The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services explains how the relative caregiver program may allow non-parent caregivers to access resources to support abandoned, orphaned, abused or neglected minor children. 

DCS works with private community agencies to serve families in the caregiver program. 

Do you meet the qualifications to be a relative caregiver?  

To be a relative caregiver, you must have a relationship with the child through blood, marriage or adoption. You must be legally or informally responsible for the child, and you must pledge to provide a safe home that serves as the child’s primary residence until adulthood. You must also participate in an in-home assessment and agree to receive services. 

What are the options for taking on caregiver responsibilities? 

Taking care of a child as a relative caregiver may take different forms: 

  • If the child has lived with you for at least six months, you may be eligible to exercise parental rights as permanent guardian. The court will not necessarily terminate the biological parents’ rights, and parents may have visitation rights. 
  • You may assume legal custody so that you can make key decisions on behalf of the child. Parents may seek visitation rights. 
  • You may participate in the kinship foster program. You would become the child’s foster parent and partner with DCS to make important decisions for the child. 
  • The child’s parents may grant you a power of attorney to make major decisions affecting the child’s well-being. 
  • You may become the child’s adoptive parent if a court terminates the biological parents’ rights. 

Is financial assistance available to relative caregivers? 

Financial aid availability depends on circumstances. Some emergency funding may be available if you meet income guidelines and do not otherwise receive certain subsidies. You may also qualify for a combination of grants, public funding and tax benefits. In some cases, a court may require parents to pay child support. 

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