About 253,000 Texas children live with family members who are not their parents and many of those are not receiving state and federal benefits, according to a report released last week. These “kinship” arrangements save taxpayers money by keeping the children out of the formal foster care system, but the lack of sufficient support systems may place them at risk, according to a report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based policy analysis group. “Kinship caregivers are raising some of Texas’ most vulnerable children in challenging circumstances, and their service saves the state millions of dollars each year,” said Rachel Cooper, the report’s lead author and a senior policy analyst with CPPP, in a statement.
“Texas has the opportunity to ease the financial burden of becoming a caregiver by providing the support families need to offer stable, loving homes for children in need.”
In some more formal kinship care arrangements, when Child Protective Services becomes involved, caregivers have access to financial support and other services. But informal kinship families – who make up more than 90 percent of the children in Texas living in a kinship arrangement – are not eligible for the same support as children involved with the state. Several barriers outlined in the report make it hard for them to access public benefits. What little financial assistance is available in Texas is much less than caregivers receive in the formal foster care system. For example, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) payments for kinship caregivers in Texas are $93 per month compared to at least $693 per month for foster care parents, according to the report. The report outlines several policy solutions to encourage kinship care and to support voluntary caregivers including developing a Kinship Navigator program to conduct statewide outreach.