Chapter 4 : Section 3

Kinship Care

Policy

The Department shall establish kinship foster care services for a child who has been removed from the child’s home and who is in the custody of the Department, and placing a child with a caregiver determined by the best interests of the child.

The kinship care program established by the department shall:

  • streamline, expedite and coordinate existing services and referrals;

  • preserve families;

  • meet the protection, developmental, cultural and permanency needs of children;

  • enable families to sustain support for a child who cannot live with the child’s parents; and

  • promote the best interests of the child.

The Department shall identify and assess relatives and persons who have a significant relationship with the child as a caregiver of a child in out-of-home care.

A foster parent or kinship caregiver with whom a child under three years of age has resided for nine months or more is presumed to be a person who has a significant relationship with the child.

The Department shall use diligence in an initial search to identify and notify adult relatives of the child and persons with a significant relationship with the child within 30 days after the child is taken into temporary custody.

The Department shall file with the court information regarding attempts made to identify and notify adult relatives of the child and persons with a significant relationship with the child.

A kinship caregiver means an adult relative or person in the family network who has a significant relationship with the child and who is caring for the child under the care, custody and control of the Department. A kinship caregiver shall be evaluated and approved by the Department based upon an assessment of the family and home.

A kinship caregiver shall be at least 18 years of age, be fingerprinted and cleared by a criminal history records check, be cleared by a Department of Child Safety records check of child abuse and neglect reports and history, and able to meet the child's needs including health and safety.

All persons age 18 and older residing in the kinship caregiver's household shall be fingerprinted and cleared by a criminal history records check and be cleared by a Department of Child Safety records check of child abuse and neglect reports and history.

The Department shall initiate the assessment of the kinship caregiver as a potential caregiver for the child within ten working days of the request.

The Department shall provide written notification to a kinship caregiver within 15 working days when the Department determines that it will not recommend the kinship caregiver to the Juvenile Court. The notification shall include specific reason(s) for the denial, the right to appeal the recommendation and the process to request review of this recommendation through the Department's formal Client Grievance process.

Kinship caregivers shall receive a monthly kinship stipend.

The Department shall provide information to all kinship caregivers about the following financial benefits:

  • “Child-Only” Cash Assistance (TANF) and Nutrition Assistance (formerly food stamps) through the DES Family Assistance Administration (FAA);

  • foster care reimbursement only if they become licensed as foster parents;

  • monthly personal and clothing allowance on behalf of the child;

  • special payments (other allowances) that may be available to the child; and

  • Kinship Stipend.

The Department shall encourage and support kinship caregivers to become licensed foster parents.

The Department shall obtain a signed statement from a kinship caregiver who elects not to apply for financial services after being informed of the services. The Department shall provide the kinship caregiver a copy of the signed statement.

A kinship caregiver may apply for financial services at any time regardless of whether or not a statement declining financial services has previously been signed by the kinship caregiver.

The Department shall provide non-financial services to all kinship caregivers.

The Department shall share with the kinship caregiver all information about the child to ensure that the caregiver meets the needs of the child and to assist the caregiver in carrying out the case plan..

Procedures

Identify relatives and those who have a significant relationship with the child who have an interest in providing care for the child. Follow procedures outlined in Locating Missing Parents & Family for Notification. See also the Relative Search Best Practice Guide for more information. For children who may be subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) see Placement Preferences of an Indian Child.

Inform potential kinship caregivers of the following requirements:

  • Kinship caregivers must be at least 18 years of age.

  • Kinship caregivers and adult household members must be fingerprinted for and cleared by a criminal history record check.

  • All Kinship caregivers and adult household members must be checked and cleared for prior and current child abuse and neglect history on the Central Registry and any other state or jurisdiction, if applicable.

  • Kinship caregivers must provide at least two references.

  • Kinship caregivers must agree to personal interviews and at least one home visit.

  • Kinship caregivers and household members must participate in the family assessment process.

Preliminary Kinship Caregiver Assessment for Emergency Placements

The kinship caregiver assessment starts with the following initial steps:

  • A determination of the potential caregiver’s interest now and in the future.

  • A preliminary determination that the potential caregiver(s) has the ability to meet the child's needs and support the achievement of the permanency goal including the ability and willingness to care for a sibling group, if applicable. If the caregiver is not willing to care for all or part of the child's siblings, a determination that the caregiver is willing to maintain frequent visitation or other ongoing contact between the child and the child's siblings.

