What is Kinship Care?
Kinship Care (formal) refers when a child comes to the attention of a local department of social service and the department then places a child with the relative caregiver. The relative maintains custody of the child by providing 24 hour care, 7 days per week to the child.
Informal kinship care means a living arrangement in which a relative of a child, who is not in the care, custody, or guardianship of the local department of social services, provides for the care and custody of the child due to a serious family hardship. Legal custody is not required.
Who is considered a Kinship Caregiver?
Anyone who is raising a child who is not your biological, legally adopted, or legal foster child is considered a Kinship Caregiver. There are however, differences between certain types of Kinship Caregivers (Formal Kinship, Fictive Kinship, and Informal Kinship Caregivers):
“Formal Kinship Caregivers” are related by marriage or blood relatives (within five degrees of family connection/consanguinity of children placed in foster care and are subject to the same Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) standards as foster parents. Restricted Relative Foster Care is equivalent to Formal Kinship. Kinship caregivers may also be “Fictive Kin,” which includes non-relative adults with whom the family or child identifies as having a long-standing, closely bonded relationship such as a family friend, neighbor, coach, and more.
“Informal Kinship Caregivers” are relatives, or fictive kin, of a child with whom they have established an informal living arrangement and provide for the care and custody of the child 24/7 due to a serious family hardship. Informal Kinship Caregiver arrangements occur with children who are not supervised by, or in the care, custody, or guardianship of Maryland’s Local Department of Social Services. The arrangements for care are usually made privately between family members. Informal Kinship Caregiver arrangements are not supervised by Maryland’s Local Departments of Social Services but can be supported voluntarily by the Local Department’s Kinship Navigator Program. Although the arrangements for informal care of a child are usually made privately between family members, an agreement may be initiated by the Local Department of Social Services due to a Child Protective Services (CPS) case. In most instances of informal kinship care, the children do not enter the foster care system. There are no ongoing COMAR requirements.
Do I Qualify as a Kinship Caregiver?
You may qualify for benefits if you are a Kinship Caregiver who is related by blood or marriage within five degrees of family connection/consanguinity to a child who is in your physical care full time: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Informal Kinship Caregivers who are not relatives of the child may also be eligible for certain support services. Contact your local Kinship Navigator program to learn more.
As a Maryland resident and a relative Kinship Caregiver, you may be eligible to apply, on behalf of the child, for the following benefits:
What Benefits are Available?
As a Maryland resident and relative caregiver, you can apply on behalf of the child for the below benefits:
- Temporary Cash Assistance “Child Only Grant” (must apply for Child Support & this benefit is NOT income-dependent)
- Child Support
- Medical Assistance/Insurance
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as food stamps (this benefit is income-dependent)
- Child Care (this benefit is income-dependent)
- Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP)
- Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP)
- Submit an application on-line at myDHR
- Apply in-person at the Local Department of Social Services.
- Apply for benefits over the phone at 1-833-373-5867
- Call or write your Local Department of Social Services and request an application be mailed to you.
- Submit an application for daycare assistance (Child Care Scholarship Program) though the Maryland State Department of Education: https://earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org/child-care-providers/child-care-scholarship-program
- Submit an application for Medical Assistance with the Maryland Health Connection (MHCP) on-line:https://www.marylandhealthconnection.gov/
Consent for Healthcare Affidavit
Available to relative caregiver who does not have legal custody or guardianship of the relative child in their care. The caregiver must be able to verify relationship to the child and that the child’s parent(s) is not available. To receive this form, contact your local health department or your local department of social services.
Provides relative caregivers assistance in enrolling the child in school and allows the relative caregiver to be an advocate for the child in school matters when the parent(s) is not available. To receive this form, contact the child’s school.
To Apply for Social Security Survivor’s Benefits or Supplemental Security Income visit the Social Security Administration
The Guardianship Assistance Program
The Guardianship Assistance Program provides relative caregivers on-going financial assistance for individuals who have become a legal guardian for a child who is in the custody of Maryland’s Local Department of Social Services (foster care). The Guardianship Assistance Program provides legal stability and permanency for a child who is unable to return home to their biological parents and where adoption has been ruled out as an option. This program allows relative caregivers to take full legal responsibility for children without termination of parental rights. The relative caregiver must be an approved kinship provider or foster family for the child for the last six consecutive months prior to receiving guardianship while receiving case management and supportive services from the Local Department of Social Services. The relative caregiver must enter into a Guardianship Assistance Agreement with the Local Department of Social Services prior to the court awarding the relative caregiver guardianship.
Maryland’s Kinship Navigator Services
Maryland’s Kinship Navigator Services is an information and referral program that supports kinship caregivers who are caring for their minor relative(s), who are unable to safely remain in the care of their parents. Any kinship caregiver in the community who is not a formal kinship provider can receive these services. Local Departments of Social Services have designated Kinship Navigators or a community vendor who is available to provide referrals to services and supports they may be eligible to receive (such as financial benefits, legal services, WIC or SNAP also known as food stamps). Kinship Navigators are knowledgeable about their community resources and services available in their respective jurisdiction. For more information, please contact your Local Department of Social Services.