Phoenix, Arizona - A proposal backed by Governor Doug Ducey to increase the stipend for foster children cared for by grandparents and other extended family members today won the unanimous support of the Arizona House Health and Human Services Committee.
House Bill 2274, sponsored by Representative Jeff Weninger of Chandler, will raise the monthly stipend for extended families members – grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins – that take children into their care when the child would otherwise be placed in foster or congregate care.
Governor Doug Ducey called for raising the stipend in his 2022 State of the State Address. The Governor’s Executive Budget proposes $19.8 million to increase the current $75 per month allowance for kinship caregivers to $300 a month.
Grandmother and kinship stipend recipient Victoria Gray of Phoenix told the committee she strongly supported the governor’s proposal. Gray and her husband took in their first grandchild in 1992 and have cared for six others over the past 30 years.
“The journey has been long,” she said. “In the very beginning when I took my first grandchild in we got $17 a month…It was to help with diapers.”
Gray detailed the financial hardships her family faced while raising her grandchildren. Gray and her husband went from two incomes to one, cared for a child with recurring medical needs, and dipped into their savings.
Still, Gray said she was thankful for the now $75 a month stipend, but reiterated the financial need for kinship families.
“You can imagine as a grandparent, or even the great grandparents who look at that $75 dollars and still know that it is not enough,” she said. “So many of the grandparents have to decide each month whether they are going to get their own prescriptions filled or buy the children new shoes – and it should be that type of an issue when we’re trying to keep the family unit together.”
The last of her grandchildren in her care turns 18-years-old Sunday.
“My husband and I have tapped into our savings, we’ve tapped into our 401s, so now we are reaching the age where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel…well, we spent a lot of money,” Gray said. “I’m begging you to take a look at that bill, take a look at a family like mine and be able to help us keep our family together.”
Selfless caregivers like Gray are well-positioned to maintain lifelong family connections and lessen the disruption in the child’s life.
The Governor’s budget will reduce the financial barriers of kinship care, enabling more families to stay together and allow thousands of children in uncertain circumstances to be cared for by family instead of congregate care settings.
Investments made in the Executive Budget aim to lower the congregate care population to 10.5 percent of all out-of-home placements, keeping more children with familiar faces.
The average foster family receives over $700 a month per foster child regardless of family income.
To further reduce red tape for kinship families, DCS is developing a plan to expedite licenses for kinship caregivers.
The Department of Child Safety (DCS) will also review its kinship licensing process, which would allow more kinship caregivers to become licensed foster parents. Kinship families who opt to become licensed under this new process will see their monthly stipend increase from the $300 in this bill to the same level of support as any other foster family.
Governor Ducey expressed his commitment to supporting kinship families in his 2022 State of the State Address. He said:
“Often, it’s grandma or grandpa; an aunt or uncle, who steps up to care for these kids. It can be better for the child, and often, cheaper for the state because historically, they haven’t been treated as foster families. More than 6,000 children in Arizona live in these homes, all the evidence you need that you can’t put a price tag on love. So moving forward, these loving extended family members should have the same resources as any other foster family. We’ll make sure of that this year.”