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Fact Sheet

Final Rule & Kin-Specific Foster Home Approval Standards: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A white grandfather and granddaughter color together

The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) were asked during a webinar the Network hosted on October 11, 2023 to explore a federal rule allowing child welfare agencies to implement separate, tailored foster care licensing standards for kin, and to share the only national model of Kin-Specific Foster Home Approval Standards created by an array of partners and stakeholders.

To listen to the October 11, 2023 webinar recording, go to April 4, 2024, the Network hosted another webinar with updates on implementation progress, and that webinar is available at

  1. So, just to be clear, relatives will still need to get licensed, but the process just won’t be as time-consuming as licensing for non-related individuals?

    Yes. The intent of the Kin-Specific Foster Home Approval Standardsis that they closely mirror existing kinship placement practices, so the majority of kin could get licensed within days of placement.
  2. Is there any state that is already in alignment with the new federal rule? If so, I wonder how they are doing and if they have increased overall the number of kinship placements in their state and if there are any challenges or implications that may have arisen? Thanks.

    No states are in alignment with the federal rule as of October 2023. (As of April 2024, both Michigan and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community have been approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement kin-specific foster home approval standards.) A group of national organizations, including the Network, are working with Michigan and other jurisdictions to help them align with the federal rule. It is important to note that most title IV-E agencies’ existing initial kinship placement processes are similar to the draft Kin-Specific Approval Standards, and the Standards were heavily informed by these existing processes. Some refer to their initial process as a provisional or emergency license; others do not use these terms but still have emergency placement processes for kin.

    Current factors that may impact kinship placement percentages include whether an agency has an expansive definition of kin, whether it has a safety and needs assessment that reflects the diverse array of kin caregivers, and whether there is a state-specific list of automatic disqualifying crimes that exceeds the federal list. Critically, an agency’s kin-finding practices are key to kin placement numbers; please see the Network’s Kin-Finding Toolkit for recommended practices.
  3. To update licensing/approval standards, will states need to change their laws or their regulations?

    The answer will depend on the specific agency; some have requirements in law, some in regulation or policy, some in a mix of both. As agencies review their requirements, we encourage thinking about making changes in ways that can increase flexibility, such as moving some requirements and/or definitions from statute to agency policy.
  4. We’ve had full custody of our grandchildren for four years. We chose not to go via foster care due to the red tape and time commitment to be certified. How will this help us going forward?

    This rule specifically applies to licensing or approving kin caregivers for children who are in foster care. While it will not help your family, we are hopeful that this move towards equity for kin in foster care will start a renewed interest in better supporting the many more kinship families who are not child welfare involved.
  5. Will there be any changes regarding the definition of “kin”?

    The kin-specific model standards include a recommended definition of “relative foster parent” for purposes of who can qualify for emergency placement and the kin-specific approval or licensing process: “Individuals related to a child by blood, marriage, tribal custom, and/or adoption and other individuals who have an emotionally significant relationship with the child or the child’s parents or other family members.” Many agencies already have a similarly inclusive definition, while others would expand who can qualify for kin specific licensing if they adopt our recommended definition.
  6. Does the significant emotional relationship have to have occurred prior to placement or would friends of a child’s foster parents count as kin?

    The recommended definition of “relative” in the model standard leaves this open to interpretation and further definition by agencies. We remind agencies that having an expansive definition of who counts as a relative for purposes of leveraging the kin-specific licensing or approval process does not mean that agencies cannot prioritize certain kin over others. A child whose only significant emotional relationship is with their foster parents’ friends, for example, may benefit greatly from including these adults as kin.
  7. Do kin caregivers have to complete any training prior to being licensed or approved?

    No, we explicitly did not include any required training as part of the Kin-Specific Approval Standards. We do encourage agencies to make all training available to kin caregivers as optional supports and to create and/or implement kin-specific trainings as optional supports. However, these standards do not require training prior to licensing approval. See this list of training curricula for ideas.
  8. The Social Security Act requires that foster parents receive training on the reasonable and prudent parent standard. As a part of Ohio’s waivers we clarify that kin can receive this training after licensure. How will this look for creating a separate process for kin licensure?

    The Social Security Act requires that a foster parent “be prepared adequately” to use the reasonable and prudent parenting standard, and it explicitly allows for this preparation to continue after placement. Many agencies accomplish this goal through a conversation at placement and, potentially, leave-behind materials. The kin-specific model standards do not suggest (and, in fact, actively discourage) agency requirements of formal training on this topic prior to licensing or approving kin caregivers, instead encouraging agencies to make this information and training available for kin caregivers, preferably after approval.

    “[T]he prospective foster parents will be prepared adequately [emphasis added] with the appropriate knowledge and skills to provide for the needs of the child and that the preparation will be continued, as necessary, after the placement of the child, and that the preparation shall include knowledge and skills relating to the reasonable and prudent parent standard for the participation of the child in age or developmentally-appropriate activities, including knowledge and skills relating to the developmental stages of the cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioral capacities of a child, and knowledge and skills relating to applying the standard to decisions such as whether to allow the child to engage in social, extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities, including sports, field trips, and overnight activities lasting 1 or more days, and to decisions involving the signing of permission slips and arranging of transportation for the child to and from extracurricular, enrichment, and social activities” (42 U.S. Code § 671(a)(24))
  9. There have been questions about having opposite-gender siblings sharing bedroom space. Best practice would be that they should have different bedrooms because of age, child development, etc. Is there guidance on this in the kin-specific standards?

