November 18, 2020
November 18, 2020
Children placed with relatives deserve more
Ohio’s future depends on all our children thriving. Children need love, and a safe, stable environment that supports healthy growth and development. Yet poverty, racism and the ongoing opiate addiction crisis have resulted in many Ohio children enduring the trauma of separation from their family of origin. Now, the pandemic and recession are placing new pressures on families with low income, further increasing the need for alternative placements for children in Ohio.
Ohio’s child welfare system treats children differently, depending on where they are placed. The state provides far more financial support for children placed in foster care than for children placed with a relative or family friend, known as kinship care. The state also offers more training and support to non-kin foster care providers than kinship caregivers.
Children are also treated differently depending on the color of their skin. Studies have found racial bias among people who report children to the child welfare system and among caseworkers who assess whether to remove a child from their home. Black children are overrepresented in Ohio’s foster care system and white children are underrepresented. Nationally, Black children are almost twice as likely as white children in the child welfare system to be placed with kin.
Children should not be penalized for their race or for being placed with an aunt or grandfather rather than a foster family. Studies show that children placed with family members or close family friends have better behavioral and mental health outcomes than children placed in foster care.
This paper outlines the growing need in Ohio, the disparities between Black and white children in the child welfare system, the disparities between how the state treats children placed with kin and children placed in foster care, and disparate funding depending on placement. Our analysis shows that children who are placed with kin in Ohio receive far less public financial support compared to children placed in a licensed foster care setting.
A federal court decision was supposed change that in Ohio, but it hasn’t. Nearly four years after the ruling, Ohio remains in violation of federal law. We describe what state lawmakers must do to comply with the court order and federal law, and how they can help provide stability for children during an unstable and traumatic time in their life.
After going through the trauma of being removed from their parents, most children want to be cared for by people they know and trust. Many family members and family friends want to help their loved ones get through a difficult time. Ohio policymakers can give children separated from their parents a better chance at succeeding in life by making it easier for relatives and family friends to step up and help a child they love.
Thousands of children in Ohio are separated from their parents. On a given day in July 2020, Ohio county public children service agencies (PCSAs) had custody of over 16,500 children who were removed from their family of origin. Children may be removed from their home due to neglect, substance abuse, or physical or sexual abuse, but too often children are removed from their parents for issues more related to poverty than to abuse or neglect.
When a judge authorizes a child’s removal and parents temporarily lose custody of their child, a caseworker from the county PCSA asks the child’s extended family (aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.) to step in to care for the child. This is known as kinship care. If the caseworker can’t find a relative willing to serve as a caregiver for the child, they then attempt to place the child with a family friend (referred to as “fictive kin”) who are also considered kinship caregivers. If the PCSA caseworker can’t find a family member or family friend, the caseworker places the child in a licensed foster care setting, such as a foster family, group home, or residential treatment center.
An increasing number of children have been removed from their home and placed in custody with the county PCSAs since 2012, in part due to the ongoing opiate addiction crisis. Chart 1 shows that county PCSAs placed 126% more children with approved kinship caregivers in FY 2020 compared to 2012 — rising from just under 2,000 to just above 4,500. Over the same period, the children in out-of-home placements reached 16,595, an increase of 34%.
The crisis is worse in some places than others. In August 2020, Governor DeWine highlighted the ongoing challenge in Scioto County, saying, “We have kids who are born addicted … We’ve seen the foster care in Scioto County more than double, which is staggering.”
Many children do better when they can live with a family member
Research suggests that children do better when they are placed with extended family, grandparents or close family friends, instead of in foster care. When children experience a traumatic moment, like separating from their birth parent(s), it is important for them be connected to someone they know and trust. Kinship care helps the child maintain their identity and stay connected to their family and support network. Children in the child welfare system who are placed with kin have fewer placement changes and better behavioral and mental health outcomes. They are better able to adjust to a new living environment and less likely to experience behavioral challenges at school compared to children in non-relative foster care.
The way the child protective services system was designed and currently operates means families of color are more likely than white families to be separated, and children of color are more likely than white children to experience the long-term trauma that results from separation. Chart 2 shows the overrepresentation of Black children in the foster care system compared to the general population of Black children, as well as the underrepresentation of white children in the foster care system in Ohio.
