Despite the known benefits of placing children in a relative’s home, in California relative foster placements are the least supported of all the foster care placements. Under California’s existing placement model, in every other type of foster care placement there is at least an attempt to tie the services and benefits the child receives to the needs of the child. However, this is not true for a majority of the children placed into relative care.

At the root of the inequity is California’s refusal to provide state-only foster care benefits to those relatives caring for children who do not meet federal eligibility standards.“Federal eligibility” has nothing to do with the needs of the child or the needs of the caregiver where the child is based. It is based on an antiquated federal rule (called the “lookback”) that reimburses states for foster care costs only if the child was removed from a household that met the 1996 eligibility rules for the now defunct Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. As time goes by, fewer and fewer children meet this arbitrary criterion – currently 56% of all California foster children are not federally eligible.

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