Kinship Navigator Program: Finding Help

Kinship Navigator Program

The day you saw the full extent of your daughter’s addiction was the day you decided your grandson needed to live with you so he could have a safe and stable childhood. That moment was likely filled with hardships you never imagined having to face. Since then, the challenges haven’t stopped. You’ve had to dig into your retirement fund to cover expenses, and you’ve experienced obstacles that you never dealt with when raising your own children. You may think that it’s impossible to get access to federal funding to help you without getting the state involved. However, there’s an understanding that families in situations similar to yours need support and financial assistance. This is why New Jersey offers the Kinship Navigator Program.

New Jersey and several other states receive federal Family Connection Grants to provide support and resources to kinship families through Kinship Navigator Programs. Whether you’re looking for information on government services or a local family support group to help you avoid a breakdown, the New Jersey Kinship Navigator Program can help you access it.

To use this, you need to register with the 2-1-1 warm line, where they’ll verify that you’re eligible. After you’ve been verified, you can call 2-1-1 around the clock to speak to a specialist who will help you address any immediate questions, as well as direct you to the nearest agency that’s part of the Kinship Navigator Program.

In New Jersey, these agencies are Care Plus New Jersey, The Salvation Army, Children’s Home Society and Family Service. The 2-1-1 line will get you in contact with the appropriate local agency who will then help you find which types of assistance you’re eligible for as well as support you as you go through the Kinship Legal Guardianship process.

Depending on your household’s yearly income, there are programs in place to help offset expenses you may come across, such as furniture for your grandson and legal fees. They can also cover the cost of the summer camp that he’s always wanted to go to. By paying for camp expenses, the Kinship Navigator Program is letting him build cherished memories and relieving you of the stress of trying to find extra money in your budget.  The staff at the agency will assist you with enrolling him in medical coverage and determine if he’s eligible to receive monthly payments from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. They can also check your eligibility for housing assistance and child support collection. The agencies can refer you to family support groups where you can talk to others who have either gone through or are going through a situation similar to yours.

In addition, the Kinship Navigator Program offers a complementary program called Wrap Around Services. This service covers one-time and short-term expenses such as clothing for your grandson, moving costs and tutoring. There are income limits to qualify for these services that factor in your age and the size of your family living in the house.

The Kinship Navigator Program can help you enter into Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG). You can either call 2-1-1 or talk to the staff of your local Kinship Navigator agency to begin the process. Becoming your grandson’s legal guardian offers you many of the same rights as being an adoptive parent, such as the ability to make decisions on his medical and mental health care, but without terminating all of his parents’ rights. KLG is temporary and ends when your grandson graduates high school, turns 18 or the court decides it’s in his best interest to return to the care of his parents.

If you have already taken your grandson into your home, the Kinship Navigator Program is there for you. If your grandson is still living with his parents but you know the day is coming when the state will step in, consider becoming a licensed kinship provider. Being licensed will provide you and your grandson with more support and financial assistance than is available through the Kinship Navigator Program.

Becoming a licensed kinship provider requires having the state formally remove your grandson from the care of his parents, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be sent away to a foster home.  When it comes to kinship care, the state may offer you “presumptive eligibility” while you go through the licensing process, which may allow you to continue to care for your grandson before you’re officially licensed with the state.

Once licensed, you have access to all of the resources and financial aid that foster parents get. Among the most helpful benefits to becoming licensed is the monthly board rate, which ranged from $763 to $1,887 in 2017, that goes towards the care of your grandson. Along with the board rate, you gain access to Foster and Adoptive Family Services’ (FAFS) Family Advocates, who can answer any questions you have along the way, as well as free training that can help you learn more about the system and how to handle situations you may encounter as a kinship parent.

Being in a licensed home offers your grandson access to much more financial aid and support than he would have had you not gone through the state. He can be signed up for FAFS’ Fostering Wishes for Children program that could give him a $75 grant towards those extra expenses like the class trip that he’s been talking about for weeks or pads so he can play on the football team with his friends. He would also be able to apply for the FAFS’ Dreamers and Believers program that could provide him with a grant worth up to $600 to help him pursue his dreams through extracurricular classes. Also being in a licensed kinship home may make him eligible to receive private scholarships to help him further his education at a college or vocational school.

You’re never alone in your journey of raising your grandson. There’s always someone you can turn to for support and assistance. If you aren’t licensed yet, the Kinship Navigator Program is there to offer a warm line and some financial assistance. For those that are licensed kinship providers, you can always reach out to the staff at FAFS, as well as your grandson’s caseworker, to find the answers to any of your questions. If you would like to learn more about becoming a licensed kinship caregiver, you can reach out to FAFS’ Information Line: 1-800-222-0047.

Author: Craig Dudek, Digital Media Coordinator

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