grandma and girlIt’s time to set the record straight on eligibility for the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program (K-TAP).  During the month of October, Kentucky Youth Advocates held five focus groups across the state to learn more about the needs of kinship families. During those focus groups, I learned that many of the participants were struggling financially but were not accessing financial assistance through K-TAP due to a belief that they were not eligible. I did some research on what state regulations actually say and to my surprise many of these families were eligible for K-TAP.

Fact: Any child who is being raised by relatives can receive K-TAP benefits as long as they are not receiving Kinship Care, Social Security or child support, according to 921KAR2:006.

Myth: Only children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect and placed with relatives are eligible for K-TAP child-only funds.

K-TAP is funded with federal dollars through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. K-TAP eligibility for children in kinship care is based on the child’s income, not the relative’s and there is no time limit or work requirement. The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that “less than 12 percent of kinship families receive TANF support, even though nearly 100 percent of the children in these families are eligible”. The lack of kinship caregivers accessing TANF may be related to caregivers just not knowing that they are able to use this resource. This is due to the TANF program evolving and focusing on the nuclear families, including restrictions and time limits that can be inappropriate and unworkable when applied to kinship families. This can cause confusion among families and even among case workers. In addition, we have heard that some relatives might be hesitant to apply because they will have to file a child support order against the parent. This leaves many families without financial support and the resources that they need to care for the children they are raising.

What this means for the children being raised by relatives: Kinship caregivers offer children safe, stable, and nurturing care. Children living in kinship care are less likely to experience behavioral problems, psychiatric disorders or school disruptions than those in the general foster care population.  We heard from kinship caregivers across the state that the reason they step up to raise children is because they genuinely love and care for them. Research shows that kinship care is the best option for children who cannot be raised by their parents. The access to K-TAP funds increases that security even more by helping caregivers to meet the children’s basic needs.

What this means for the kinship caregivers: With many kinship caregivers struggling financially, whether from being on a fixed income due to retirement or because this was an unplanned parenthood for them, access to K-TAP funds allows caregivers a chance to provide an environment that focuses on the child’s needs.

What this means for professionals working with kinship families: Spread the word and make sure kinship caregivers know they are eligible and apply for K-TAP for the children they are raising, whether or not they have been involved with the child welfare system.