Department of Family Services – Children, Youth and Families

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
703-324-7500 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035
Oriane Eriksen


Are you raising a child for a family member or friend? If you answered “yes,” you are a kinship caregiver.

Why is Kinship Care Important? Kinship care has been proven to reduce the number of children in foster care and increase the number of children who find permanent homes before they reach age 18. Kinship Care works because it:

  • Promotes a sense of belonging and helps children stay connected to family and their culture.
  • Increases stability and continuity.
  • Does not require the termination of parental rights for children who have relationships with parents who cannot care for them.

adult with child hugging outsideThe Department of Family Services (DFS) assists kinship families who need a connection to services, such as child care, education, health care, and financial help, and are seeking support from professionals or peers.

DFS also provides seminars, trainings, and workshops focused on kinship families’ needs. Training topics vary, from strengthening caregivers’ parenting skills and communication skills to relationship building, conflict resolution, self-care, and managing stress.

In most cases, DFS does not provide case management services and is not able to provide direct financial assistance to kinship caregivers. However, in a limited number of instances some kinship families may be eligible for some state or federal assistance.

If custody of the child is transferred to a kinship caregiver as the child’s legal custodian, the kinship caregiver may be eligible for support from local and state agencies on behalf of the child.

  • Kinship caregivers may file for child support through the Division of Child Support Enforcement.
  • Kinship caregivers may apply for Child-Only Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) through their local department of social services or through the state Common Help portal. The amount of TANF assistance for a child is based on where the kinship caregiver resides in the state. Funding may be available for relatives or other close family friends who begin taking care of a child as an alternative to foster care or who take custody of a child in foster care.
  • The child may be eligible for Medicaid or other affordable health insurance. Kinship caregivers may apply at their local department of social services or through Cover Virginia.

For all support and services, the kinship caregiver is responsible for following through with necessary paperwork and obtaining other resources as needed.

Kinship Resource Line 703-324-4534, TTY 711

Kinship caregivers and social service providers residing in Fairfax County or the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church can call and talk to a kinship navigator to receive connections to services and resources and feel supported about their kinship situations. Social service providers can also call this line when in need of resources for kinship families.

This helpline is typically open Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

The primary goal of foster care is the safety, well-being, and permanency of the child. When it has been determined that neither reunification with parents or adoption is in the best interests of a child in foster care, permanency can often be achieved by placement with a relative caregiver. Many relatives would like to provide stability for their family members’ children, but may not be able to due to the additional financial burden.

The Kinship Guardian Assistance Program (KinGAP) provides ongoing financial and case management support to relatives who opt to become legal guardians. Unlike adoption, parental rights do not need to be terminated in order for guardianship to be established. 

Who is eligible for KinGAP?

While many families take in relative children, ONLY those children who were first in foster care placement with the kinship guardian would be eligible. Children who come to live with relatives through other pathways would not be.

In order for a family to be eligible for KinGAP:

The foster parent must be related (by blood, marriage, or adoption) to the child or have an established relationship with the child/family (otherwise known as “fictive kin”).

The child must have been placed with the relative in foster care for 6 months.

The options of reunification with the birth family or adoption must have been ruled out.

While there are no age restrictions for kinship guardianship, it is generally chosen for youth over the age of 14 where the goal of return home or adoption would not be in the youth’s best interest. 

Families can use KinGAP payments for:

  • Respite care
  • Day care
  • Parenting classes
  • School supplies, activity fees
  • Clothes
  • Furniture
  • Costs associated with filing for guardianship
  • Driver’s education for older children
  • Time off from work for court appearances, visits to schools, visits to social services, travel costs (the court with jurisdiction over the child may be far away from the relative’s home)

Kinship caregivers in Fairfax County can access outpatient mental health services, crisis services, and family support services through Healthy Minds Fairfax.

Kinship caregivers can also access support services through Formed Families Forward, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting foster, kinship, and adoptive families of children and youth with disabilities and other special needs. Learn more about their support groups, trainings, consultation, and respite services.

Kinship Care: Exploring Options for Relatives of Children in Foster Care
The Virginia Department of Social Services provides this guide to help family members understand the options they may have when a relative child is not able to stay in their home of origin.

New Fairfax Kinship Support Groups – Encouragement for Caregivers

older man and woman cooking with childAre you raising a child for a family member or friend? Join other kinship caregivers to discuss your experiences, concerns, and frustrations with your peers. This group offers a network to share resources and information among the group members, reducing feelings of isolation, and celebrating family successes in maintaining permanency for and the ongoing commitment to building strong families. Formed Families Forward is offering the free Fairfax Kinship Support Groups in partnership with the Department of Family Services. 

In-person groups will be held at Fairfax County Community Centers with the support of Neighborhood and Community Services on the third Thursday of each month. Virtual Groups will be offered on the first Thursday of each month via Zoom. Register online.

Exploring Kinship Caregiver Support

This October 2023 webinar is for grandparents, relatives, or close family friends who are raising a relative’s child when their parents are unable to do so. This session is facilitated by panelists, Robyn Wind, GRAND Voices support coordinator, with Generations United, Mary Elizabeth S. Fleming, MS, Parent Education Program coordinator with Fairfax County Department of Family Services, and Sarah Smalls, kinship family consultant, with Formed Families Forward. Learn about how to handle family dynamics and boundaries, and how to find support and resources.

Jerry and Michelle Shapiro pose for a photo with Santa with grandsons Cayden and Cameron. Raising Grandchildren: Stressful and Delightful 
Jerry Shapiro, 65, often spends time with his grandsons after school and on weekends kicking a ball around the yard, riding bikes, or heading to the local playground. Jerry and his wife, Michelle, are raising their two grandsons Cayden, 9, and Cameron, 7. When grandparents and other family members care for children who are not able to be raised by their own parents, children experience more stability and fewer disruptions. This arrangement, called kinship care, gives the children a sense of belonging from their continued connectedness to family and culture. Read more.

Annie and ChaseRaising a Relative’s Child? You Are Not Alone

There is a long history of extended family members – aunts and uncles, grandparents, and even family friends – stepping in, to support and care for children when parents are not able. Raising a relative’s child can be incredibly rewarding and have many benefits.

Children in kinship placements (rather than non-relative placements) tend to experience more stability, fewer disruptions, and experience a sense of belonging from their continued connectedness to family and culture.

Often, kinship families don’t have access to financial assistance or critical community resources. Many youth have experienced trauma, and they may be unable to give voice to their difficult emotions. As a result, kinship caregivers can benefit from training and supports

older adult gardening with young childKinship Caregiver Stories

Kinship caregiving can be filled with joys and challenges. We appreciate the loving sacrifices that kinship families have made to ensure the safety and stability of the children. 

Check out these stories from some kinship caregivers about their experiences, which have proved to be rewarding, stretching, life-altering, and fulfilling. Learn more about why kinship caregiving is an experience like no other. 

Fairfax Virtual Assistant