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Can grandparents get benefits for looking after grandchildren?

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services Commission can offer grandparents like yourself multiple benefits options to be able to assist you with the needs of your grandchildren while they are living in your home with you. Taking on the responsibility of caring for grandchildren is a significant step for you to take. After caring for your children, you are now shouldering the burden of caring for another generation of children. Whether this is a permanent move to your home, or only temporary, here is some important information regarding benefits that are available for you through the State of Texas. 

TANF Cash Help

Monthly Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a payment from the State of Texas for families like yours to help pay for essential items like food, clothing, shelter, utilities, and other basics of everyday life. Depending upon how much money you earn in income per month as well as the resources and assets that you own you may be able to get a one-time TANF payment. Additionally, you may also be able to get monthly TANF payments for your grandchildren only or monthly TANF payments for both you and your grandchildren. 

You do not need to have custody or conservatorship rights regarding your grandchildren to apply for these benefits. This means that you do not have to have court orders which place your grandchild with you in your home, confer conservatorship rights upon you, or anything else like this. However, your grandchild must be a relative of yours and you must be caring for your grandchild in your home. You cannot drive across town and babysit your grandchild at your son's home, for example, and expect to be able to receive TANF benefits as a result. 

One factor to consider when it comes to receiving TANF benefits for your grandchild is that all sources of income for your grandchild will also be considered. Your grandchild may benefit from "income" sources like child support, cash medical support, or Social Security survivor's benefits. As a result, those benefits will need to be reviewed to determine eligibility, as well. One-time cash payments of $1000 may be available to you as a grandparent, as well. 

This is limited to a one-time payment only and it does not matter how many grandchildren you are caring for the one-time payment is limited to $1000. When it comes to any kind of benefits that you may be able to receive for taking care of your grandchildren it would make sense for you to start keeping track of your income. Any documentation like paystubs or tax returns that you can dig up would help. When you apply for these benefits, you will be asked to verify your assets so bank account information, rent subsidies, or proof of any other benefits that you receive would help determine how much in TANF you may be awarded. 

SNAP food benefits

SNAP food benefits are intended to assist people with income problems to be able to afford healthy food for themselves and their families. As a grandparent you and your grandchild, if they live with you, may be able to get SNAP benefits if your income and assets meet program rules. This is a benefit that is based on how many people live in your household. The more people who live in your household the greater amount of the benefits that you may be able to earn. Again, this is a situation where keeping track of your income, assets, and bank account statements can help you be prepared when applying or inquiring about eligibility. Statements from other government programs that you receive care from are also important to have organized. 

Medicaid

Medicaid is a health care program that is designed for children, people over the age of 65 as well as people with disabilities. You and your grandchild may also be eligible for Medicaid if your income and resources meet the specific program guidelines of Medicaid. Medicaid is a great resource for your grandchild because it covers their doctor’s visits, such as seeing a pediatrician for well-child visits. Medications are also covered in addition to vaccines that they may need for school. Hospital care, dental care, glasses, and types of mental health care are covered by Medicaid as well. 

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

If you cannot qualify your grandchildren for Medicaid, then the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is also a possibility for you to investigate. If there is no health insurance available through your employer or that of your grandchild’s parents, then you should check out CHIP. The same types of services discussed earlier regarding Medicaid also apply to CHIP. 

What other benefits may be available to you?

These are just some of the more well-known programs that are administered by our state government here in Texas. There are a lot of local resources that you can and should investigate when you are caring for your grandchild consistently. It's almost like applying for scholarships as a high school student. If you apply for 500 scholarships you will probably only win 10 or so, but those 10 can make a huge difference in your budget when you are going to college. 

I think that is an incredibly useful lesson when it comes to the position that you are in as a caretaker for your grandchildren. It is well worth the effort to investigate these programs. Health insurance and things of this nature can be the difference between your child being able to take advantage of certain procedures and certain types of care. Otherwise, you may be limited to doctor’s offices that accept cash payments which may not offer the type of care that your grandchildren need. 

Food pantries are a great resource of which there are many in Houston. The Houston Food Bank is probably the most well-known but you need only look for resources in your area as far as churches and other non-profits that offer food banks to learn more about what is out there for your grandchild. Do not underestimate the available resources. Also, if you cannot afford food for your grandchild but need to care for him there is nothing wrong with that. You are not doing anything wrong by inquiring about help. Remember that you are going above and beyond when it comes to the life of your grandchild, and you should not necessarily be expected to be able to provide all the food that he or she would need- especially not at first. While you adjust to your “new normal” you can look into these resources and go from there. 

Does your grandchild's school have after-school programs/daycare or childcare of any sort? If so, then you may need to investigate this by necessity. One of the major reasons why many grandparents shy away from caring for a grandchild on a full-time basis is that they still need to work. If you are in your fifties or sixties and otherwise in good health, then you are probably still working. If so, your work hours may not allow you to head out until 4:00 or 5:00 pm. Most elementary schools let out around the same time. Middle and high schools were let out even earlier. 

