As a relative caregiver for a child who is receiving regional center services, the benefits I receive keep changing. What is my family eligible for?

Background:
I have been caring for my granddaughter since 2013, when she entered foster care. She has developmental disabilities and is a client of the regional center. The amount of financial support I receive for the care of my granddaughter keeps changing. Initially, I was told that she was not eligible for foster care benefits. Then, a couple of years ago, my social worker told me I could receive funding equal to the basic foster care rate. I know that most foster children served by the regional center receive funding that is substantially more than the basic foster care rate, but was told that because I was a relative, that funding was not available to me. Now I’ve heard the law has changed again. Can you clarify what financial support relatives caring for children in foster care are eligible to receive?

A: An approved relative caring for a foster child is eligible to receive all of the same financial support that is available to non-relatives. You are correct that children in foster care who are also regional center clients are eligible for a higher level of financial support, known as the “dual agency rate.” As an approved relative you are now eligible to receive the dual agency rate on behalf of your granddaughter (see more information below). The law has been evolving for the last several years, but as of July 2017, relatives are eligible to receive all of the same benefits as a non-relative foster parent.

Currently, the amount of monthly financial assistance received for each child is equal to $960 a month (the amount of the monthly financial support goes up July 1st of each year in accordance with the California Necessities Index). The new rate of $960 is the minimum amount that an approved family will receive.

You may be able to receive more than $960 a month. Children in need of additional support are eligible for supplements based on their needs. Every foster family, relative and non-relative foster parents, qualifies for these supports as long as the child meets relevant eligibility criteria. The supplements available include:

  • Infant Supplement: If you are caring for a young person in foster care that has a child, you may receive an infant supplement to cover the additional costs of providing food, clothing and shelter to the child of the foster youth. The infant supplement provides an additional $900 per month to support the baby or child of a foster youth who is also parenting.
  • Clothing Allowance: An annual supplement may be available at the county’s option to help defray the cost of purchasing clothing.
  • Specialized Care Increment: The Specialized Care Increment program provides additional financial support to families caring for a child with additional or special needs. Specialized care increments are available in most, but not all, counties. The specialized care increment that you may be eligible to receive is based on the specialized care system of the county in which you are residing. You can review the various specialized care plans for each county here: http://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/Foster-Care/Specialized-Care.
  • Dual Agency Rate: Children who are both in foster care and clients of the regional center receive what is known as the Dual Agency Rate instead of the basic foster care payment. Children who are under three years old and receiving Early Intervention Services from the regional center receive a dual agency rate of $1,124 per month. Children who have been diagnosed as meeting the criteria for being a lifelong client of the regional center receive a monthly rate of at least $2,513 per month. (There also are four supplemental payments of $250, $500, $750 and $1,000 that are available to support children with additional needs beyond these base dual agency rates).
  • Educational Travel Reimbursement: If you are transporting the child in your care to the school of origin and that school is more than 3 miles away from your home, you may be eligible for the Educational Travel Reimbursement.

All RFA-approved relatives are eligible to receive these supplemental supports. Both the clothing allowance and the Specialized Care Increments vary from county to county, so it is important to check with your social worker to see what is available in your county.

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