Kinship Care Legal Services Program

Keeping Children With Family 

Our Kinship Care unit provides free legal representation to relative caregivers of all ages in Erie and Niagara counties. Our clients are often seeking temporary or permanent custody of relative children (nieces, nephews, siblings, grandchildren) because the parents are unable to continue parenting. By placing children with a relative, they can avoid foster care.

In New York, it is estimated that there are 120,000-218,000 kinship families. Legal counsel is often needed to assist with custody petitions, court appearances and applications for financial assistance and benefits. CELJ attorneys can provide representation in these matters. Income guidelines may apply for those under age 55. To find out if you qualify for assistance, you can contact our intake line at 716-853-3087.


Download our Erie County Kinship Brochure here.


Download our Niagara County Kinship brochure here.

Keeping Children Out of Non-Relative Foster Care

Quality Representation

Know Your Options

Free Assistance


It can be difficult to know what to expect in Family Court. Generally, the Family Court staff cannot provide you with legal advice. Therefore, it is important to have an attorney to help you understand your options, and assist with petitions and court appearances. For a petition, you should be prepared to provide as much information as possible, including the names and addresses of the other parties, and the names and birth dates of the children. For court appearances, the court will want to know why the parents are unable to provide the children with care, and sometimes a hearing before a judge is necessary to resolve these issues.

The New York Kinship Care Navigator website is a great resource for kinship care families. Visit

Is Child Protective Services required to place a child with a relative rather than a non-relative?

The law does have some requirements that a “suitable relative” be located before placing children in non-relative foster care. However, CPS may not be aware of all relatives who are available as a resource. You may need to speak with the CPS caseworker to make sure that they know you are available.

I have been awarded temporary custody of a relative child- are there benefits available to help pay for their care?

“Child only” grants are available to relatives caring for children. You can apply for the benefits by filling out a TANF grants application and submitting it to the Department of Social Services.

What if Child Protective Services is not helping the family?

Depending on the case circumstances, you can file your own custody petition under Article 6 of the Family Court Act. If you need assistance, you can see if you qualify for our services by calling 853-3087.

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