One reason for this is racial bias within the child welfare system. Studies have found racial bias among people who report children to the child welfare system and among caseworkers who assess whether to remove a child from their home. Structural racism also deprives Black families of the resources and supports they need through jobs that pay low wages, unequal treatment by the criminal justice system and less access to financing and housing opportunities.
Kinship caregivers face several challenges
Caring for and raising a child can be an extremely meaningful experience, but kinship care also comes with challenges. While foster parents make a choice and plan to become caregivers, kinship caregivers are often abruptly asked to make a dramatic, unexpected change in their life and take on a major new commitment.
Many kinship caregivers struggle to pay for food, child care, clothing, and other needs of the child in their care. Chart 3 shows how children who live in kinship care are more likely to live below the federal poverty level compared to the general child population in the US. Kinship caregivers are often grandparents who are on a fixed income. Research suggests that grandparents raising grandchildren are more likely to have lower levels of education and health challenges.
The financial stress can cause many grandparents to rejoin the workforce to take care of their grandchildren. The pandemic has caused even more stress for grandparents and relative caregivers. Many kinship caregivers are older and at higher risk for exposure and negative impacts of COVID-19. Caregivers are also facing day-to-day challenges of school and child care closures.
Children placed with kin get less public support than children placed in foster care
Approved kinship caregivers in Ohio receive far less support to provide for a child in their care than licensed foster care providers. Approved kinship caregivers are eligible for monthly financial assistance through Ohio Works First (OWF) child-only payments. The OWF child-only payment provides $302 for one child each month. If a grandparent is caring for two siblings, the OWF child-only payment is $412 a month. For comparison, a licensed foster parent in Scioto County receives a minimum of $836 per month and a maximum of $4,258 per month for one child.
Foster care payment rates vary by county and are based on the age and needs of the child. Table 1 highlights the difference between support foster families and kinship families receive in a sample of Ohio counties.
Foster parents receive a per diem rate (a daily allowance) for each foster child in their home. Foster care per diem payments help pay for food, clothing, rent (or mortgage) payments, daily supervision, school supplies and other costs to care for the child.
Unlike foster care rates, OWF child-only payments are not linked to the needs of the child and the amount of support does not change to address the child’s needs. In fact, children and approved kinship caregivers receive less support per child if more than one child is placed in their care. This means if a group of siblings, whether it’s two or six siblings, are removed from their home, they get less and less support per child as the number of children in the “assistance group” increases. Table 2 shows the payment amounts and the amount of support provided per child through the OWF child-only program.
The state of Ohio provides far more financial support for children placed in foster care than children placed with a relative or family friend. Nationally, Black children are almost twice as likely as white children in the child welfare system to be placed with kinship caregivers. National research shows that kinship caregivers are offered and receive fewer resources, training and support from child welfare agencies as compared to non-kin foster care providers. This is a concrete example of a structural racism within the child welfare system: Black children and families are disproportionately provided less resources and support.
Children, no matter their race or ZIP code, should not be penalized for being placed with a relative rather than a foster family. Kinship caregivers need far more support to provide a safe, stable, and supportive home for the children in their care. This is why Ohio must provide more resources and support to kinship caregivers.
A court case in Kentucky should move Ohio in this direction. Two young brothers were separated after entering Kentucky’s child welfare system. Child welfare administrators placed one brother in kinship care with his great-aunt. Because the great-aunt couldn’t afford to care for them both, administrators placed the younger brother, who was a toddler at the time, in a foster home. Richard Dawahare, the children’s court-appointed attorney (the Guardian ad Litem), challenged the state of Kentucky’s failure to make the same foster care maintenance payments to approved relative caregivers as it did to licensed non-relative foster caregivers.
The lawsuit resulted in the landmark Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on January 27, 2017 in D.O. v. Glisson, confirming that children in state custody placed with approved kinship foster caregivers have a right to foster care maintenance payments at the same rate as children placed in licensed, non-relative foster homes. After the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Kentucky’s appeal, the D.O. v. Glisson ruling became the law in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. While Michigan announced in early 2019 that it will offer additional subsidies to “all relatives caring for children in foster care, regardless of whether they are licensed or not,” Ohio remains in violation of what is now federal law.