  • Preliminary determination that the potential caregiver(s) meets the requirements based on information obtained from a DPS criminal history records check, a DCS records check of child abuse and neglect reports and history, other states or jurisdictions (if applicable), and information disclosed by family members and/or other sources.

  • At least one visit to the home of the potential caregiver family to complete the Home Safety Checklist for Kinship Foster Caregiver Household, CSO-1014A.

    • If any safety hazards exist (e.g., unlocked firearms or medications, swimming pool fence that does not meet the requirements outlined in A.R.S. § 36-1681, etc.), provide the caregiver with resources on how to address the safety hazards. See Practice Guidelines: Assessing and Supporting Kinship Families.

    • Document on the Home Safety Checklist for Kinship Foster Caregiver Household, CSO-1014A what actions need to be taken to address the safety hazards and schedule a follow-up home visit to ensure safety hazards have been addressed.

    • If the caregiver is unable or unwilling to remedy safety hazards, the caregiver cannot be recommended

    • Complete and send the Kinship Placement Notification, CSO-1013A to the potential caregiver within 15 working days of the decision not to recommend the person care for the child.

The DCS Specialist must:

  • engage the potential caregiver in a discussion about the caregiver’s capacity and motivation to be the living arrangement for the child;

  • • inform the potential caregiver that even if the Department cannot recommend them as the caregiver, unless it is contrary to the child’s safety or well-being, they are encouraged to maintain contact with the child. For more information, see Parent & Child Visitation; and

  • provide the potential caregiver with information about:

    • need for DCS intervention (safety threats to child, and how they may be addressed);

    • child's need for safety, connections to family and culture, and continuity of care;

    • child's current living arrangement and permanency goal;

    • requirement for kinship care including the assessment and planning for the child's transition to the kinship caregiver’s home;

    • expectations that the potential kinship caregiver may have of the Department including available supports and services;

    • expectations the Department will have of the potential kinship caregiver;

    • caregiver preferences;

    • options for kinship caregivers including licensed and unlicensed foster care;

    • parents rights and responsibilities in continuing to plan for the care of the child;

    • need for parents and family members to be involved in planning, visiting and decision-making now and in the future; and

    • options to resolve disagreements.

If a decision is made to continue with the assessment, prior to placement of the child, the DCS Specialist shall complete the following:

  • Complete a search for all kinship caregivers and adult household members of prior and current child abuse and neglect history on the Central Registry and any other state or jurisdiction, if applicable.

  • Review the results of the DCS records check and records for other states or jurisdictions.

  • When a potential kinship caregiver or adult household member has a DCS record of child abuse and neglect indicating that the child would not be safe if placed in the home:

    • inform the potential caregiver that one or more adult household members did not clear the DCS records checks;

    • if the potential caregiver or individual wishes to correct or clarify child abuse or neglect history information, offer the individual an opportunity to provide the information;

    • if the additional information provided does not sufficiently remedy the safety concerns, placement cannot be recommended; and

    • complete and send the Kinship Placement Notification, CSO-1013A to the potential caregiver within 15 working days of the decision not to recommend.

  • Have the potential caregiver and all adults in the home complete the Self-Disclosure Statement for Kinship Foster Caregiver Household, CSO-1130A.

  • Complete a criminal history records check with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) for all adults residing in the home:

    • Submit the DPS criminal history request to the DPS using the Justice Web Interface (JWI).

    • When a person does not have a social security number, the DPS Criminal Records Check shall still be completed .

    • When a person does not have a social security number, conduct additional searches, including a public records search of information available through local law enforcement.

  • Review and verify the criminal records checks and the information disclosed on the Self-Disclosure Statement for Kinship Foster Caregiver Household, CSO-1130A.

  • Determine whether the potential caregiver or any adult household member has been convicted of, or is awaiting trial for, or under pending indictment for committing, attempting to commit, soliciting or facilitating or conspiring to commit one or more of the specific criminal offenses identified in Section 2 (non-appealable offenses) of the Self-Disclosure Statement for Kinship Foster Caregiver Household, CSO-1130A. If yes:

    • Inform the potential caregiver that one or more adult household members did not clear the background checks.

    • If the potential caregiver or individual wishes to provide additional information about the criminal history, offer the individual an opportunity to provide the information.

