When a neglect or abuse petition results in a child being removed from their parents’ custody, the Department of Social Services (“DSS”) and Family Court are charged with achieving permanency for the child as quickly as possible. Where returning such a child to their parent is not a viable option, adoption becomes the alternative means for achieving permanency. Prior to the institution of the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGAP), which went into effect in New York on April 1, 2011, no legal alternative existed for achieving permanency for children in foster care who were living with family members but for whom returning to their parents or adoption were not options.
KinGAP is a program established with the goal of promoting permanency for children living in the foster home of a relative. Under this program, a relative guardian can receive a monthly payment and other benefits for foster children who have been discharged from foster care.
Foster parents caring for the child of a relative are often reluctant to adopt the child because doing so would require having the child’s parent’s parental rights terminated. Such foster parents cannot take custody of the child, outside of the foster care system, because they usually rely on the financial assistance associated with foster care. Where this is the case and returning the child to their parent is not an option, the child often will remain in foster care and involved with DSS until they age out of the system. This deprives them of the security associated with a permanent home, forces the child and their foster parent to endure ongoing supervision by DSS and costs taxpayers the expense of having DSS monitor the child.
KinGAP creates an option to provide these children with permanency and allows the child and their guardian to come out from under the supervision of DSS. By providing kinship guardianship assistance payments to relatives of children in foster care that are willing to make a permanent commitment to be responsible for and support the child until he or she reaches adulthood, this program will benefit all parties involved.