While the federal court ruled over three years ago, Ohio lawmakers have not yet provided the mandatory foster care maintenance payments necessary to support children placed with approved kinship caregivers at the same level as children placed with licensed foster parents. State leaders have not provided details on how they interpret the ruling or when and how they plan to take action. Late last year, Kimberly Hall, the Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), acknowledged that kinship caregivers “are just as valuable in our system of support as foster parents and any others who have critical roles in informing and impacting a child’s trajectory.” However, in practice, state policymakers are not treating kinship caregivers with equal value and worth as foster parents. In January of this year, ODJFS said it continues “to deliberate carefully on a plan to comply with the Glisson ruling.” Ten months later, in the midst of increasing need, there is still no plan.
While ODJFS doesn’t have a concrete plan, the state is working to get feedback from children and families in the foster care system. In the fall of 2019, Governor DeWine launched the Children’s Services Transformation Advisory Council to review the foster care system in Ohio and develop recommendations to improve the experience of children and families in the system. The council identified the following kinship care needs in the initial findings report:
Who would D.O. v. Glisson impact in Ohio?
An estimated 227,862 children under 18 live with their grandparent(s) or other relatives in Ohio and 124,000 children live with a relative with no parent present. While tens of thousands of relatives step in to care for children through informal arrangements (meaning no formal court or PCSA involvement), the D.O. v. Glisson decision narrowly defines who is entitled to additional financial support.
Table 3 shows a variety of categories of kinship settings, including kinship foster care, approved kinship care, kin with legal custody or legal guardianship, and informal kinship care settings. Only the roughly 4,500 children in approved kinship care settings are entitled to additional support under the D.O. v. Glisson decision.
How does Ohio pay for foster care?
The largest source of federal funding for child welfare in Ohio is Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. Title IV-E provides funding to support safe and stable care for children who have been removed from their home of origin due to abuse, neglect, or some other harm. These funds primarily support foster care and adoption assistance. In state fiscal years 2020 and 2021, the state budget appropriated roughly $281 million annually in Title IV-E federal funds toward foster care placement costs.
While the federal government provides substantial funding (the federal share) for foster care through Title IV-E funds, the counties must provide the non-federal share through a historically small state allocation of general revenue funds or local funds generated through county levies.
In Ohio, the federal share of foster care maintenance payments is based on the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), which is 63.63% in fiscal year 2021. The counties (the PCSAs) are responsible for the non-federal share of Title IV-E foster care placement costs, which is 36.37%. When children who are placed in foster care are not eligible for Title IV-E federal funds, the counties are responsible for 100% of foster care placement costs. As more children enter the child welfare system, counties are paying more for foster care placement costs over time.
Another reason counties are paying more is due to an outdated Title IV-E eligibility standard. Eligibility for Title IV-E foster care is tied to the 1996 Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) eligibility standard. This means a child placed in foster care from a family of three making more than $950 a month is ineligible for Title IV-E funds. In other words, if a child’s mother works 25 hours a week at $10 an hour, she makes too much (roughly $1,000 a month) for her child to be eligible for the federal match. Again, the county would be responsible for 100% of the foster care placement costs for this child.
Because of this dated eligibility standard, fewer and fewer children entering foster care are being supported with federal dollars. Chart 4 shows that over time, the number of children eligible for the Title IV-E federal funds has declined from 60.8% in 2014 to 51.2% in 2019. Federal support should be based on the needs of children who have experienced abuse and neglect, regardless of their parents’ income. The next Congress should pass the Family First Transition and Support Act, which removes the income test from the Title IV-E foster eligibility criteria. This would mean more Title IV-E federal funds to support Ohio’s children in need; it could also free up state and local resources to support kinship caregivers.
How does Ohio pay for approved kinship care?
While there are several programs that support kinship care providers, there is no specific state budget line item dedicated to direct financial support for children in approved kinship care settings. The main source of direct financial support for approved kinship caregivers is Ohio Works First (OWF), which is part of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Ohio Works First child-only funds are used to help grandparents and other approved kinship caregivers with the costs of caring for and raising children.