    • If the potential caregiver or individual wishes to review or challenge the results of the criminal records check from the DPS, refer them to the Criminal History Section at 602-223-2222. Note: the person may request a "review and challenge packet" for an arrest, conviction or indictment by a law enforcement jurisdiction in Arizona. If the criminal record concerns an arrest, conviction or indictment outside Arizona, the individual must contact the applicable law enforcement jurisdiction in that state.

    • If the potential caregiver or adult household member has a criminal history of one or more of the offenses in Section 2 (non-appealable offenses) of the Self-Disclosure Statement for Kinship Foster Caregiver Household, CSO-1130A, the placement cannot be recommended.

    • Complete and send the Kinship Placement Notification, CSO-1013A to the potential caregiver within 15 working days of the decision not to recommend.

If a criminal records check or self-disclosure statement reveals an arrest, conviction, or indictment for any other criminal offense, consider the results of the criminal records check when making the decision about whether to recommend placement of the child with the potential kinship caregiver. Consider the following:

  • any new or current safety threats to the child;

  • continued behaviors related to the reason for the child coming into care;

  • the vulnerability of the child including the child's age and special needs;

  • the extent of the person’s criminal record, including whether the criminal offense was an isolated incident or indicative of a pattern of criminal activity;

  • the length of time that has elapsed since the offense was committed;

  • the nature of the offense;

  • any applicable mitigating circumstances including whether the victim was a child or a vulnerable adult;

  • the degree to which the person participated in the offense; and

  • the extent of the person's rehabilitation, including:

    • completion of probation, parole or community supervision;

    • evidence of positive action to change criminal behavior, such as completing a drug treatment program or counseling, and

    • personal references attesting to the person’s rehabilitation.

Formal Kinship Caregiver Assessment following an Emergency Placement

After making a temporary emergency placement of a child, complete the assessment within 15 working days of the completed DPS check.

  • Require all adult household members to complete a fingerprint based background check. Provide fingerprinting instructions to all adults upon consideration or emergency placement. If needed, provide assistance in submitting the fingerprints. Additional Department resources can be provided to assist adults that are unable to submit fingerprints.

    • A person who is denied a Level One Fingerprint Clearance Card may still be considered as a kinship caregiver if the offense preventing approval of the Level One Fingerprint Clearance Card is appealable to the Board of Fingerprinting.

    • If any adult household member fails to complete the fingerprint based background check, the child cannot be placed in the home.

    • The DCS Specialist should gather all relevant information and consult with the DCS Program Supervisor for approval to continue placement of the child(ren) in the home.

  • Complete interviews of the potential caregiver and all household members.

  • Refer for an assessment of the family and home environment of the potential caregiver family, using a New Services Request..

  • Check that the assessment includes at least two reference checks by telephone or letter using the Evaluation of Potential Caretaker(s), CSO-1106A, for each potential caregiver. At least one reference should be a relative who is not the parent of the child in care. An adult child of the potential caregiver should be used as a reference whenever possible.

  • Assess the ability of the potential caregiver to meet the child's safety and well-being needs and the needs of the child's siblings, if applicable.

  • Make a determination that the potential kinship caregiver meets the requirements.

Assessing Potential Kinship Caregivers for a Non-Emergency Placement

Initiate steps above within 10 days, including the completion of fingerprinting, when a potential kinship caregiver is identified for a child who is currently in out-of-home care with a non-kinship caregiver.

Within 10 working days of identifying a potential caregiver who resides out-of-state, follow the procedures to request a home study in Referral to ICPC.

Upon completion of a positive assessment and determination that it is in the best interest of the child(ren) to be placed with the kinship caregiver, complete a case conference, following procedures in Placement Stability for Children in Out-of-Home Care to develop a plan for a smooth transition for the child(ren).

Medical Marijuana

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act enables a person (a qualifying patient), who is registered with the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), to legally obtain, under Arizona law, an allowable amount of marijuana and possess and use the marijuana for its therapeutic effects in treating and alleviating symptoms associated with a debilitating medical condition. However, the possession, sale or transportation of marijuana is still a crime under Federal law.

