The Family Services Division coordinates the planning, development and implementation of programs, services and contracts that support families in achieving or maintaining self-sufficiency and independent living. The Division provides technical support to regional offices to ensure that services to clients are provided in a consistent manner and to external contractors, which assist in service delivery to families and children.
The Family Services Division is organized into two teams - Child Care and Family Support. A brief description of the current two teams and their program oversight follows.
Family Support Team
Jobs First - Temporary Family Assistance
The Jobs First Temporary Family Assistance Program (TFA) provides cash assistance to eligible families with children under the age of 19, including caregivers who provide care for dependent children. Parents and relative caregivers who apply for TFA must meet the program’s income and asset requirements. These requirements as well as the amount of assistance that is granted vary depending upon the region in which the family resides. Non-parent caregiver’s income and assets are not considered when determining eligibility if they seek TFA only for the child in their care.
Generally, there is a 21-month lifetime limit for the receipt of TFA assistance and a requirement for adult recipients to participate in employment service activities. Employment activities help families prepare for employment and obtain/maintain a job. The Connecticut Department of Labor has the primary responsibility to provide employment services. DSS provides policy guidance, eligibility determination and is responsible for federally reporting.
Time-limited recipients can typically receive two six-month extensions to the 21-month time limit. Additional extensions are only permitted under very limited circumstances and there is generally a 60-month overall limit. If all adults in the family are exempt from participating in employment services activities, there is no limit to the amount of time a family can receive benefits.
Recipients can be exempt from participating in employment services activities if they care for a child under the age of one, have an incapacity that prevents employment, are caring full-time for a disabled family member, are unable to work because of pregnancy or during a post-partum period, are age 60 or older, or have been determined to be unemployable. Grandparents and other relative caregivers who only receive TFA assistance only for the child are exempt from the 21-month time limit.
Safety Net Services Network for TFA Families
Safety Net services are available to families who have exhausted the 21-month time limit, do not qualify for an extension and have income less than the TFA payment standard. Safety Net services are provided through contracts with the Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies and the Connecticut Association for Community Action. The Family Support team develops and monitors the contracts, provides technical assistance, and acts as liaison between the contractor and the DSS regional office staff. Safety Net services include the Employment Success Program (ESP), which provides services to Jobs First Employment Services participants identified as being at risk of failing to comply with employment services requirements within six months of entering the program. Intensive case management and care coordination services are also provided.
Diversion Assistance for TFA Families
As an alternative to monthly TFA benefits, a family may be offered Diversion Assistance. This program is an option available to families who have job skills, an offer of a job, or a solid work history. This program provides for short-term needs, which a family may be experiencing. The benefit is provided as a lump sum payment and may equal the amount the family would have received during a three month TFA eligibility period.
Healthcare for UninSured Kids and Youth (HUSKY)
The Family Support Unit is responsible for the eligibility rules pertaining to HUSKY. HUSKY provides health coverage to Connecticut children up to age 19 in all income levels and to eligible parents or caregivers and pregnant women. HUSKY is a combination of Medicaid managed care (HUSKY A); managed-care coverage for children in higher-income families (HUSKY B, or State Children’s Health Insurance Program); and supplemental services for children with special health care needs who are enrolled in the subsidized portion of HUSKY B (HUSKY Plus). Families that lose HUSKY eligibility due to employment may continue to receive HUSKY for one year after becoming ineligible regardless of their income. There is also coverage for 19 and 20-year-old children at lower income limits.
Transportation to Work (TTW)
The Family Services Division provides grant funding for the administration of Transportation to Work (TTW) programs for TFA and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) eligible clients. The intent of the funding is to assist TFA/TANF eligible clients to overcome their transportation barrier to employment. Currently, there are 5 DSS contractors administering the TTW program statewide. The Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) is a partner in the TTW program, offering their insight and complementary funding through their Jobs Access Reverse Commute (JARC) program and through funding from the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA). The TTW Program is also known in the state budget as the Transportation for Economic Independence Program.