Table 4 shows an estimate of TANF expenditures in state fiscal year 2020 to support children in approved kinship care settings. We estimate the total support for children in approved kinship care settings at less than $12 million in state fiscal year 2020, based on the average OWF monthly payment of $211 per child.
Approved kinship caregivers are also eligible for the “Kinship Caregiver Program,” which offers stabilization and child care services. The last state budget allocated $15 million in state fiscal year 2020 and 2021 to the Kinship Caregiver Program annually through the TANF program. Counties set the benefit level, so support for kinship caregivers varies widely by county. For instance, Sandusky County Job and Family Services provides a maximum one-time payment of $400 per child (for up to three children) and Franklin County provides up to $1,500 per child to cover the costs of child care, respite care, and other costs incurred when taking on the responsibility of caring for a new child.
Ohio policymakers must do more to support children during an unstable and traumatic time in their life. State lawmakers give away nearly $10 billion in tax breaks each year. At the same time, the state provides a pittance to children dealing with the trauma of separation from their biological parent(s) who are placed with relative caregivers. This is unacceptable.
Kinship caregivers change their lives out of love for their grandchildren or family member. They are asked to nurture and support children in their care the same way non-relative foster parents do, but with fewer resources, less training, more stress, and limited preparation. Moreover, the state of Ohio remains in violation of federal law and has not taken action to adequately support these children and their approved relative caregivers. The next state budget presents Governor DeWine and state lawmakers an opportunity to take corrective action and provide a basic level of security and stability for these children and their approved relative caregivers.
State lawmakers should:
At the federal level, Congress must remove the Title IV-E income eligibility test, so federal funds are based on the needs of children who have experienced abuse, neglect and separation from their parent(s) of origin.
Over 4,500 children in approved kinship care settings have a right to more support and a better shot in life. State lawmakers must provide additional resources in the next state budget to help kinship caregivers provide more stability and security for children, pay for their basic needs, and give them an opportunity to thrive. Long-term, state lawmakers and the governor must increase the monthly OWF child-only payment to meet the needs of all children and kinship families. This would provide additional assistance to over 100,000 children in informal kinship care settings.
Appendix A: Methodology and source notes
Data on the amount of public support for approved kinship caregivers and licensed foster parents
The monthly support for approved kinship caregivers is based on a chart from ODJFS outlining Ohio Works First (OWF) and other public program payments and income amounts, https://bit.ly/2Ia6NqJ. The OWF child-only assistance group is based on the number of people in the assistance group. Thus, one child would receive $302 per month and two children would receive $412 per month.
The minimum and maximum monthly support for licensed foster care providers are based on state fiscal year 2020 foster care per diem rates from Bret Crow with the Office of Communications of ODJFS. Monthly support was calculated by multiplying the per diem rate by 365 days and dividing by 12 months. We calculated that based on minimum and maximum per diem rates. We did not include other foster care payment supports in our calculations, such as special and intensive needs supplemental payments. See the state fiscal year 2020 foster care maintenance (per diem) rates in Appendix C.
Appendix B: Summary of programs available to informal kinship caregivers and relative caregivers with legal custody or legal guardianship
Appendix C: Foster care maintenance rates (SFY 2020)
 Child welfare programs are administered by county public children services agencies (PCSAs). The Ohio Department of Job & Family Services (ODJFS) supervises the administration of these programs, sends funds to local agencies, and ensures state and federal compliance. PCSAs work to place children (in PCSA custody) in an appropriate setting based on their needs. Placement settings include kinship care, foster care, independent living, residential centers, group homes, detention facilities or other congregate care settings. Blaine, Nicholas J., Greenbook, “Legislative Budget Office (LBO) Analysis of Enacted Budget, Department of Job and Family Services,” August 2019, https://bit.ly/33Ba4HL.
 “Approved kinship caregivers” refers only to approved kinship care placements. Children in approved kinship care placements have been removed from their home by a county family or juvenile court and are in PCSA custody. These figures do not include children who are placed with kin who are granted legal custody.
 Houshyar, “A Critical Resource at Risk: Supporting Kinship Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond.”
