Children who have been removed from their homes
experience less trauma when placed in the care of relatives, also known as kinship care. But relative caregivers get roughly half of the compensation of strangers who take in children.
Lawmakers filed several bills to increase pay for relative caregivers with state funds this session. Those bills died when the clock ran out this session.
In Texas, relatives receive $12.67 per day, per child for up to 12 months if their total household income is below 300% of the federal poverty limit. Foster parents
receive at least $27.07 per day but can get paid more if a child has more complex needs. Foster parents are required to go through training and get licensed before they take in a child, unlike relative caregivers. Relatives can go through the training and get “verified” to get paid the same as foster parents, but grandparents say the verification process comes with a lot of red tape.
Rep. Terry Meza, D-Irving, authored House Bill 1431, which would have removed the income limits that disqualify relative caregivers making 300% above the federal poverty limit from getting state assistance.
Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, D-San Antonio, filed House Bill 4159, which would have ended the requirement that a relative caregiver to get “verified” to access the same payments as foster parents. HB 4159 would also have allowed a relative caregiver to get paid if they still were providing for the child after 12 months.
Senate Bill 908, authored by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, would also have allowed relative caregivers to receive the same payments as foster parents without having to get “verified.” Rep. Lacey Hull, R-Houston, authored the identical House Bill 2613.
Those bills did not get enough traction to move out of their respective House committees, even though they had the backing of key child welfare groups.
Lawmakers did add a budget amendment that provides a pathway for relative caregivers to get more payments.
The Biden administration in February proposed formalizing federal recommendations that would let local child welfare agencies ease licensing standards.
In the state’s final budget, they directed the state to “develop and adopt different licensing rules or approval standards for relative or kinship foster family homes with the intent to facilitate more relative or kinship homes in qualifying for full foster care payments.” If the state aligns with federal regulations, the agency would get access to matching federal dollars.
The Legislature last increased payments for relatives in 2017, but relatives say the increase wasn’t enough.
“More grandparents would stand up and take their grandchildren if there wasn’t so much red tape, and we got more financial support than what they’re giving us,” said Shirley Harris, who has been raising her granddaughter. “Even though we’re not trained like the licensed foster parents are, we have relationships with our grandchildren.”