    Yes, the kin-specific standards include guidance around this issue that was informed by national experts in child psychology, development, and abuse. Please see the Recommended Safety & Needs Assessment templateunder “Sleeping Arrangements.” In short, the standards include flexibility for opposite-gender siblings sharing sleeping space. The standards also replace the concept of a “bedroom” with a “sleeping space.”
  10. Is there an age standard for a kin caregiver? Can an 18-year-old care for their younger sibling if they pass the other basic standards?

    The Kin-Specific Approval Standards explicitly do not have an age standard, as long as the kin caregiver is an adult. So yes, an 18-year-old could potentially be approved as a kin caregiver; age alone should not be disqualifying.
  11. Using the example of age … with no age standard, is it just based on opinion? How do you avoid discrimination with only your assessment and no regulation to back it up?

    The Kin-Specific Approval Standards explicitly do not have an age standard, as long as the kin caregiver is an adult. Age alone should not be a disqualifying factor. A concern that a kin caregiver would not be an appropriate placement due to age-related conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, can be considered as part of the Kinship Caregiver Suitability Assessment. A recommended guide for this assessment is coming soon as part of the pilot.
  12. Is it up to the states to screen out kin with felonies and who are registered as sex offenders?

    Agencies are required to conduct background checks on potential kin caregivers. See the Standards for a list of automatically disqualifying crimes under the federal Adam Walsh Act.
  13. Will ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) complicate this process?

    No. The National Indian Child Welfare Association has a research brief, “Understanding ICWA Placements Using Kinship Care Research,” that focuses on the benefits of kinship care for Native children.
  14. Would the new rule affect placements under the ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children)?

    We expect that two title IV-E child welfare agencies that both align to the Kin-Specific Foster Home Approval Standards will experience significantly faster and more streamlined ICPC placements. This is in part because the requirements have been reduced and in part because the two agencies’ requirements should be significantly similar and therefore transferable across state lines.
  15. There are still some entities that have the outdated belief that “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Could specific research citations be provided to help us move the needle in those areas?

    Research shows that children thrive when placed with kin. Check out the Children Thrive in Grandfamilies fact sheet, which summarizes that research. Another resource, Kinship/Grandfamilies: Strengths and Challenges, can also be helpful in educating service providers and others about the unique strengths of kinship/grandfamilies.
  16. Will there be any type of non-retaliation language recommended by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF)? We have entities that threaten removal of kids if their caregivers get licensed as foster parents, because they know if they continue placement there the agency will need to make foster care maintenance payments. They threaten to move the children to other (unlicensed) kin.

    We are checking with ACF and hope to provide an answer shortly.
  17. What about children in the legal custody of the child welfare system that are placed with kin? In my state you receive a specified relative grant. Can those families be transitioned to this program?

    Yes, agencies can transition existing kin caregivers into their kin-specific licensing or approval process. In some cases, current kin caregivers will have already met all the requirements and can be transitioned swiftly; in others (such as agencies that do not currently conduct fingerprint-based checks on unlicensed kin caregivers), additional steps would be required for the transition.
  18. If the children are not in child welfare custody any longer, but the kin caregiver is in need of financial assistance and it is hard finding community assistance, are they allowed to apply for support?

    The Kin-Specific Approval Standards apply only to kin caregivers of children in the legal custody of the child welfare system. We encourage agencies to provide information to kin caregivers for children who are not involved in the foster care system about financial and other supports available, such as child-only TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Adequate support for kin caregivers caring for children without child welfare involvement can and should prevent any reentries into the foster care system.
  19. Will there be any additional supports for kin who step in to provide care for minor relatives prior to out-of-home placement by a child welfare agency? For example, will anything change for a grandma who takes in her grandchildren to prevent them from being placed in out-of-home care with unknown foster parents and is then only eligible for child-only Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)?

    The kin-specific model standards apply only to kin caregivers of children in the legal custody of the child welfare system. Financial and other supports differ dramatically around the country. For what is available where you live, begin by referring to the GrandFacts fact sheet for your state, territory, or tribe. Also, do not hesitate to reach out to the specialists at the Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network for promising practices in other areas, which you may be able to replicate.
  20. There’s a child-only TANF. Is there anything like that for SNAP benefits where the caregiver’s income will not be part of the approval process for qualification?

    At this time, Minnesota’s Family Investment Program is the only one in the country we are aware of that offers a child-only Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program combines SNAP with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), allowing for both family and child-only assistance.

    The kin-specific model standards explicitly do not include income requirements or verification for kin caregivers. We do encourage agencies to help identify kin caregivers who could benefit from financial or other supports beyond foster care maintenance payments and to connect them to those resources.

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