficiency (WAGES) program. Kinship
care families may also be eligible for food stamps to help
meet their children’s food and nutrition needs. For
more information about these programs, call (850) 488-3271
or log on to http://www5.myflorida.com/cf_web/myflorida2/healthhuman/ess/.
insurance: Grandparents and other relative caregivers
may apply for free or low-cost health insurance on behalf
of the children they are raising through Florida’s KidCare
program. In some cases, caregivers may also be eligible
for free coverage through Medicaid. For more information
about how to apply for KidCare program call 1-888-540-KIDS
(5437) or log on to http://www.floridakidcare.org.
kinship caregivers find it difficult to obtain services their
children need, such as medical care or education. In addition
to the state’s child guardianship and custody laws, the following
laws may be helpful to kinship caregivers1:
Consent (Fla. Stat. ch. 743.0645): This law allows
a grandparent, adult aunt or uncle, adult brother or sister,
or stepparent (or any person with power of attorney) to consent
to medical care on behalf of a child: (1) after the treatment
provider has made a reasonable attempt to contact the child’s
parent or legal guardian and that person cannot be contacted;
and (2) if the parent or legal guardian has not given the
treatment provider notice that they oppose the treatment.
Guardianship (Fla. Stat. ch. 744.304): This law
allows that a guardian may be temporarily appointed by the
court after petition or consent of the parents. The
standby guardian assumes his/her duties immediately upon the
death or incapacitation of the last surviving parent of the
minor. Such guardianship is not a requirement for children
in Florida’s foster care system, but may be pursued by the
caregivers of these children.