OHIO — Thousands of grandparents, aunts, and uncles in Ohio care for children that their relatives are unable to care for at any given time. Sometimes, it's temporary and sometimes it's permanent.
Relatives who take in grandchildren, nieces and nephews, also known as kinship caregivers, often struggle to take care of the kids. Some say it's just understood that when someone takes in a child that is a relative, they will assume the responsibility and cost of doing so.
Those that seek support, find the funds just aren't enough to manage all that comes with caring for a child full-time.
Tiffany White, a grandparent, started as a kinship caregiver.
She took in her granddaughter when she was a baby. Having one more child in the house was manageable, but she said a little bit of extra money would have helped.
“I remember with my granddaughter I was like if you just gave me $100 on food stamps it would be golden. And they were like, no, based on your income, you don't qualify,” White said.
White said she didn't expect to take in more children, but she did. She took in three more grandchildren in an emergency.
“The boys, that was a surprise. So my youngest was born drug-exposed,” she said.
By that time, she sought support to help with their care, especially since the youngest needed physical, occupational and speech therapy. As she sought support, White said she learned that Ohio law at the time only allowed for eight payments over a four-year period and that was it.
“I could receive $500 per child. That was the first one, then it was $300 twice a year, but eight payments is only four years. That doesn't cover a whole lot,” she said.
The payments were not enough to cover daycare, but White said did the best she could. What she didn't understand, though, was why they wouldn't get similar support as licensed foster care parents like James Doublin.
Doublin set out to take in his 12-year-old nephew Ma’ssiah Sanders.
The plan was to start as a kinship caregiver for his nephew, but the pandemic delayed the process. So, it gave him time to get his foster care license.
Ma’ssiah moved in with his uncle a year ago after being in the foster care system for several years.
While he's grateful to have a permanent home now, Doublin said the money helps pay for Ma’ssiah's care and the things he needs.
“It helps with everyday activities. It helps with any type of counseling if counseling is needed. And actually, you know, those rewards help encourage him, allow me to be able to reward him for his grades,” he said.
He said without the extra money, they could survive, but he probably wouldn’t be able to reward his nephew as he does.
Doublin hopes to get custody of his nephew in April.
Tiffany White gained custody of her grandchildren several years ago.
Still, Doublin said the system isn't equal.
“The benefits provided should not be based on if you're related to the child or not because this is a new child that you're bringing into your home just like any regular foster parent,” he said.
While legislators continue work on foster care and kinship care bills, child welfare advocates offer the following tips to those who need support:
- Go to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services and click on the kinship page to get information on available resources
- Kinship permanency incentive funds are available for six months and then applicants can re-apply
- There are two other sets of funds kinship caregivers can apply for