This is a practical consideration to think about when deciding whether to take on the hefty responsibility of caring for a grandchild. After-school programs are becoming more popular as parent work hours shift in the months after the pandemic. Even if your child joins a club, group, activity, or sports team that can count as childcare from 3-4 p.m., giving you enough time to make it home before they catch a late bus home. Getting creative is the name of the game when you find yourself caring for your grandchild. Whether that creativity centers around childcare, food, shelter, or anything in between. If you do not think creatively or “outside the box” you probably won’t be willing to take on the responsibility at all. 

We have also talked about the resources available to you when it comes to medical care for your grandchild. You should investigate every program available for you, your grandchild, and your spouse when it comes to making sure that you all have health insurance of some kind in place. Even if it is minimal or just covers primary care doctors’ visits and prescriptions. It is better than nothing. One of the leading causes of filing bankruptcy is not having health insurance coverage. This is not to say that you are going to go bankrupt because you’ve chosen to care for your grandchild, but this is still a concern for many families. 

How do you find out more about these benefit programs?

There is a website out there that can help you sort through all the different benefit options available in Texas: YourTexasBenefits.com. This website will also help you to find a local office and even obtain assistance in preparing paperwork and other forms that you may need to follow through on asking for benefits. 

More information on raising grandchildren

If you are a grandparent who is considering caring for your grandchild on a full-time basis then you are probably someone with a big heart who is willing to shoulder a great deal of responsibility without asking for much in return. However, the responsibility that you will be taking on with your grandchild is probably the most significant challenge of your life. With that said, Texas grandparents like you have options available to you for assistance and support. 

Finding yourself in a position where you want to try and win custody of your grandkids probably means that you know your grandchildren are in a bad situation. It could be that your child is in prison or is on their way there. The same could be true for your child’s spouse or partner, and now your child is left without many options for childcare or income. Whatever the situation, you need to know your options as far as how to win custody of your grandchildren if you believe that doing so is in their best interests. 

Unless your child and their co-parent agree that you should be able to have custody of your grandchildren you will engage in a contested child custody case with your child and/or their co-parent. With the presumption being that parents act in the best interests of their child, not seeing your grandchildren as often as you'd like is not necessarily something you can fight. That is unless you have an established relationship with your grandchildren and can prove that not seeing you is detrimental to their physical and/or mental well-being. 

Here are the details on how to file a custody case in that instance. First, you need to be able to establish that your grandchild has lived with you for at least the past six months. Even if your grandchild no longer lives with you currently, he or she could have resided with you in the past three months for the previously stated six-month period. So long as the separation happened recently you will be ok to file a custody case. 

Next, you need to prove that your grandchild's well-being is at stake when it comes to remove you from their lives. Again, the presumption in Texas is that if a parent decides on behalf of their child that he or she is acting in the best interests of the child. Now, that can be rebutted with sufficient evidence, but the general idea is that parents make good decisions on behalf of their children and do so with the child’s best interests in mind. The alternative to this is that any relative, hypothetically speaking, could interject themselves into the life of a child whenever a questionable decision is made by a parent. As a result, the state legislature does not want even well-meaning relatives to get in between a parent and their child unless it is necessary. 

There may already be a child custody case that has been filed with a family court in your area. You should investigate that before filing an independent case. You may be able to intervene in that lawsuit rather than file your own. Intervening into a lawsuit for custody is not a sure thing as a grandparent, however. You must show the court that you have a substantial amount of past contact with your grandchild. Caring for them daily, having vacations, time with them, and a knowledge of their activities are great ways to establish that level of past contact. 

Next, you would need to be able to prove that being denied custody or time with you is hurting your child. Additionally, their living conditions or even the caretakers of your grandchildren need to be in a position where they are hurting the well-being of your grandchild, physically, emotionally, or both. 

This can be a heavy burden to lift. Grandparents have very few established rights in Texas when it comes to maintaining a relationship with their grandchildren. For someone like you who has a keen interest in the well-being of your grandchildren, this can be a difficult pill to swallow. However, there are ways for you to gain an upper hand in a potential family law case involving custody of your grandchildren. 

First, you need to determine the extent of your actual relationship with your grandchildren. This does not mean that you don't love your grandchildren if you figure out that maybe your relationship with them is not as well-established as you had thought. You may live far from them or otherwise have a physical impairment that does not make seeing them practical or easy. That's ok. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the limits of your relationship with your grandchildren. Your heart was in the right place in wanting to move forward with a case no matter the obstacles in your way. 

On the other hand, if you have thought through the issues and want to pursue a child custody case then organizing your case is important. Do not wander into a family law case without first planning out the steps. You won’t get any credit from the family court judge for having good intentions. Evidence is key. Establish a timeline of events, your specific level of care with your grandchildren as well as information about how your grandchild is being harmed by not having contact with you. This is what you need for a successful grandparent-custody case. 

Hiring an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is a great first step in a grandparent-custody case. Our attorneys and staff have worked with many grandparents in your circumstances. We can help you determine if you have a case to move forward with and help you win at the court level once your case is filed. 

Questions about the material with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about your rights as a grandparent as well as custody cases in Texas. 

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