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New York State Passes Legislation to Help Children in Foster Care by Enhancing KinGAP

This week, Governor Cuomo signed legislation sponsored and championed by Assembly member Hevesi and Senator Avella, which will help more children leave foster care to live permanently with family members more quickly.

Citizens’ Committee for Children has also long-championed and advocated for these enhancements and helped to lead the advocacy efforts.  We were able to partner with advocates and providers from throughout the state, as well as the Office of Court Administration which assisted with drafting, to successfully advance and get this bill passed and signed into law.  Through many meetings in Albany, child welfare advocacy days, press conferences, social media and letters of support, CCC and our colleagues successfully made the case for reforms to KinGAP that will help countless children and families.

The Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (referred to as KinGAP) was an advocacy priority for CCC in 2010 when it passed.  KinGAP enables children and youth to permanently leave foster care to reside and be cared for by a family member who would obtain guardianship, and continue to receive a monthly subsidy—all without the need for a termination of parental rights proceeding, which is required for adoption and adoption subsidy.  KinGAP is an important option for families to have when adoption and reunification are not appropriate options for the family.

Despite the successes in expanding the use of KinGAP to expedite permanency and support children living with relatives, CCC and our colleagues identified ways to strengthen and enhance KinGAP.  Specifically, in the KinGAP law:

  • Children were required to be related to the relative seeking guardianship by blood, marriage or adoption. This meant that half siblings were not treated as a sibling unit.  In addition, children living with close family friends (the fictive kin we consider as kinship for foster care placements) were not eligible for KinGAP.
  • The KinGAP subsidy continued until age 21 for youth who left foster care to KinGAP after their 16th birthday, but ended at age 18 for those who had KinGAP finalized before they turned 16. Notably, foster care payments and adoption subsidy payments can continue until age 21.

These two issues—the restrictive definition of kin and the age when subsidy would end- left some children and youth needlessly in the foster care system when they could have had a stable, loving family without government intrusion.

CCC is so thankful to the Governor, Assembly member Hevesi, Senator Avella, the entire state legislature, our colleagues who helped us advocate, our child welfare funders including the Redlich Horwitz Foundation and the Ira W. De Camp Foundation, for all of their efforts to make this law a reality.

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