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Relatives Raising Children/Extended Family Support

The State of Illinois honors caregivers who have "stepped up to the plate" to care for a relative’s children, including over 100,000 grandparents caring for their grandchildren on a long-term basis. There are many resources and programs in place to help; however, navigating the system may sometimes feel like an overwhelming task. These resources are a good starting point for relative caregivers who are again raising children.

Extended Family Support Program (EFSP)
The Extended Family Support Program assists relative caregivers who are caring for their relative’s children who are not part of the child welfare system. Services include:

  • Help obtaining guardianship.
  • Help obtaining the Child Only Grant and other entitlements and benefits.
  • Help enrolling the children in school.
  • Referrals for other services.
  • Cash assistance to obatin guardianship and to meet the child's basic needs.

To inquire about receiving EFSP services, call the DCFS Hotline at 1-800-252-2873. We encourage you to say: "I am caring for my relative’s child. I have been caring for them for more than 14 days. The child is not being abused or neglected but I need help. I would like to be referred to the Extended Family Support Program."

Please note, EFSP does not provide a monthly stipend.

For more information, watch the Extended Family Support Program training video, read the brochure in Englishespañol or Polish (Polskie); or contact the EFSP coordinator at

The DCFS Advocacy Office
The DCFS Advocacy Office for Children and Families works as a liaison between the Illinois Department on Aging and DCFS. The Advocacy Office offers assistance to older caregivers with issues involving the children who have been placed with them.

Family Advocacy Centers
Family Advocacy Centers (FACs) support families in the community, including families headed by a relative caregiver, through services including parenting classes, tutoring and support groups. There are 30 Family Advocacy Centers across the state operated by 25 service providers. FACs maintain a focused, holistic approach that builds on a family’s existing strengths.

Service Provider IDentification and Exploration Resource (SPIDER)
The Service Provider IDentification and Exploration Resource (SPIDER) is a free, comprehensive service resource database for youth and families in Illinois. SPIDER connects you to nearby organizations offering programs and services to support children and families, including detailed information on more than 1,700 agencies and over 4,200 social service programs. All agencies and programs are geo-coded to allow you to locate resources near your preferred location.

SPIDER provides detailed information on agencies and programs that offer mental health services, caregiver support, educational advocacy, vocational and employment training, mentoring, enrichment programs like leadership development and after school programs and much more. To begin using SPIDER, click here:

To learn more, read the SPIDER brochure in English or en español.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren in Illinois program
The Illinois Department on Aging’s Grandparents and other Relatives Raising Grandchildren Program offers:

  • Information to caregivers about available services.
  • Assistance to caregivers in gaining access to services.
  • Individual counseling, support groups and caregiver training.
  • Respite care to enable caregivers to be temporarily relieved from their caregiving responsibilities.
  • Supplemental services, on a limited basis, to complement the care provided by caregivers or address a short-term caregiver emergency.

Local Area Agencies on Aging plan and coordinate services and programs for older caregivers across Illinois. View the Illinois map to find the agency nearest you.

Custodial Back-up Plan
A Custodial Back-up Plan allows families to decide who will care for minor children in the event of a caregiver's illness, death or incapacity. In the Chicago area, Greenlight Family Services provides low cost legal and social services to assist the families in this planning. In other areas of the state, local Area Agencies on Aging can recommend local service providers. Types of back up planning include Standby Adoption, Standby Guardianship and Short-term Guardianship

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
You do not have to be a guardian of the child to receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and your income and assets are not counted in the child's eligibility. There are two types of TANF assistance: Child Only Grants and Regular TANF Grants.

Child Only Grants provide, regardless of the grandparents' or other relative caregiver’s income, a small grant of approximately $100 per month. Children receiving this grant automatically qualify to receive medical assistance. If the grandparent is working, the child may also qualify for day care assistance. Eligible children can receive monthly assistance until they reach the age of 18.

Regular TANF Grants are available if grandparents have a limited income. This amount is greater than the child-only grant. Grandparents are then subject to work participation requirements. The benefits are limited to a period of five years.

Social Security
A grandchild may be eligible for benefits on the work record of a parent. If the child is not eligible for benefits based on the work record of the parent, and if one of the parents is deceased or disabled, the grandchild may be considered a "child" of a retired grandparent for the purposes of benefits. The grandparent would then receive dependent benefits for the grandchild in addition to the grandparent's regular benefits.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps, helps low-income individuals buy food. The benefits are provided on the Illinois Link Card, an electronic card that is accepted at most grocery stores.

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
A low-income guardian of a child under five years of age may be eligible for WIC assistance. WIC provides special checks to buy healthy foods - like milk, juice, eggs, cheese, cereal, dry beans or peas and peanut butter.

Medical insurance
There are several sources for medical insurance for a grandchild. First, a grandparent's employer-provided health insurance plan may provide benefits to dependents. Second, if a grandparent is receiving the TANF "child only" grant, the child will qualify for Medicaid. Third, if the grandparents are low-income, the Illinois AllKids program offers health care coverage to children.

Child support
In order to collect child support for a grandchild, there generally must be some type of order entered as to custody. If so, a grandparent may contact the child support enforcement agency for his or her respective county.

Need help or want to know more?
For more information, read the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren brochure in English or en español.