State of Wisconsin
Department of Children and Families
Kinship Care and Long-Term Kinship Care
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families proposes to repeal and recreate ch. DCF 58, relating to kinship care and long-term kinship care.
Analysis Prepared by the Department of Children and Families
Related statutes and rules: Section 48.977, Stats.; ch. 54, Stats.; chs. DCF 55 and 56
Explanation of Agency Authority
Section 48.57 (3m) (i), Stats., provides that the department shall promulgate rules to implement s. 48.57 (3m), Stats., including rules to provide assessment criteria for determining whether a relative caregiver who is providing care and maintenance for a child is eligible to receive payments and rules governing the provision of payments for the care and maintenance of a child after the child attains 18 years of age. The rules shall also provide that any criteria established under the rules shall first apply to applications for payments received, and to reviews conducted on the effective date of those rules. Section 48.57 (3n) (i), Stats., provides that the department shall promulgate rules to implement s. 48.57 (3n), Stats., including rules governing the provision of payments for the care and maintenance of a child after the child attains 18 years of age. Section 48.57 (3m) (h) and (3n) (h), Stats., provide that a kinship care agency may recover an overpayment from a relative caregiver who continues to receive payments by reducing the amount of the relative caregiver’s monthly payment. The department may by rule specify other methods for recovering overpayments. A county department that recovers an overpayment due to the efforts of its officers and employees may retain a portion of the amount recovered, as provided by the department by rule. Section 227.11 (2) (a), Stats., expressly confers rule-making authority on each agency to promulgate rules interpreting the provisions of any statute enforced or administered by the agency.
Summary of the Proposed Rule
The current kinship care and long-term kinship care rule has not been significantly updated since it was created almost 20 years ago. The proposed rule repeals and recreates the kinship care and long-term kinship care rule to modernize program administration, add specificity, clarify requirements, improve consistency among local agencies, and incorporate statutory updates.
Unified Organization of the Rule
The current rule is organized into 3 subchapters: general provisions, provisions applicable to the kinship care program only, and provisions applicable to the long-term kinship care program only. The proposed rule creates a single section that lists all of the eligibility conditions for both kinship care and long-term kinship care. Other sections of the rule provide further detail for the more complex eligibility conditions. Differences in detail between kinship care and long-term kinship care are noted throughout the rule where applicable.
Efficient and Consistent Program Administration
The proposed rule includes a number of provisions that will ease the workload of kinship care agencies and provide a more consistent experience for relative caregivers throughout the state, including the following:
Eliminating agency policies other than waiting list priorities.
Requiring the use of forms prescribed by the department throughout the rule.
Consolidating most agency procedures into a single section of the rule.
Specifying home visit evaluation standards.
Requiring a single application if a relative caregiver is applying for payments for more than one child at the same time.
Simplifying eligibility determination if a relative caregiver is applying for payments for a new child within 6 months after the kinship care agency determined that the relative caregiver was eligible to receive payments for a different child. The relative caregiver will complete only the child-specific portions of the new application, and the kinship care agency will use information obtained for the other child’s eligibility and require new information or actions only if necessary.
Ensuring that kinship care payments continue when a family moves within the state.
Allowing the kinship care agency to presume that living with the relative caregiver is in the best interests of the child if the agency is determining the relative caregiver’s eligibility for long-term kinship care or voluntary kinship care and a court order or voluntary transition-to-independent-living agreement placing the child in the relative caregiver’s home expired or was terminated within the previous 6 months.
Child Welfare Automation System eWiSACWIS
At the same time that the rule becomes effective, county departments and the department will begin using the department’s child welfare automation system eWiSACWIS for administration of kinship care and long-term kinship care. The eWiSACWIS system will guide agencies on the types of eligibility documentation required and allow agency staff to easily indicate the type of documentation received with less written narrative.
The proposed rule requires that a kinship care agency with access to the eWiSACWIS system enter any information related to a relative caregiver’s eligibility into the eWiSACWIS system within 5 working days after making any decision affecting eligibility. Agencies that do not have access to the eWiSACWIS system will be required to document eligibility decisions by completing a form prescribed by the department and obtaining and retaining supporting documentation as necessary.
With eligibility information on eWiSACWIS, a relative caregiver that moves to an area of the state served by a different kinship care agency will not be required to reapply for payments if the new agency has access to the eWiSACWIS system, and agencies will not need to duplicate work. If the kinship care agency serving either the relative caregiver’s old or new residence does not have access to the eWiSACWIS system, the proposed rule requires that the agency serving the relative caregiver’s old residence transfer eligibility documentation to the agency serving the relative caregiver’s new residence. Tribal kinship care agencies do not have access to the eWiSACWIS system.
Home Visit Requirements
When determining eligibility for both the kinship care and long-term kinship care programs, a kinship care agency is required to determine if living with the relative caregiver is in the best interests of the child. Under the current rule, agencies assessing the best interests of the child are required to visit the relative caregiver’s home when determining eligibility for long-term kinship care, but are not required to visit the relative caregiver’s home when determining eligibility for kinship care.
The proposed rule requires kinship care agencies to visit the home of a relative caregiver when determining eligibility for both kinship care and long-term kinship care, unless the child was placed in the relative caregiver’s home under a court order and is under the placement and care responsibility of a supervising child welfare agency. In practice, most agencies have already been conducting home visits when determining kinship care eligibility and have developed their own evaluation standards, resulting in eligibility criteria that vary by location in the state.
The proposed rule creates statewide home visit assessment criteria, including criteria on the characteristics of a relative caregiver and the physical environment of the relative caregiver’s home, with a focus on the safety of the child.
Voluntary Kinship Payments When Relative Moves
Kinship care agencies issue kinship care and long-term kinship care payments to relative caregivers from funds allocated by the department based on each agency’s expected caseload within the limits of available funding. Under the current rule, a relative caregiver receiving kinship care payments for a child that was not placed in the relative caregiver’s home under a court order (voluntary kinship care) can be put on a waiting list if the relative caregiver moves to an area of state where the kinship care agency does not have funding available to begin the payments.