First, my disclaimer: I am NOT a lawyer. I am NOT social worker (although I've met some very nice ones). I am a grandmother, raising what are my biological grandchildren and now my adoptive children.
Now then- You might not have a money problem raising the extra kiddos. You might be wealthy, for one (and good on you!). Many grandparents these days in this situation are young. They are still working. And working. And working. And making enough money to support kids, and even to carrying them on insurance.
Some grandparents need that extra boost of assistance. This was not something they foresaw, and something for which they did not plan.
GOOD NEWS! From my research, I think it's safe to say in all fifty states parents have an obligation to support their children, not grandparents and other relatives. This means that your dear adult children or siblings are hopefully going to be held responsible for their children's needs.
It's not so much the who of will be paying the grandchildren's bills, but the how is it going to be collected, and what does a grandparent do in the interim.
Grandparents who find themselves raising grandchildren can go to whatever agency in their state that assists in gaining benefits such as food stamps, and grant block health insurance for children. In Illinois, it clearly states in the DHS Workers Action Manual that
"The only relatives who are legally required to provide support are:
Spouses: Spouse for spouse, whether living together or not;
Parents: Parent(s) for children (including married children) under 18 years of age, except for a child of any age who has married, regardless of the current marital status, who is not living with the parent(s)."
Other states also have this rule as well, in different words.
When a grandparent goes to DHS or similar state agency, even if the grandparent has yet to get custody papers, the grandparent may apply for the grandchildren to receive benefits without counting the grandparent's income toward support of the grandchildren. In this case, the grandchildren as called "indigent minors" and the grandparent is known as the RPY, or the representative payee. Your grandchildren should then be eligible for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). The grandchildren should also be eligible for health insurance through one of the many CHP projects.
You might have to fill out forms, and include your income information on them. However, you should include somewhere on the document, even if you have to add it in the margins, "These are my grandchildren, not my children. I am their RPY." This is usually enough to indicate to DHS that DHS should not include your income into the mix.
Food stamps is a whole 'nuther kettle of fish. The requirements for food stamps are structured differently, in that a unit is considered all the people who live under one roof and eat together. Double-check on this, and don't be surprised if your grandkids qualify for TANF and insurance, but not food stamps. The good news is that you will complete this process in a matter of a couple weeks, and have an EBT card in your hand no later than 14 days from the day you started the process.
In most states, by applying for TANF and insurance on behalf of the children, a case is started with whatever agency to obtain child support for the children from the absent parents. In Illinois, that is Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). Do not hold your breath waiting for them to start the process, which involves an initial interview and then a referral to the county states attorney. Unfortunately, you are not the only one trying to support grandchildren, or children for that matter. The list, and the wait, are long.
When you apply for guardianship, have your attorney or advocate also motion for temporary child support. You can then walk into HFS with a court order they can enforce.
Enforcing a support order used to take sometimes years, and then collecting wasn't all that easy. Today, it is better; not perfect, but better. The agency has software that can chase down deadbeat parents by name, social security number, and last address. But again, don't hold your breath waiting for money to come rolling into the children's lives.
Speaking of social security numbers, etc., any documentation you have that the grandchildren are indeed your grandchildren, and the children of your children, will be appreciated by the human services agency, as well as by the child support collecting agency. Some of this might include:
- Your own birth certificate.
- Your marriage license to your adult child's father.
- Your divorce decree from your adult child's father if it mentions your adult child.
- Your adult child's birth certificate.
- Your adult child's social security number.
- Any paperwork left behind by your adult child, including old utility bills.
- If they got left behind, the children's birth certificates and social security numbers. The school might have these on file.