the country, more than six million children -- approximately
1 in 12 children -- are living in households headed by grandparents
or other relatives. The District of Columbia has
more than 113,000 children living in households headed by grandparents
or other relatives. In many of these households, grandparents
and other relatives are the primary caregivers (“kinship caregivers”)
for children whose parents cannot or will not care for them
due to substance abuse, illness and death, abuse and neglect,
economic hardship, incarceration, divorce, domestic violence,
and other family and community crises.
at the Numbers: Kinship Care in Ilinois
The data below
show the numbers of grandparents who are living in households
with at least one grandchild under the age of 18, as well
as the numbers of grandparents who are the primary caregivers
for these grandchildren. These numbers were reported by the
2000 U.S. Census and are available for every place (as defined
by the U.S. Census Bureau) in the country, including cities,
towns, villages, and boroughs, on the U.S. Census website.*
Living in Households with One or More Own Grandchildren
Responsible for Meeting the Basic Needs of Grandchildren
are taken from the U.S. Census Bureau Table DP-2. Profile
Selected Social Characteristics: 2000. The U.S. Census website
Detailed instructions on how to access this data can be found
Care Initiatives in Illinois
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/.
state and national kinship care resources and supports
are available on the Generations United website at http://www.gu.org,
and GrandsPlace at http://www.grandsplace.org and
Grandparent Again at http://www.grandparentagain.com,
two websites coordinated by grandparents raising grandchildren.
Statewide Information and
Referrals for Kinship Care Families:
The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Project of the Illinois
State Department on Aging offers information, resources, and
referrals to grandparents and other relative caregivers.
The Senior Help Line (1-800-252-8966) provides a single contact
point for grandparents and other relatives raising children.
The state also offers a resource guide, Starting Points for
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, available in print or
on-line at http://www.ebvonline.org/starting.pdf. The Department
provides a statewide newsletter, Tele-grand, referrals to
support groups, and informational tip sheets. Illinois
also has a task force that is active in statewide kinship
care issues. Contact: Barb Schwartz, Project Director, Grandparents
Raising Grandchildren, Illinois State Department on Aging,
at (217) 524-5327 or email@example.com.
Access to Guardianship Information: The Guardianship Help
Desk is available to Illinois kinship caregivers over the
age of 18 who are raising a child. The program offers
help in filing for guardianship in the probate court, obtaining
a TANF child-only grant, and accessing other local kinship
care services. The dependent child does not need to be a ward
of the court. Grandparents and others raising grandchildren
can call the Senior Help Line at 1-800-252-8966 for a referral
to this program. Contact: Debra Melin, Director of Programs,
Human Services Technologies, at (708) 358-1650, ext. 13.
Kinship Caregivers as Advocates: The Illinois Department
on Aging, the Illinois Department of Human Services, and Parents
Place are collaborating to pilot a Guardianship Advocacy Project.
The project places a trained “grandparent advocate” at the
Office of the County Clerk in Sangamon County. The advocate
is there two hours a day for appointments and walk-ins to
help grandparents seeking guardianship fill out paperwork,
answer questions, and find information and referrals. Contact:
Barb Schwartz, Project Director, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren,
Illinois State Department on Aging, at (217) 524-5327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
and Crisis Care for Kinship Care Families: Diamonds in
the Ruff Children’s Society is a non-profit organization that
is developing respite and crisis care services for caregivers,
including kinship caregivers, in under-served Chicago areas.
The organization is helping to design state and federal legislation
to increase respite and crisis care services in lower-income
neighborhoods. It also educates local communities about
the benefit and need for respite and crisis care services.
Contact: Deveda Francois, Executive Director, at (312) 791-9724
Kinship Caregivers and Incarcerated Parents: Lutheran
Social Services of Illinois provides grandparents taking care
of grandchildren with incarcerated parents monthly transportation
to the jails for visits. The organization also
provides a support group for parents at the jails with a social
worker and speakers familiar with the corrections system,
to address the concerns of caregivers and their children.
Contact: Pat Davis, RAPP Coordinator, at (773) 476-1452
Care and Illinois’s Foster Care System
children in the care of the states are placed in foster care
with grandparents or other relatives. In Illinois, the
Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) reports:
of children in kinship foster placements: As of March
31, 2002, there were 24,819 children in substitute care under
DCFS’s supervision. Of these children, 9,526 (26%) were
in kinship foster care.
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. DCFS also offers the Extended Family Support Program
(EFSP) to relatives caring for children. An array of services
is provided to kinship care families in the foster care system
through collaboration with the probate court, the Department
of Public Aid, the State Central Register, and the public
schools. The focus of the program is short-term, home stabilization
intervention to help relatives continue to provide quality
care. Contact: Carol Best, Coordinator at (708) 358-1650 x
for kinship foster parents: There is no separate licensing
program for kinship foster parents. Kin have to meet
the same licensing standards and receive the same foster care
payment rate as non-kin foster parents.
Guardianship: In addition to foster care payments and
other benefits available to kin raising children in the foster
care system, some states also have subsidized guardianship
programs. Illinois’ Subsidized Guardianship Program, the largest
subsidized guardianship program in the country, provides a
subsidy for children who have been transferred from the Department’s
custody to the guardianship of a relative caregiver. The subsidy
rate is the same as the state’s foster care and adoption subsidy
rates. Eligible children include children living with kin
and children over age 12 not living with kin. The Department
must rule out return home and adoption before a child can
become eligible for this program. A post-guardianship
program is also available to provide resources and referrals
to guardians and stabilization services, as needed. Contact:
Leslie Cohen, Project Director, Subsidized Guardianship, at
(312) 641-2505 or email@example.com.
care contact: Questions about kinship foster care should
be directed to: Jess McDonald, Director, Department of Children
and Family Services, at (217) 785-2509 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
for Illinois 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 parents or legal guardians. Some
examples of these programs include:
Cash assistance may be available to children and their grandparents
and other relative caregivers through the Illinois Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) 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 1-800-252-8635
or log on to http://www.state.il.us/agency/dhs/TANFbrocnp.html.
insurance: Grandparents and other relative caregivers
may apply for free or low-cost health insurance on behalf
of the children they are raising through Illinois’ KidCare
program. In some cases, caregivers may also be eligible for
free coverage under Medicaid. For more information about
how to apply for these programs, call 1-866-4-OUR-KIDS or
log on to http://www.kidcareillinois.com.
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
law may be helpful to kinship caregivers1:
Guardianship (IL Rev. Stat Ch. 755 § 5/11a-3.1):
This law allows a parent to designate a standby guardian to
assume the day-to-day care of a child in the event of a parent’s
inability to function as a parent. It does not limit
the rights of other living parents.