About The Relative Caregiver Program


The Relative Caregiver Program developed out of the recognition that abused children, neglected children and children whose parents are unable to provide for them are best served if cared for by other suitable family members, rather than by unrelated caregivers. While relatives may be willing to care for these children, doing so may be difficult due to financial limitations or the need for other services. The Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation allowing for the development of The Relative Caregiver Program on June 9, 2000. Funds were allocated to support the Relative Caregiver Program through a two-year pilot in Shelby, Davidson and Upper Cumberland (Overton, Fentress, Pickett, Jackson, Clay, Putnam, Cumberland, Macon, Smith, DeKalb, Cannon, Van Buren, Warren, White) regions – serving sixteen counties. The program was initially funded through the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant prior to being built into the Department of Children Services base budget. Funding for the pilot decreased after TANF funds were no longer being used to fund the program.

The pilot regions began administering services in April 2001. In June 2002, Legislation passed which extended the pilot for an additional two years. Effective July 1, 2004, the Relative Caregiver Program became a formal program administered by the Department of Children’s Services serving all Tennessee Regions.

The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) administers this public/private collaboration designed to support children who are not able to be raised by their parents and are being cared for by grandparents, aunts, uncles and other extended family members by contracting with community-based agencies. These committed and caring relatives have stepped in to raise children whose parents are unavailable and are serving as a safety net for children. Through respecting what is unique and special within each family, providing accurate, easy-to-follow information about existing resources available to families, filling in the gap where services are not available and providing emergency/start-up financial assistance, the Relative Caregiver Program seeks to further strengthen the caregivers’ abilities to maintain supportive and stable environments for children.

Collaborative partnerships at both the local and state levels have been important to implementation of the Relative Caregiver Program. Service implementation moved rapidly largely due to the active participation of local community-based partners.

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Relative Caregiver Program

Phone: 901-448-3133 
Fax: 901-448-3534

This program is in partnership with the TN Department of Children's Services. For information on the program in other parts of the state, visit the state's DCS website.