Special Populations : New Jersey’s Kinship Navigator Program

Program/Practice Name: New Jersey’s Kinship Navigator Program

Agency Name: New Jersey Department of Children and Families

Contact Information:

Diana Kelley
Regional Coordinator
Kinship Navigator Program
New Jersey Department of Children and Families
50 East State Street 
P.O. Box 717 
Trenton, NJ 08625 
(609) 888-7398 
diana.kelley@dcf.state.nj.us

Type of Program/Practice: The Kinship Navigator program partners with 211, a Human Services Directory for all of New Jersey, to provide services to relative caregivers. Relative caregivers can call this hotline to make an application for services with the Kinship Navigator program and to receive information and referral for other services throughout New Jersey.

Program/Practice Description: The Kinship Navigator program was developed to provide linkages to government and community resources for relative caregivers. This toll–free service (211) helps relative caregivers identify available resources and advocates on their behalf to access those services. In addition, the program helps administer support programs created specifically for kinship caregivers, including cash assistance, child care subsidies, and wraparound services.

Background/Program History: The first programs New Jersey implemented were the Kinship Child Care Subsidy Program and the Kinship Wraparound Program. Caregivers younger than age 60 and working, preparing for work or disabled need to meet the income limit of 350% of the Federal poverty level. Caregivers age 60 or older need to meet the income limit of 500% of the Federal poverty level.

Later, New Jersey passed legislation called Kinship Legal Guardianship specifying that relative caregivers must have the child residing with them for at least 1 year. The court makes the ultimate decision on the placement in the best interest of the child and the relative becomes the legal guardian of the child upon approval. Legal guardianship is unique because it transfers some parental rights to caregivers without terminating all biological parental rights. Legal guardianship, as opposed to adoption, allows caregivers to access services for the child, provide a more permanent plan for the child, and access the kinship subsidy to offset the financial costs associated with raising a child.

Innovations and Results: Relative caregivers who are eligible to have legal guardianship also qualify to receive the kinship care subsidy; however, they must be below 150 percent of the Federal poverty level and not be involved with the Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). This subsidy includes $250 a month and Medicaid benefits. Other caregivers have access to additional services through the Kinship Navigator program. Also, New Jersey has a subsidy program through Child Protective Services, which is available to relative caregivers of children placed in their homes by DYFS. These grandparents receive a monthly support payment for up to 15 months. The caregiver must cooperate with the permanency plan, which may include adoption, legal guardianship, legal custody, or a return home.

Support Services Available:

  • Help paying for child care
  • Referrals to grand–parenting and family support groups
  • Help obtaining medical coverage and services
  • Assistance with child support collection
  • Housing assistance
  • Help paying for legal services and fees
  • Help paying for furniture (for example, a bed, computer, or computer supplies for the child)
  • Tutoring services for the children in care
  • Help paying for summer camp for the child
  • Financial services

“There are no tools associated with this program.”