A reader asks …
What is KinGAP?

I heard something about a new program called KinGAP. What is it?

KinGAP is the name of North Carolina’s Kinship Care and Guardianship Assistance Program. KinGAP is considered when a child or youth’s best interests are to stay connected to their birth parents and extended family and permanency is unable to be achieved another way.

KinGAP is a payment program that provides monthly cash payments to legal guardians of youth who were in foster care, if certain eligibility criteria are met.

If a youth in the custody of a county child welfare agency is at least 14 years old but not older than 18, and the court has determined that reunification and adoption are not options for the youth, KinGAP may be an option. There must be an identified prospective guardian that has a strong commitment to permanently caring for the youth. In addition, the prospective guardian must be licensed as a foster parent for at least six months prior to guardianship being awarded by the court.

The youth will need to be consulted about the KinGAP arrangement and be in the permanent family setting with the prospective guardians for a minimum of six consecutive months after the family has been licensed.

If a younger child (ages 0-13) is a sibling of a youth who meets the age requirements of KinGAP, and this younger child is placed in the same guardianship arrangement, then the younger child is also eligible for KinGAP.

In North Carolina “kin” can be related to the child or youth by birth or can have demonstrated a “family-like” relationship with the child or youth. Kinship relationships can include a child or youth’s foster parent, family member, close friend of the family, or a person that the child has developed a bond with. Licensed kinship caregivers and licensed foster families willing to provide a permanent home for the youth in their care may be eligible for KinGAP.

Legal guardians have the same responsibilities as a parent. They are responsible for the day-to-day care and supervision of a child or youth placed with them. The legal guardians will make decisions about the child or youth’s future, which include ensuring the child or youth’s educational, medical, dental, mental health, and social needs are being met. Social Services will no longer have legal custody of the child or youth once legal guardianship is established. However, Social Services is still available to provide supportive services as requested by the family.

KinGAP is designed for older youth in foster care to achieve a permanent placement with a relative or kin, when otherwise they would age out of foster care at age 18. Over 70 youth have achieved permanency through KinGAP since its implementation in North Carolina in January 2017.

On this page about KinGAP you will find the fact sheets “Foster Care and Beyond: Kinship Foster Care and Guardianship Assistance” and “Comparison Chart for Caregivers.”

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The children in our home are transitioning back to their birth parents. We know we’ll get questions from the community about where the children went. How do we explain?

Having a strong support system and being members of tight-knit communities help resource parents weather the surprises and occasional storms that inevitably come their way. Yet when children must leave your home due to the need for a placement change that better suits the child’s needs or because permanency has been achieved, the people you rely on and are close to may have questions.

Here are some tips for responding to those questions, managing the event in your family and community, and making sure the overall transition is healthy and positive for everyone involved.

Maintain confidentiality of the children, their birth parents, and any others involved. Specifically, avoid sharing significant details about the progress made by the birth parents or the child’s needs.

Educate and celebrate. Use this chance to make sure your friends and family understand how important resource parents are in your community. This should be an opportunity to celebrate your role in the successful return of the child to their birth family or transition to an adoptive home.

Prepare a response such as, “The children have returned to their biological parents. We are excited for them but sad for us and not ready to talk about it yet.” Remember that all parties involved—including the child—need the opportunity to feel sad, angry, concerned, and happy. Honor and validate everyone’s feelings, even feelings that are conflicting.

Smooth the way for the child. It is important that children receive the same message from all adults involved in this transition, including “emotional permission” and approval to leave the home and community. Make sure the children get a chance to say goodbye to friends, family, and community members if they will not remain a daily part of the children’s lives. This will also prepare everyone for the transition and prevent you from having to answer questions once the children leave.

Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t assume that because the children are leaving your home, they’ll no longer be a part of your life or community. The intention of shared parenting is for birth and resource parents to work together to parent children. Shared parenting can continue after reunification, with you and your community providing ongoing support and love to the birth parents and children.

Many dynamics occur when children transition out of a foster home. Always plan for transitions and work together with your supervising agency to manage the conversations and information you share before, during, and after a child’s transition.

Response by the NC Division of Social Services. If you have a question about foster care or adoption in North Carolina you’d like answered in “A Reader Asks,” send it to us using the contact form here.