Kinship navigator programs provide information, referral, and follow-up services to grandparents and other relatives raising children to link them to the benefits and services that they or the children need. Kinship navigator programs also collaborate with agencies and providers to meet the needs of relative-headed families.
The Definition and Requirements of Kinship Navigator Programs under Federal Law
Federal law defines kinship navigator programs as programs to assist kinship caregivers in learning about, finding, and using programs and services to meet the needs of the children they are raising and their own needs, and promote effective partnerships among public and private agencies to ensure kinship caregiver families are served. 42 U.S.C. 627.
Kinship navigator programs must meet the following requirements:
- Kinship navigator programs must be coordinated with other State or local agencies that promote service coordination or provide information and referral services, including the entities that provide 2–1–1 or 3– 1–1 information systems where available, to avoid duplication or fragmentation of services to kinship care families.
- Must be planned and operated in consultation with kinship caregivers and organizations representing them, youth raised by kinship caregivers, relevant government agencies, and relevant community-based or faith-based organizations.
- Must establish information and referral systems that link (via toll-free access) kinship caregivers, kinship support group facilitators, and kinship service providers:
- to each other;
- eligibility and enrollment information for Federal, State, and local benefits;
- relevant training to assist kinship caregivers in caregiving and in obtaining benefits and services;
- relevant legal assistance and help in obtaining legal services.
- Must provide outreach to kinship care families, including by establishing, distributing, and updating a kinship care website, or other relevant guides or outreach materials.
- Must promote partnerships between public and private agencies, including schools, community based or faith-based organizations, and relevant government agencies, to increase their knowledge of the needs of kinship care families to promote better services for those families.
Under federal law, these programs may also establish and support a kinship care ombudsman with authority to intervene and help kinship caregivers access services; and support any other activities designed to assist kinship caregivers in obtaining benefits and services to improve their caregiving.