Medical Coverage for Children at DCF
The Family Support Unit provides medical benefits for children cared for by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF is the state agency that removes children that are abused or neglected from their home. DCF is required to provide medical benefits for all children in their care, whether it is short or long-term placement. When most of these children go into DCF care, they are in need of medical attention.
DCF Subsidized Guardianship Project
The Family Support Unit also assists DCF children enrolled in the Subsidized Guardianship Project with access to HUSKY services while the subsidized guardian continues to receive subsidized payments from DCF.
Child Care Team
As the lead agency for child care in Connecticut, the DSS Child Care Team is responsible for the evaluation and establishment of child care policies which support the mission of DSS as well as federal and state goals and objectives. To this end, the Child Care Team works to develop a streamlined system of funding, state plan development, regulation, technical assistance and consumer education, program evaluation, monitoring, research, legislative activity, training, and customer services which result in quality child care services for all children.
Following are specific program areas:
Care 4 Kids Child Care Assistance Program: The Department of Social Services funds the Care 4 Kids program, which provides child care financial assistance to eligible Temporary Family Assistance (TFA) recipients and low to moderate income working families to help them pay for child care. Child care assistance continues after families leave welfare for work as long as the household income is below 75% of the state median income. Care 4 Kids assists families with children up to age 13 (or 19 if the child has special needs). Care may be provided in licensed family day care homes, group day care homes, child day care centers, the child’s own home, or a relative’s home. Payment is the lesser of the published state rates (determined by the age of the child, setting of care, and Employed families may be required to pay a weekly fee of between 2-10 percent of the family’s countable income.
Care 4 Kids Child Care Assistance Program – Background Checks
DSS works with the departments of Public Safety and Child and Family Services to conduct criminal (state and national) and abuse-neglect background checks for unlicensed child care providers. DSS recently expanded its’ capacity for background checks through gaining direct electronic access to the Department of Public Safety criminal background database entitled COLLECT. DSS has expanded its’ application of criminal background checks to include all of the child care providers, licensed and unlicensed. On average, a selection of 800 new applicants and existing providers are subject to a COLLECT criminal background check monthly.
Child Care Centers: DSS provides funding and technical assistance to over 110 child day care centers run by municipalities and nonprofit organizations supporting almost 4,500 children. Families are charged fees on a sliding scale that is based on family size and income.
Child Care Facilities Loan Fund: DSS, with the Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority (CHEFA), administers the Child Care Facilities Loan Fund to provide low-cost loans for capital improvements and site development to the child care providers and municipalities.
School-Age Child Care: DSS provides funding and technical assistance to municipalities; Boards of Education and nonprofit child care providers to encourage use of school facilities for school-age child care programs that support working parents.
Child Care Provider Training Information: DSS provides funding to support statewide training of child care personnel through the Training Program in Child Development, supports a volunteer professional career development system for caregivers through the CT Charts-A-Course Project in partnership with the CT Community Colleges; provides education and information through a quarterly newsletter, All Children Considered, which is coordinated by the UConn Cooperative Extension System; and provides quality enhancement grants to selected Connecticut School Readiness Councils in partnership with the CT Department of Education.
Child and Adult Care Food Program for Kith and Kin Pilot Project
This pilot project in Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven between DSS and SDE (the state agency that administers the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program-CACFP) allows kith and kin providers in Care 4 Kids to claim reimbursement for food provided to children in their care. It ensures that the nutritional needs of low-income children are met and that K&K providers improve their information on child nutrition, food and health safety, and other child development topics. Under DSS and SDE supervision, CACFP sponsoring agencies are responsible for program monitoring and verify C4K enrollment for participating K&K providers
First Words, First Steps–The Importance of the Early Years: DSS and the Commission on Children have developed a strategic plan to support the healthy development of Connecticut infant and toddlers. An integral part of the strategic plan is the Connecticut Guidelines for the Development of Infant and Toddler Early Learning, which provides guidance to caregivers about how infants and toddlers learn.
Please contact the Family Services Division at 1-860-424-5540 or 1-860-424-5598.
Email your questions to: Family Services