Kinship Care and Grandfamilies

Kinship Care is a situation when you, as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or relative, care for a relative youth. A Grandfamily is the specific circumstance in which the grandparents of a youth take on the responsibility of raising a grandchild.

Are You a Kinship Family?

Kinship care refers to temporary or permanent arrangements in which a relative cares for a child in varying capacities. Kinship care can be established through informal or formal means, including:

  • an informal arrangement;

  • a legal custody order;

  • a guardianship order;

  • a relative foster care placement; or

  • a kinship adoption

Some of these establish a legal relationship and each involves a different set of rights and responsibilities. If you are a relative and you are caring for a youth in one of these capacities then you are most likely a kinship family!

How do I Establish a Legal Relationship?

Generally, grandparents or other relatives care for youth on an informal basis. However, it is important to recognize that there may be no legal relationship formed between the youth and the kinship caregiver. Not having a legal relationship could create barriers in healthcare, education, and legal affairs. For example, without a legal relationship, a grandparent is unlikely able to consent to a medical procedure or to school enrollment. Establishing a legal relationship is a delicate and sometimes complex process, but may be necessary so that you may make formal decisions for the youth, such as medical, educational, and legal decisions. It is your right to seek out legal counsel to aid in the process of establishing a legal relationship between you and the youth.

Why Is Kinship Care Important?

Statistics show that in the United States, more than 2 million children are currently raised by their grandparents, other relatives, or a family friend. Generally, it is more desirable for the welfare system to place youth in care with a relative to provide stability, familiarity, and to encourage family reunification. Ohio's agencies strive to work with relatives who are willing and able to assume custody of a child and any siblings to explore this option first before considering placing a child in an agency’s care.

Do I Meet the Requirements for Formal Kinship Care?

Ohio’s child welfare agencies require that kinship caregivers meet the requirements set forth by agency rules before placing a child. The state and its agencies wish to ensure that the placement chosen serves the best interest of the child. It is important to check to make sure that you meet basic requirements of child placement and kinship caregiving.

Do I Qualify for Assistance as a Kinship Caregiver?

Caring for children is an admirable task, however the financial costs can be overwhelming. Kinship caregivers may qualify for certain public benefits, depending on their needs. It is important to consider the public benefits you may qualify for as a kinship caregiver. 

What if I have questions about kinship caregiving?

Kinship caregiving is a common situation throughout the United States and many families are living in similar circumstances. There are several support groups throughout the state specifically for kinship caregivers. Support groups are a perfect opportunity to share your experiences, discuss any challenges, and ask others how they would address concerns that you are having. 

This guide was developed as part of a project made possible by a Grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation.  The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

Lead researcher/author: Ricardo Vidal, J.D. Candidate, 2019, Legal Intern