Kinship Care in New Jersey
Help and support for grandparents raising grandchildren and other relative caregivers
Caring for your own flesh and blood is both challenging and rewarding. You may have thought you were done raising children, or you may be raising a child that, until the caseworker contacted you, you didn’t know existed. If you’re caring for the child of a friend, you may have never planned on raising a child at all. No matter what led you to kinship care or to become a relative caregiver, FAFS can answer all your questions, help you fill out the necessary paperwork, and explain the ins and outs of becoming a licensed relative caregiver in NJ. Our services are free, so contact us today or read our Kinship Care NJ FAQ for more information.
The easiest part of becoming kinship parents is making the decision to take in children in need. After that initial decision, you may be unsure of the procedures involved, or wonder if accepting the responsibility of becoming a relative caregiver is right for you. You may also be having a hard time dealing with the difficult emotions that come with kinship care. At times, you may feel angry, sad, or simply overwhelmed. No matter what you’re feeling and what your needs are as a relative caregiver, FAFS is here to support you, whether you’re grandparents raising grandchildren, aunts and uncles raising nieces and nephews, or caring family friends taking a neighbor’s children into your home. Our Resource Family Advocates and Support Services Department are here to help you at any time during the process of taking in the children, whether you are licensed yet or not. Call 800.222.0047 for assistance.
Kinship Care NJ FAQ
(Please note: this information is for kinship with DCP&P (formerly DYFS)/CPS involvement. Questions? Call 800.222.0047 or email us today.)
Isn’t a relative caregiver different than a foster parent? This is my family. Why do I have to be licensed?
In the eyes of the State, relative caregivers are no different from foster parents; most of the same rules and regulations apply. To help you understand these requirements, FAFS’ support staff is available to answer any questions you may have about the licensing process. FAFS also offers free foster kinship care education classes (online, via webinar, or by mail) that will not only help you maintain your license but will also help you cope with some of the issues the child in your care may be facing. FAFS also offers an Issues in Kinship Care Home Correspondence Course especially for relative caregivers like you – sign up today or contact us to learn more.
What is expected of me as a licensed kinship caregiver?
DCP&P (formerly DYFS) expects you to provide a safe environment for the child in your care until when, or if, he/she can return to his/her parent(s). Since the state is the child’s legal guardian while he/she is in your care, you are expected to cooperate with the state in all matters concerning the child. These may include making repairs to your home to bring it up to code and meet home safety standards, agreeing not to use any form of corporal punishment to discipline the child, and ensuring that he/she does not come into contact with his/her parent(s), except as allowed by the courts. Finally, the Division expects you to complete the kinship caregiver licensing process, which includes background checks, filling out paperwork, and completing the required amount of kinship caregiver training hours each year. Have questions about the process? We can help!
As grandparents raising grandchildren, we would love to talk with others in the same position. Does FAFS have any support groups for relative caregivers?
At this time, FAFS doesn’t offer a specific support group only for kinship care parents. However, our monthly volunteer committee meetings, held in every county in New Jersey, can include relative caregivers, foster parents, and adoptive parents. Free foster kinship care education classes, which you will need as a licensed relative caregiver in New Jersey, are also offered at these meetings. To see a schedule for your area, check out FAFS’ Support Group Meeting Calendar, by clicking here.
If the child in my care can’t return home, what happens?
If it is unsafe or not possible for the child to go back home, DCP&P (formerly DYFS) will make a decision on establishing permanency for the child. Whether a child’s case goes to KLG or adoption (see the next question for an explanation and comparison of these options) is determined by DYFS, neither option is automatic. In some cases, the relative caregiver’s only options are the DCP&P (formerly DYFS) decision or the child being moved to another home. Have concerns? Let us help you today!
What is KLG? Is it different than adoption?
It is important to remember that, KLG or adoption is not an automatic outcome of kinship care in New Jersey. KLG or adoption is determined by DCP&P (formerly DYFS), and in some cases, the relative caregiver’s only option is the DCP&P decision or the child being moved to another home. If you have questions about Kinship Legal Guardianship or adoption, or if you just need a sounding board to help you through the process of being a relative caregiver, call FAFS at 1.800.222.0047 or fill out the form below to get the help you need.
To help you see how Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG) and adoption are different, and how are the same, FAFS has prepared a chart comparing the two: KLG vs. Adoption Chart
|KLG ends when the child turns 18 or when he/she completes high school, whichever comes first||The child is the legal son or daughter of the adoptive parent for life.|
|Birth parents’ parental rights are usually not terminated.||Birth parents’ parental rights are terminated.|
|Birth parents have the right to visit with child as allowed by the court.||Adoptive parents decide if and when birth parents may visit the child.|
|Relative caregivers make most major decisions affecting the child (school, medical, etc.)||Adoptive parents make all decisions about anything affecting the child.|
|Relative caregiver may not change the child’s name or adopt him/her without the birth parents’ consent.||The child may take the adoptive parents’ last name.|
|Relative caregivers may receive a non-negotiable subsidy (monthly check) to help pay for the child’s needs.||Adoptive parents may receive a negotiable subsidy (monthly check) to help pay for the child’s needs.|
|Medical coverage for the child is provided until the child turns 18 or finishes high school, whichever comes first.||Medical coverage for the child is provided.|
|Once KLG is established, the child’s case with DCP&P (formerly DYFS) is closed, and he/she will no longer be eligible for many support services.||Many DYFS support services can still be provided for children with extreme physical and/or mental health needs.|
|Funds for preschool / day care are not available.||Funds for preschool / day care may be available, if State budget allows and adoptive family meets eligibility requirements, i.e. adoptive parents are working or are in school full time.|
|Federal Tax Credit is not available.||Federal Tax Credit is available.|
|KLG cannot be transferred under any circumstances. If the relative caregivers can no longer care for the child, they cannot decide who the child will live with; this will be decided by the court.||The adoptive parent can make arrangements re: who will care for the child if the adoptive parent becomes unable to do so or passes away.|
|The child cannot inherit money, property, etc. from the relative caregiver unless the child is named in the caregiver’s will.||The adopted child has the same rights as a birth child if the relative caregiver doesn’t have a will. Otherwise, inheritance rights are established via a will as they are for birth children.|
|If relative caregivers can no longer care for the child, or the child no longer lives in their KLG home, the subsidy (monthly check) stops.||If the adoptive parent dies and has made other living arrangements for the child, the new caregiver receives the subsidy (monthly check) to help pay for the child’s needs.|
|Child may be eligible for college tuition assistance through the New Jersey Foster Care Scholars Program. Click here for current eligibility requirements.||Child may be eligible for college tuition assistance through the New Jersey Foster Care Scholars Program. Click here for current eligibility requirements.|
How else can FAFS help me in my role as a kinship parent?
Our nonprofit organization is contracted by the State of New Jersey to help foster, adoptive and kinship care parents in their efforts to care for children who have been removed from their homes because they were abused or neglected by their parent(s). With nearly 40 years of serving the community, we understand your unique challenges and can help you navigate the system for the best outcome for yourself and the children you care for. Contact us today.