When grandparents or other relatives take on the care of a kinship child a number of critical issues appear. One of the most frustrating for many families is health insurance for the child. Unless some legal health coverage arrangements have been documented with the parents, relative caregivers are usually responsible for the health care costs of children in their care.
Children in the Relative Foster Care programs receive Medicaid. That covers about 15% of the children raised in kinship care.
Grandparents who choose to go to their State’s social services agency can apply for one of two types of services:
1. the Child Only Grant which does not scrutinize the caregivers income. Child Only Grant caregivers receive a small amount of support funding and a Medicaid card for the children.
2. public assistance which is funding to eligible (income based) caregivers for managing the household, AND a Medicaid card for the children.
Though financially struggling, grandparents and other caregivers do not choose public assistance because the public agency is required to seek money from the parents to offset the costs. This often causes a great deal of dissension in an already troubled family, a wedge grandparents especially want to avoid.
The Medicaid card is a valuable tool for children because it not only covers medical issues, but also preventive care and in some cases special needs issues.
- If a kinship family has a moderate income but the child for some reason is denied Medicaid, most states offer the States Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funded by Congress through a variety of public health programs. For a small amount of money - $5 a month – a basic health insurance can be obtained for low-income working families.
- Families that are not income eligible for such programs often face challenges with their own insurance companies. Most health insurance institutions cover only birth or adopted children in the home – not power of attorney, guardianship, or even court ordered custody.
When relative caregivers assume the care of children who are in need of therapy or serious medical problems they are forced to look at a variety of possible options, none of which come easy. With 6 million children in relative care, most in need of adequate health coverage, this is an issue advocates, legislators, and private insurance providers must consider in the coming year.
Back to work!