The Kinship in Demand (“KIND”) Act authorizes the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to deliver services using a kin-first approach (prioritizing placing youth with relatives) and directs the juvenile courts to provide necessary oversight of the Department’s obligations to maintain family connections.

Why does this bill matter? 

Placing youth with relatives lessens trauma of family separation, reduces the number of times a child is moved, enhances permanency options if youth cannot be reunified, results in higher placement satisfaction for youth in care, and delivers better social, behavioral, mental health, and educational outcomes for youth than when they are placed in non-kin foster care. 

More than 10,000 youth in DCFS care live with relatives. Over 60% of these caregivers are unnecessarily denied the foster care benefits necessary to care for and nurture a young person. This is because current Illinois law requires relatives to meet complex standards designed decades ago for foster care. New federal rules – and the provisions of the KIND Act – will allow DCFS to apply commonsense standards to certify relatives to care for youth.  

What this bill does:

 Improves Supports for Relatives Caring for DCFS-Involved Youth

The KIND Act provides equitable supports for kinship care and guardianship benefits to improve outcomes for DCFS-involved youth in relative care, as well as increase the capacity of relatives to become caregivers delivering permanency for more youth.

  • Amends the Children and Family Services Act to: require DCFS to pursue federal funding opportunities to establish a kinship navigator program to assist relative caregivers involved with DCFS; strengthen DCFS’ obligations to engage in family finding efforts to promote a youth’s relational permanence; and, improve services and financial supports to assist relatives in becoming caregivers and subsidized guardians, including assistance with reasonable expenditures needed to prepare relative homes to meet “kinship caregiver home” certification standards required for placement and providing post-placement supports to kinship guardians to promote youth stability in relative placements similar to supports provided to adoptive families.
  • Amends the Child Care Act to remove barriers to equitable financial supports for kinship caregivers by statutorily defining standards for “kinship caregiver home certification” that are no more restrictive than federal law requires, and that are in accordance with the recommendations developed by national best practice groups.  These changes will allow Illinois to access federal matching funds to provide relative caregivers with enhanced supports while also making more relatives equipped for subsidized guardianship.

Enhances Court Oversight and System Accountability 

  • Amends the Juvenile Court Act to provide enhanced court oversight for family-finding efforts designed to ensure youth have long-term connections with their relatives, provide due process protections for relatives who wish to become caregivers for youth in DCFS custody, promote the voices of youth and their family members in permanency planning, and treat adoption and guardianship as comparable alternatives to achieve permanency when reunification is not viable.
  • Increases transparency by requiring DCFS to release public data regarding relative care and requiring the Auditor General to evaluate DCFS’ progress with implementing the requirements of the KIND Act.

Bill Passed House Chamber

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