The state of Kentucky announced Feb. 13 it would begin paying relatives who provide care for displaced children the same stipend as foster parents -- about $750 per month per child.
Norma Hatfield, who has cared for her two grandchildren since 2014, welcomed the news. Although she was able to provide for the pair without state assistance, she said Monday that few grandparents in her position have the same financial resources.
"We didn't get a phone call," Hatfield said, when her grandchildren were removed from their parents' care after the youngest ingested meth from a spoon. She found out when she arrived at their home the next day and discovered it empty.
She had been planning to take them to Disney World.
"That's when my whole world changed," she said. While the Hatfield family's case winded its way through the courts, "I started meeting all these grandparents that were struggling -- taking in kids and, financially, they are going broke. There were heavily in debt and had court fees."
Moved by her experiences watching other men and women struggle to raise children for whom they had never expected to be responsible, Hatfield began petitioning the state to bring back kinship care, which would specifically create an allowance for those permanently caring for their relatives' children.
"It's so the kids stay with that family instead of foster care," she said.
The United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in October 2017 that Kentucky would be required to pay relatives who temporarily house children the same fee as foster parents.
Although only 16 families will have received such payments by the end of February, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services estimated by June 2019 the payments could affect 1,590 children and total about $14.3 million.
"It's a start," Hatfield said, although she would still prefer the establishment of a fund for relatives who will care for their kin permanently -- not just on a temporary basis. "It's something families would be grateful to have."