With adults already thinking back-to-school, Probate Judge Beverly K. Streit-Kefalas reminds court-appointed guardians to apply for grants for school supplies. Probate courts have been awarding grants from the state Kinship Fund and Respite Fund to court-appointed guardians for more than a decade. As of last October, eligibility for the grants was expanded beyond relatives serving as guardians to all those appointed by the probate courts who meet low-income guidelines.

A guardianship case typically arises in the Milford-Orange Probate Court when parents are unable to care for their children due to mental illness, substance abuse or incarceration. In most cases, probate courts appoint a grandparent or other relative to care for the children. In some cases, courts appoint a close family friend who has a long-standing relationship with the child. While foster parents receive funds from the state, court-appointed guardians do not receive such benefits. Guardians who meet eligibility requirements can receive some assistance through the Kinship and Respite Fund grants.

“Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and close family friends who keep children in their familiar environments instead of entering state foster care not only benefits the best interests of the child but such family placements save taxpayers and the state tens of millions of dollars. In many cases, the guardians do not really have extra money to spend on a child’s basic needs,” said Judge Streit-Kefalas “Kinship and Respite Grants are there to help bridge the gap and make a huge difference to the households who are eligible to receive these grants.”

The New Haven Regional Children’s Probate Court handles all such guardianships serving children and families for the towns of Bethany, Branford, East Haven, Hamden, Milford, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, and West Haven.

The Kinship Fund assists guardians in paying for necessities such as school supplies, clothing, eyeglasses, school trips and sports fees. Often such expenses are paid directly to the providers. Kinship grants are capped at $500 per child or $2,000 per family per year.

The Respite Fund helps guardians with the cost of child care, housing, transportation and food. These grants are capped at $2,000 per year.

Guardians who meet income requirements may apply to both funds. Previous recipients must reapply to receive funds each year. Applications are posted at ctprobate.gov under the Children’s Matters tab. Send completed applications and supporting documentation to: Kinship and Respite Application Review Team, State of Connecticut, Office of the Probate Court Administrator, 186 Newington Road, West Hartford, CT 06110. For more information, call 860- 231-2442.