If a potential kinship caregiver is a qualifying patient, designated caregiver or cultivator of medical marijuana, the following factors should be addressed in the evaluation of the caregiver’s ability to meet the child’s needs including child safety and to support achievement of the permanency goal for the child:

  • any action taken by the caregiver to ensure that any child in the home does not have access to the marijuana, such as:

    • the marijuana is clearly labeled, out-of-sight and not accessible to the child,

    • if the potential caregiver is authorized to cultivate marijuana plants for the patient’s medical use, whether the plants are secured in an enclosed, locked facility,

    • if the potential caregiver cooks with marijuana, whether any resultant food products are clearly labeled, out-of-sight and not accessible to the child;

  • any action taken by the potential caregiver to ensure that any child in the home is not adversely affected by the patient’s medical use of marijuana such as:

    • plans to consume (smoking, vaporization, infused edible food products, etc.) when the child is not present;

    • if the marijuana is smoked or vaporized, plans to ensure that the child is not exposed to second hand smoke or vapor;

  • whether there is another responsible un-medicated caregiver in the home when consumption occurs (if more than one potential caregiver is a qualifying patient, plans for an established routine to ensure that one caregiver is un-medicated at all times);

  • the effects of the debilitating medical condition and the medical use of marijuana on the caregiver’s ability to provide a safe home environment for the child, and meet the child’s needs, including:

    • transportation to/from appointments, parenting time, and other routine activities; and

    • any concerns by the caregiver’s (qualifying patient) physician about the caregiver’s ability to provide for the child’s safety and well-being.

When more than one potential kinship caregiver has a positive assessment

On a case-by-case basis, consistent with the child's best interests and the current stage of the case, convene a family meeting to attempt to gain consensus regarding the child's caregiver and living arrangement and a plan to maintain family contact. Reconsider all of the following if the family cannot come to consensus:

  • ability and willingness of each caregiver to meet the child's short-term and long-term needs including child safety, sibling placement, proximity to the parent's home, ability to remain in the home school district and community, ability to communicate in the child's language, and ability to support cultural connections;

  • established relationship of the child to each caregiver;

  • ability of each caregiver to support the achievement of the case plan; and

  • ability of each caregiver to finalize a permanency or concurrent case plan of guardianship or adoption, if applicable.

If one kinship caregiver cannot care for all the siblings, consider the caregiver who:

  • can best meet the needs of the child;

  • will permit and actively maintain frequent visitation or facilitate other ongoing contact between siblings who are not placed together; and

  • will permit and actively facilitate contact by telephone, mail or visits with the child's parents, family members, other relatives, friends, and any former foster parents, unless the court determines the contact is not in the child's best interest.

If a potential kinship caregiver is not selected, complete and send the Kinship Placement Notification, CSO-1013A, to the potential caregiver within 15 working days of the decision to not recommend the person as the caregiver.

Once the kinship foster caregiver is selected

Upon approval from the court, place a child in kinship care, following the procedures outlined in Placing Children in Out-of-Home Care.

Inform all kinship caregivers of services available to meet the needs of the child, including:

  • Health Services available through Mercy Care DCS CHP;

  • parent aide;

  • respite care;

  • case management;

  • transportation;

  • housing supports, including community based resources, federal/state funded housing programs (i.e. HUD housing vouchers) and the Housing Assistance program ;

  • parenting skills training;

  • supportive intervention and guidance counseling;

  • emergency services;

  • additional services that the Department determines are necessary to meet the needs of the child and family; and

  • other funding to support extra-curricular/enrichment activities that promote normalcy, such as through the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation. See Practice Guidelines: Assessing and Supporting Kinship Families for more resources.

Provide a copy of the Kinship Foster Care for Relatives Caring for Children in DCS Custody Booklet, CSO-1047A, to the caregiver and review the booklet with the potential caregiver.

If the child is under one year of age, provide the Safe Sleep Flyer, CSO-1302A to the caregiver and review it with them. Observe the sleeping conditions of the child and discuss any observed unsafe sleep environments and how to remedy the issue. If needed, make referrals to community resources.

Develop an Infant Care Plan for a newborn infant who was prenatally exposed to alcohol or substance use by the mother, or for a child up to one year old diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. See Family Functioning Assessments Involving Substance Exposed Newborns.

Complete the following:

  • For unlicensed relative caregivers, complete a Placement Service Request.

  • Complete the Safety Plan and Safety Plan Signature Sheet, CSO-1034B with the kinship caregiver. See Safety Planning;

  • If there is court involvement and the child is in a different out-of-home care living arrangement, complete the Motion for Change of Physical Custodyand submit to the Juvenile Court for approval of the caregiver and living arrangement along with the Assessment for Kinship Foster Care or Significant Person Placement..

