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Custody Guide For Child Caregivers: Resources for children and families

A collection of resources for children and families regarding child caregivers.

Table of Contents

How do the resources compare depending on the type of caregiver I become?

The chart below explains the resources and supports you may receive depending on the type of caregiver you are.

  Court Involvement Licensing Financial Support Special Needs Support Medical Education/Child Care
Informal Caregiver N/A N/A Able to receive transitional cash assistance “child-only grant” for related children in your care regardless of your own personal income ($388-$428 per month for 1 child; $491-$531 for 2 children). Eligibility is based on the child’s income and/or informal support from parents.  Any child with Mass Health who is determined to have a serious mental health disorder is eligible for services through the Children's Behavioral Health Network. Child may receive SSI monthly payments if child has severe disabilities and qualifies. May apply for Mass Health if child qualifies. Cannot include child on caregiver’s private health insurance. With signed Caregiver Affidavit can take child to doctor.  Having a Caregiver Affidavit may make it easier to enroll the child in school. If child under 3 with disabilities, may receive early intervention services; over 3, special education services from school. Child may be income eligible for free school meals.
Guardianship through Probate and Family Court Any adult may file a guardianship petition with the court. The court may issue guardianship if parents are found unfit and it is in the best interest of the child. Every year the caregiver must file a report with the court on the wellbeing of the child.  N/A May receive cash assistance from Department, of Transitional Assistance (DTA), “child only grant” for children, regardless of your income: $388-$428 per month for 1 child; $491-$531 for 2 children. Parent may be asked to make child support payments to DTA if child receives DTA cash assistance. If no DTA, guardian may file motion with the court requesting child support from the parent.  Any child with Mass Health who is determined to have a serious mental health disorder is eligible for services through the Children's Behavioral Health Network. Child may receive SSI monthly payments if child has severe disabilities and qualifies. May apply for the Children’s Medical Security Plan (CMSP), Mass Health, or include child on your private health insurance plan.
Guardians can make most medical decisions but may need court approval for a few more serious conditions. 
May enroll child in school and make educational decisions. If child has disabilities may receive early intervention if under 3 and special education if 3 or older. Child may be income eligible for free school meals.
Adoptive Parent through Probate and Family Court Anyone may file a petition for adoption in Probate and Family Court. No licensure, but an approved home study will be required.  DTA benefits available if your income qualifies. If child was in DCF custody, prior to adoption, child may qualify for AAP benefits from DCF. Any child who has Mass Health who is determined to have a serious mental health disorder is eligible for services through the Children's Behavioral Health Network. Child may receive SSI monthly payments if child has severe disabilities and qualifies. If adoptive parent is income eligible, can apply for Mass Health or CMSP (Children’s Medical Security Plan) or can include child on parent’s health insurance. Adoptive parents make child’s health decisions.  Adoptive parents make educational decisions. Eligibility for free school meals depends on adoptive parent's income. 
Kinship Foster Parent through Juvenile Court Child is in DCF custody and DCF may make the majority of decisions for the child. An assigned social worker will visit your home to see the child every month. Full Licensure must be completed within 40 working days. 

Amount varies by child’s age. Base rate per day, age 0-5: $25.01; age 6-12: $28.35; age 13+ $29.62. Additional funds available for medical, behavioral and emotional documented needs. Quarterly clothing support: age 0-5: $243.53; age 6-12: $251.18; age 13+: $302.18. Support continues until age 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens later. Child can remain in care until age 22 by signing a voluntary placement agreement. Support may continue until age 22.

Extra financial support may be provided until the young adult turns 22 depending on circumstances.  Each child in your care will receive Mass Health which will cover medical, dental, and mental health care. 
Additional funds may be available for documented medical needs.
 
Children under age 3 entitled to early intervention services. Day care and after school care available.  Free school meals. 
Temporary third party custodian through Juvenile Court Temporary custody of child is granted to third party by a judge. Third party temporary custody only lasts while the case is open in Juvenile Court.  N/A DCF services continue to be provided to the child. The third party custodian does not receive the foster care twice monthly stipend or quarterly clothing allowance. The third party custodian may apply for "child only" benefits from the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA). This is less than what would be received as a kin foster parent.  N/A DCF should enroll the child in Mass Health. If child has disabilities, if under 3 may receive early intervention services, if 3 or over, special education. Childcare may be provided if needed. Free meals may be available.
Permanent third party custodian through Juvenile Court Temporary third party custody will be granted by the court in limited circumstances.   N/A The third party permanent custodian may apply for child only benefits from the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA).  N/A DCF should have enrolled the child in Mass Health. If child has disabilities, if under 3 may receive early intervention services, if 3 or over, special education. Child could receive free school meals depending on your income.
Guardian through Juvenile Court If the court has jurisdiction over the child (pending Delinquency, Child Requiring Assistance or Care and Protection) any adult may file a Guardianship petition. Court may issue guardianship if parents consent or are found unfit and it is in the best interest of the child. Every year the caregiver must file a report with court on the wellbeing of the child.  N/A If a DCF sponsored guardianship, may continue to receive same level of twice monthly financial support from DCF as they received from DCF as kinship foster parent. Support may continue after age 18. College support may be available for youth in guardianship after foster care.  Child may be eligible for extra financial support from DCF based on medical, behavioral, or emotional needs. Child with severe disabilities may apply for SSI. May continue to receive Mass Health or may be added to guardian’s insurance. Guardians may make most medical decisions but may need court approval for a few more serious conditions.  May enroll child in school and make educational decisions. If child has disabilities, if under 3 may receive early intervention services, if 3 or over, special education. Based on guardian's income, child may receive free meals.
Adoption through Juvenile Court Parental rights must be terminated before an adoption petition is filed.  Licensure required.   If a DCF sponsored adoption, may be eligible for twice monthly stipend from DCF up to same amount as kin foster parent until child is age 18. This may continue if youth is over age 18. College tuition or other supports may also be available.  Child may be eligible for extra financial support though age 21. Child with severe disabilities may qualify for SSI.  May continue to receive Mass Health or child may be placed on parent’s insurance. Adoptive parents make their child’s health decisions.  Adoptive parents make educational decisions. If child has disabilities, and is under 3, may receive early intervention services. If 3 or over, child may receive special education services.
Depending on your income, child may receive free meals. 

Where can I get help with resources for the child and supports for our family?

Massachusetts provides programs which refer caregivers to the supports and services they need. Some of these programs include the Kinship Navigator Program, Family Resource Centers, and the Commission on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.

What services are provided by the Kinship Navigator Program?

The Kinship Navigator Program provides referrals and supports to relatives and close family friends who obtain custody through court. The Kinship Navigator Program is a free statewide program designed to help improve outcomes for children and families.

Phone: 1-844-924-4KIN (4546)
e-mail: kinshipnavigator@mass.gov
Kinship Navigator Website

What are the Family Resource Centers?

Family Resource Centers, located throughout Massachusetts, provide parenting programs, support groups, early childhood services, playgroups, referral services and education related to health care. Some locations provide food pantries. During Covid some locations are open for in-person appointments as needed. All locations provide services by phone, email and website.
Family Resource Center Website.

What does the Commission on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren provide?

The Commission on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren provides support for kin caregivers through monthly newsletters, regular support group meetings, and educational webinars.

Phone:  1-617-748-2454
Commission on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Website

Contact

Address

Supreme Judicial Court
One Pemberton Square
Boston, MA 02108
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