 This is known as disproportionality, which refers to the underrepresentation or overrepresentation of a racial or ethnic group compared with its percentage of the general population.
 Houshyar, “A Critical Resource at Risk: Supporting Kinship Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond.”
 Houshyar “A Critical Resource at Risk: Supporting Kinship Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond.”
 Approved kinship caregivers do not have a special stream of local, state, or federal funding. They can access support through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for payments related solely to the child or children in their care. This is called “child-only.” Payments are made through the Ohio Works First (OWF) child-only cash assistance program, Blaine, Nicholas J., Greenbook, “LBO Analysis of Enacted Budget, Department of Job and Family Services,” C1:1 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, August 2019, https://bit.ly/3nPsOLO
 See Appendix C, State Fiscal Year 2020 Foster Care per diem rates (county by county)
 Houshyar, “A Critical Resource at Risk: Supporting Kinship Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond.”
 Ohio has expanded its kinship navigator program, which is intended to provide resources and support to kinship caregivers and connect them to different forms of assistance.
 The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has jurisdiction over federal appeals arising from the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Thus, decisions from the Sixth Circuit impact those states. “Glisson v. D.O.” SCOTUS Blog, https://bit.ly/3jVQYSF.
 Title IV-E funds are also used to help current and former foster care youth age 16 and older to help with education, employment, housing, financial stability, and emotional support.
 “5101:9-6-28. Title IV-E funding,” Ohio Administrative Code >> 5101:9. ODJFS Practices >> Chapter 5101:9-6. Allocations, accessed on November 3, 2020, https://bit.ly/2GYsAS4; the historically small allocation is highlighted in the Public Children Association of Ohio (PCSAO) Factbook, 14th Edition 2019.It highlights the state allocation of 10% of total child welfare spending in 2018, https://bit.ly/3f4URmA. The most recent state budget more than doubled Ohio’s investment in children’s services. See Ortega, Sandra, Jo Ellen Simonsen, Shelly Bell, Sally Fitch, Jasmine Barfield, Michelle Coakley, “Linking Systems of Care for Ohio’s Youth: Needs Assessment and Gap Analysis,” Ohio Attorney General’s Office, December 2019, https://bit.ly/38G7qnd
 The split between federal funds is based on the same formula as the split in Medicaid funding. The federal share of Medicaid is determined by a formula set in statute that is based on a state's per capita income. The formula is designed so that the federal government pays a larger share of program costs in poorer states. “Federal Matching Shares for Medicaid, October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021, Ohio FMAP, Federal Register, December 3, 2019, https://bit.ly/3neK2kD.
 In addition to need-based eligibility, there are other requirements which include a judicial finding that staying in their own home would be “contrary to the welfare” of the child, a judicial finding that “reasonable efforts to prevent removal” were made by the PCSA, and a requirement that the child is in a licensed foster care setting.
 TANF is a federal block grant that provides funding to states to provide stability and security for children and families. States are permitted to use a portion of their TANF allocation on child welfare services.
 Data from July 2019 through June 2020 Public Assistance Monthly Statistics (PAMS) Reports indicate an average of 84,313 children in receipt of OWF child-only payments each month. This highlights the large number of children who are likely residing in informal kinship care settings.
 Counties run the Kinship Caregiver Program through the Prevention, Retention, and Contingency (PRC) Program. This allows counties some level of flexibility in the support level / benefit amount.
 “Sandusky County Prevention, Retention, and Contingency Plan,” Kinship Caregiver Payment, Sandusky County Department of Job and Family Services, https://bit.ly/3jJLQAC, “Franklin County Kinship Caregiver Program – Program Overview,” Franklin County Children Services, https://bit.ly/2SArFcA.
 States can modify the TANF cash assistance program (in Ohio, OWF) to support kinship families. Eight states have a more generous TANF child-only grant for relative caregivers. Some states have broadened the definition of “relative” to include family friends. Schwartz, Angie, Jennifer Miller and Brian Blalock, “The Kinship Care Paradox,” Alliance for Children’s Rights, Bay Area Legal Aid, and Child Focus, https://bit.ly/2IfVRI7.
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