  • Complete and sign the Kinship Placement Agreement and Notification of Resources, CSO-1129A. Provide a copy of the form to the caregiver. Discuss with the caregiver the following benefits:

    • DCS Comprehensive Health Plan (DCS CHP);

    • Monthly Personal and Clothing Allowances;

    • Special Payments (emergency clothing, school supplies, graduating expenses, etc.) available to the child. See Foster Care Rates, Allowances & Payments;

    • DCS child care. See Child Care Services;

    • Kinship Stipend;

    • Foster Home Licensing; and

    • Child-Only Cash Assistance (TANF)

If the kinship caregiver wishes to apply for foster home licensure, the DCS Specialist will refer the kinship caregiver to the Home Recruitment Response Specialist at 1-877-543-7633 or http://www.azkidsneedu.gov to initiate the process. Note: while this begins the process for foster home licensure, it does not obligate the caregiver to complete the licensure process, nor does it guarantee that the caregiver will qualify for licensure. See DCS 15-07 Kinship Waiver Policy for additional information on waivers issued to kinship caregivers for non-safety related requirements and email questions to OLRKinshipWaivers@azdcs.gov.

Child-Only Cash Assistance (TANF)

  • If the kinship caregiver checks the applicable box on the Kinship Placement Agreement and Notification of Resources, CSO-1129A indicating they want to apply for cash assistance, follow the steps below:

  • Provide them with FA-001, Application for Benefits and assist them in completing the form;

  • Inform the kinship caregiver to return the completed application to the DCS Specialist who is responsible to submit the application on the caregiver’s behalf;

  • Inform the kinship caregiver that the Family Assistance Administration Office (FAA) will be contacting them from a blocked number for the telephone interview within five days of the application being submitted;

  • Inform the kinship caregiver, if TANF Cash Assistance is approved and if they chose to get licensed, it is their responsibility to notify FAA once they are licensed;

  • Write “KFC/DCS/P” on the top right corner of FA-001, Application for Benefits; and

  • Scan and email the FA-001, Application for Benefits and court order (or Notice to Provider) to FAA Certified Document Services at DCSFASTPASS@AZDES.GOV.

Referrals for Nutrition Assistance must be made separately from the application for Child-Only Cash Assistance if the kinship caregiver prefers to exclude the household income in the TANF Cash Assistance application.

If the kinship caregiver declines financial benefits, inform the caregiver that they may apply at a later date.

Placement Disruption

If the living arrangement of the child(ren) with the kinship caregiver disrupts, the DCS Specialist must re-contact, reconsider and, if necessary, reassess all relatives and persons having a significant relationship with the child who expressed an interest in caring for the child as long as there is no prior criminal history that has already excluded them.

Documentation

Document the following about potential kinship caregivers using a Relative Information type Note:

  • • legal name, DOB, ;

  • • address and telephone number;

  • • citizenship status;

  • • discussions with the person regarding their ability and willingness to care for the child;

  • • date of the criminal records request and the results of the search;

  • • date of the search for prior child protective services history (including the Central Registry and other states or jurisdictions) and the results of this search;

  • • date and to whom the Kinship Placement Notification, CSO-1013A was mailed;

  • • the kinship caregiver selected and reasons for the selection of the specific family;

  • • the relationship of the child(ren) to the kinship caregiver; and

  • • the reason siblings are in separate living arrangements, if applicable.

When the kinship caregiver is approved, Placement Administration will ensure that the kinship caregiver is built in as a Provider.

File a copy of the Self-Disclosure Statement for Kinship Foster Caregiver Household, CSO-1130A, the Home Safety Checklist for Kinship Foster Caregiver Household, CSO-1014A and the Kinship Placement Notification, CSO-1013A in the hard copy case record.

Document that a Department of Public Safety check was completed in Notes, including the name of the individual and their relationship to the child. Print the results of the check and place in an envelope marked "Confidential" in the hard copy record.

Effective Date: February 1, 2021
Revision History: May 31, 2016, May 6, 2016, February 14, 2014, July 1st, 2013, November 30. 2012, September 29th, 2017, October 25, 2017, August 03, 2018, March 04, 2019, August 26, 2019, December 16, 2019