Relative Caregiver Program


The Department of Children's Services (DCS) Relative Caregiver Program (RCP) supports children who are not able to be raised by their parents. The RCP assists and supports informal placements where the child is cared for by grandparents, aunts, uncles and/or other extended family members. 

DCS contracts with private community-based agencies to provide services in each of the 12 regions.

The Relative Caregiver Program can be helpful in cases where:

  • Children are abandoned
  • Both parents have died
  • A parent is incarcerated
  • A child is being abused or neglected at home

Placement with a caring relative can help prevent entry or re-entry into the state foster care system, while easing the pain and difficulty for the child. 

Families are eligible for the program by meeting the following standards:

  1. The relative caregiver must have primary care and control of the child through informal family arrangements or through legal custody or guardianship.
  2. The child must be age 18 or under. This extends to age 19, if the child will complete high school or any equivalent vocational/technical training before age 20.
  3. The relative caregiver and their spouse must take part in an in-home assessment and provide supporting documentation verifying program eligibility. The caregiver must agree to accept support services.
  4. The caregiver must be able to provide a safe home for the related child and be committed to providing that home as long as is necessary and appropriate, until the child reaches legal adulthood. The child must reside in the home with the relative caregiver, and this must be the child's primary residence.
  5. The relative caregiver must be related to the child by blood, marriage or adoption.
  6. To receive emergency financial or start-up assistance from RCP, the relative caregiver family must not be in receipt of any type of kinship payment or subsidy (e.g., Foster Care Board Payment, Families First Kinship Care Payment, or Subsidized Guardianship), and the household income cannot exceed twice the current federal poverty guideline.

Services Offered 

  • Family advocacy/short-term case management 

  • Youth/teen activity groups

  • Emergency one-time financial or startup assistance
Educational workshops 

  • Information and referral
Respite and enrichment
Caregiver support groups
Material assistance

Contact Your Nearest Community Partners

  • Shelby County – 901-448-3133
    UTHSC Center for Developmental Disabilities
  • Knox, East, Smoky Regions - ChildHelp 865-291-0289
  • Northeast Region - University of Tennessee 865-974-4422                                
Davidson County – 615-340-9725
    Family & Children’s Service
Hamilton County and Southeast Region – 1-866-735-8752
    Southeast Tennessee Area Agency on Ading and Disability 

  • Upper Cumberland Region – 931-476-4123
    Upper Cumberland Development District
Northwest and Southwest Regions – 731-694-5860
    Wo/Men's Resources & Rape Assistance Program (WRAP)
South Central Region – 615-943-3822
    The Center for Family Development
Mid-Cumberland Region – 615-340-9725
    Family and Children's Services

Learn more in the Relative Caregiver brochure