Every kid needs a family and a safe place to call home. On January 27, 2017, the Sixth Circuit Court ruled that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (Cabinet) must provide foster care maintenance payments to “approved” relatives caring for children placed by the Cabinet, affirming that core belief in the importance of family. When kids can’t live safely with their parents, the next best alternative is to live with a family member. Placement with relatives and close family friends reduces the trauma of separation and sets kids up for a brighter future.

1) What does this ruling mean?

This ruling means that Kentucky must support approved relatives (those who have had a Relative Home Evaluation and background checks) just like it supports approved foster parents caring for children in foster care. Relatives who are approved by the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) as relative placements by passing standard home evaluations and criminal background checks are eligible for foster care maintenance payments. These approved relative foster caregivers do not need to be licensed as non-relative foster care providers must be. Approved relative foster care providers are eligible for these payments until the relative is granted official permanent custody of the child at a permanent custody hearing.

2) Who does this ruling apply to?

This ruling applies to approved relative caregivers for children who are in the legal custody of DCBS.  If a court has granted permanent custody of the child to a relative, and ended DCBS’s legal custody of the child, the payments stop.  There are no retroactive payments.

3) Who does this ruling not apply to?

This ruling does not apply to situations where children are with a relative caregiver informally, which means DCBS did not remove the child from the parent and place the child with the relative. The ruling also does not apply to situations where a kinship caregiver has permanent custody of a relative child.

4) How does the ruling affect the Kentucky Kinship Care Program?

This ruling does not directly affect the Kentucky Kinship Care Program. If you are part of that program and were “approved” by DCBS to care for a relative child who is in the legal custody of DCBS, you should be eligible for a foster care maintenance payment to help cover the costs of the child’s living expenses.

5)  I am taking care of my relative child who was placed with me by DCBS. What do I do?

If you are looking for other supports and are caring for a relative child, please call the Kinship Support Hotline at 877-565-5608.

6) How much per day does a foster parent receive for a child in his or her care?

Currently the rates for foster care vary depending on the type of placement and needs of the child. Daily rates for foster care in Kentucky range from around $20/day to $139/day for a child with the most significant needs.

7) Does this decision impact kinship families in other states?

Decisions by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit also apply to Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.  If you know families like yours in those states, you should let them know about this decision and tell them to contact their local child welfare agency.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services has decided to appeal the Sixth Circuit Court’s January ruling. Read our statement on upholding the ruling in the Supreme Court here.