Not every child can be raised by their birth parents. The DC Bar Foundation applauds the grandparents, relatives, and other non-parent caregivers in the District who have selflessly stepped up to care for those children. In this spirit, I would like to take a moment to highlight the work of one of our newest grantees, the DC KinCare Alliance.
DC KinCare Alliance is a one-stop legal aid shop for non-parent caregivers who raise children in the District. When family members take in their relative’s children, they can face significant challenges accessing public benefits, obtaining necessary forms of identification (such as Social Security cards and birth certificates), and acquiring financial assistance. DC KinCare Alliance specializes in helping to provide legal aid for families facing these obstacles.
They also convene a Relative Caregiver Community Board, where non-parent caregivers help inform the organization’s advocacy and identify any gaps in legal aid. DC KinCare Alliance’s Relative Caregiver Community Board coordinated one of the DC Bar Foundation client focus groups that are informing our efforts to create a Coordinated Intake and Referral System.
An excellent example of the impact that DC KinCare Alliance has on the lives of District residents is the story of K.H.
“K.H.” sought custody of her niece “K.J.” because her sister could no longer take care of K.J. K.H. did not have the means to support her niece on her own but wanted to keep her family together. She wanted the DC Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) to recognize her as a kinship foster parent, which would allow K.H. to care for her niece with the financial and legal resources traditionally provided to foster care parents.
Unfortunately, when CFSA dropped K.J. off at K.H.’s home, K.J. was missing several of her critical records: no birth certificate, no Medicaid card, no immunizations records. As a new caregiver, K.H. felt she was on her own.
K.H. reached out to DC KinCare Alliance, who represented her, requesting that CFSA formally move her niece to foster care and license K.H. as a kinship foster parent. When CFSA refused, DC KinCare Alliance partnered with Ropes & Gray to file a federal lawsuit. It challenged CFSA’s discriminatory and unconstitutional practice of diverting children to live informally with relatives rather than providing them the support and services needed and to which they are entitled. K.H.’s case is one of six currently pending in DC Federal Court.
In the meantime, DC KinCare Alliance helped K.H. obtain her niece’s birth certificate to apply for critical government benefits, as well as emergency rental and food assistance. They also fought to help K.H. and other non-parent caregivers access the DC Grandparent Caregiver Program by assisting them in drafting and presenting testimony before the DC Council. As a direct result of this testimony, the DC Council enacted a law expanding the program to close relatives. DC KinCare Alliance helped K.H. apply for the subsidy, which she now receives.
The DC Bar Foundation is proud to support the DC KinCare Alliance. We are committed to helping those District residents who seek to keep their families together and provide for children in need.