Abstract: Do Federal Welfare Programs Decrease Poverty Risk for Relative and Nonrelative Caregivers? an Examination of the Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP) for Foster Families (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Do Federal Welfare Programs Decrease Poverty Risk for Relative and Nonrelative Caregivers? an Examination of the Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP) for Foster Families

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Kylee Probert, MS, Graduate Student, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
David Rothwell, Associate Professor, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Brianne Kothari, PhD, Assistant Professor, Oregon State University-Cascades, Bend, OR
Background: Relative foster caregivers may be at increased risk for experiencing poverty compared to nonrelative caregivers (Pac et al., 2017) and this may be especially true for grandparents, who likely are not expecting to take on a caregiving role later in life (Hayslip et al., 2019; Wu et al., 2018). From a policy perspective, there are financial supports available to foster families, but there is wide variation in who is eligible and how much support is available. The Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP) is a federal Title IV-E funded initiative to encourage permanency planning and provide financial aid to foster families. Under the GAP, states are given the option to apply for this federal funding, utilize their own state level programs, and decide eligibility requirements for these programs. This creates variation in foster families’ poverty risk depending on the programs available in their state. The current study seeks to determine the extent to which state utilization of GAP is related to foster families’ risk for poverty among relative and nonrelative caregivers.

Methods: Data were extracted from IPUMS Current Population Survey (CPS): Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) from the years 2013-2016. Family types included grandparent caregivers, other relatives (e.g., aunts, uncles, etc.), and nonrelative formal foster caregivers (total n=286,476). States were grouped into 5 categories based on status of GAP implementation. Weighted analysis included a series of bivariate analyses determined the SPM poverty rate for each family type in each state grouping. Finally, regression models determine variation in poverty risk at each of these levels.

Results: Among relative and nonrelative groups, the poverty rate was 22%. Across survey years, grandparents experienced the highest rates of poverty (24%). Further, poverty rates ranged significantly across state groups- grandparents were significantly less likely to experience poverty in states with federal GAP funding (22.7%, β=-.014), and more likely to experience poverty in states with TANF only funding (29%, β=.048). For other relatives, those in states with TANF only support had higher poverty rates (22%, β=.021), followed by those in states with both federal and state level GAP (21%, β=.006), state funding only (β=-.03) and federal GAP only (β=-.03).

Conclusions and Implications: In general, children in relative foster care are more likely to experience poverty than those in nonrelative foster care. Children in states with no standardized subsidy program have higher poverty risk than those in states with GAP or state level supports. For non-grandparent relative caregivers, state selection into either federal GAP or state level programs was associated with the lowest rates of poverty (but not both). Together, results suggest that from a policy and program perspective, close attention should be paid to the financial realities of foster families- especially grandparents and other relative caregivers. Research also suggests that a more nuanced approach to GAP implementation may be necessary to best support the financial needs of various household types. The full paper will explore if year of program entry and funding amount may contribute to a foster family’s risk for experiencing poverty.