Department of Family Services – Children, Youth and Families

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

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.

Kinship Services

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. Trainings vary, from strengthening caregivers’ parenting skills and communication skills to relationship building, conflict resolution, self-care, and managing stress.

Kinship caregivers connect with other families like their own through Kinship Cafes, where they can share the experiences, joys, and challenges that make up kinship care with people who understand their perspective.

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 a federal financial assistance program called The Kinship Guardian Assistance Program (KinGAP).

Kinship Resource Line

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.

Kinship Cafés

older adult holding young grandchild outsideWe offer support to kinship families through Kinship Cafés that help build a community network among kinship caregivers. Learn more about Kinship Cafés, or send an email or call us at 703-324-7720 for more information.

The Kinship Guardian Assistance Program (KinGAP)

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)

Other Resources

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.

Kinship Cafés – Support and Encouragement for Caregivers

Are you raising a child for a family member or friend? If you answered “yes,” you are a kinship caregiver, and you are not alone. Our hybrid (In-person and virtual) Kinship Cafés provide encouragement and foster a sense of community among kinship caregivers. Dinner and child care are provided.

Register to join us on Thursday, June 15 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Providence Community Center, 3001 Vaden Dr, Fairfax, VA 22031 by sending an email or calling 703-324-7720. Registration is required at least one business day before the Kinship Café date. Learn more about Kinship Cafés and check out future dates.

Kinship Cafe June 15

Kinship Programs and Resources Podcast

Join Mary Elizabeth Fleming, an instructor with the Department of Family Services Parenting Education Programs, for a discussion about families caring for the child of a loved one or relative, also known as kinship families. Learn about the programs and resources available for kinship caregivers in Fairfax County including upcoming classes and supports.

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