Hayes Introduces CARE for Kids Act for Children Under Family Guardianship and Foster Care to Access School Meals

June 17, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (D-CT) announced the Caregivers, Access, and Responsible Expansion for Kids Act of 2021 (CARE for Kids Act), a bipartisan bill to support millions of children, raised by grandparents and others, in need of free and reduced-price meals. CARE For Kids Act is co-led by U. S. Representatives Don Bacon (R-NE), Deborah Ross (D-NC), and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).

Presently, millions of children who are cared for by someone other than their parents, could be ineligible or decertified for free and reduced-price meals at school. To support more children facing food insecurity, the CARE for Kids Act would ensure that local education agencies can provide automatic eligibility for children in these living arrangements.

“Having been raised by my grandmother, I am personally aware that the nuclear family has changed. Children in foster care, adopted, extended relative-care, or in-state guardianship need uninterrupted access to school meals programs with automatic eligibility and certification. The CARE for Kids Act, compounds efforts toward ending child hunger, while providing support for families. This is a solution which immediately supports children in these circumstances in need of basic nutrition,” said Congresswoman Hayes.

“Not only is a safe, loving home important for children, so is a well-balanced nutritional meal,” said Representative Bacon. “As co-chair of the Foster Youth Caucus and Ranking Member of the Ag Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations, I know that the CARE for Kids Act will ensure these children have access to a healthy lifestyle and their families will receive the support they need. I also thank my co-lead Rep. Hayes for her leadership to address food insecurity.”

“For children in unstable living situations, many of whom are displaced due to the opioid epidemic, the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis have only further exacerbated the devastating reality of food insecurity. With so much uncertainty in all other aspects of their lives, these children should not have to worry about when or where they will receive their next meal,” said Senator Casey. “The CARE for Kids Act closes a loophole in order to ensure that these children can access nutritious foods through school meal programs. At the same time, it also eases the financial burden for their caregivers, often grandparents or other relatives, who have taken on the responsibility of caring for them.”

Ending Hunger of Connecticut, shared their support of the CARE for Kids Act.

“The opioid crisis has been devastating in communities across the country, and the burden of caring for children has often fallen on grandparents and other family members.  Unfortunately, these informal care arrangements are precluding many of these children from accessing free meals at their schools,” said Robin Lamott Sparks, MPA, executive director of Ending Hunger Connecticut. “We know that ensuring children have access to nutritious food is critical to their long-term success.  This bill will close a gap in our system and help to feed children who have already faced numerous challenges in their young lives. We all have a responsibility to protect and support all the children in our communities. That is why we are proud to support the CARE for Kids Act being sponsored by Congresswoman Jahana Hayes.”

 

Specifically, the bill will give schools the option to provide automatic eligibility and certification to children of the following:

Children Cared for by a Relative who Receives Adoption or Guardianship Assistance

While children in foster care are categorically eligible for free meals, children who are placed in more stable, long-term caregiving arrangements are not. This bill would provide automatic eligibility for children who are placed in permanent guardianship or who are adopted out of foster care and ease a burden on the families who have taken on caring for them, such as grandparents.

Children Cared for by Grandparents or Other Relatives Due to Placement by a State or Tribal Child Welfare Agency

Child welfare agencies frequently use relatives to divert children from foster care and often use relative placements to ensure children have a way to leave foster care. This provision ensures that children directed out of foster care into stable placements, without the welfare agency’s involvement, are still able to access free meals.

Children Living in “Grand-family” Housing or Receiving Housing Assistance Under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996

Children with unstable living conditions may be determined categorically eligible for free meals through the assistance of a school district homeless or runaway liaison. This provision allows a child living in a housing development dedicated to low-income families with a grandparent or other older relative caregiver, or in a development receiving affordable housing assistance under NAHASDA; to be determined categorically eligible.

Children Automatically Eligible for Free Meals Through Medicaid Participation, but are Not Able to be Certified

Some children who are automatically eligible in Medicaid, such as children formerly in foster care or children with a disability, do not have an income verification completed for them to receive Medicaid benefits. Without income verification, LEAs are unable to directly certify a child, although the child is categorically eligible for free meals. This provision would fix this issue, allowing all children deemed categorically through Medicaid participation to have access to free meals.

The bill also:

Extends Eligibility for Children Already Receiving Reduced or Free Meals Placed under the Care of a Grandparent or Other Relative

The year immediately following a child’s placement with a grandparent or other relative is often disruptive and challenging for the child and caregivers, with new financial obligations for the relatives who take on care of the child. For children who were already receiving reduced or free meals prior to their placement with a grandparent or other relative, this provision allows for the extension of their eligibility for an additional year, ensuring continuity and support for health meal access during the time of transition. 

The bill is endorsed by the following organizations: End Hunger CT!, Connecticut Alliance of YMCAs, Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Families (CAFAF), Wheeler Clinic, Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), National Education Association, Generations United, Feeding America, AASA - The Association of School Superintendents.

Read more here.

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Congresswoman Jahana Hayes sits on the Committees on Education & Labor and Agriculture and proudly represents Connecticut’s 5th District. She was a public school teacher in Connecticut for more than 15 years and was recognized in 2016 as the National Teacher of the Year.

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