Though almost everyone is affected by the current economic crisis, there are some specific options relative caregivers should consider. After stretching family needs and dollar saving tips, kinship care families should take time to seriously check their financial resources:
1. In case of impending job loss, caregivers should prepare to register for unemployment benefits as soon as possible.
2. Social Security benefits including possible benefits for the children may need to be reviewed. Issues affecting social security include age, disabilities, and in the case of children – the death of a parent. Contact a social security representative for a review, www.ssa.gov .
3. Discuss financial options for relative caregivers with the local social services office. Social services can provide child only grants, guardianship, subsidized support, foster care, adoption, child care support, parental child support. Beware, however, all of these resources through the local social services have great big IF’s surrounding them. New federal legislation, Fostering Connections, has progressive options for some kinship families, but the rules are still in discussion. In Michigan, for instance, likely eligible families are suggested to hold off on acquiring guardianship because the new support may be for families who will become guardians, not those who already are. Oh my. If a family is already in the child welfare system, a review of the options available may need to be considered. Just because such issues are challenging, families should still investigate changes that could really assist through this current financial crisis.
4. Prepare for taxes and possible benefits as soon as possible this year. Talk with a tax attorney, Legal aid, or other tax preparer about changes in the family including kinship children and income changes to maximize the tax benefits for the family.
5. Check the AARP website for a number of ideas and resources. Especially valuable to kinship care providers is the Directlink service that covers dozens of areas of assistance and even offers some of the forms that can be filled out on line, www.aarp.org Go to Family then Grandparents then Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
6. Local Kinship Care Resource Centers should plan now to have representatives from these sources share services information to relative caregivers in the region.
It could be tough in the next few months, but by working together we can make the road a little easier.