NATIONAL FAMILY CAREGIVER SUPPORT PROGRAM

In 2000, the United States Congress enacted the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). Although the legislation was originally designed to benefit only caregivers of relatives over the age of 59, it was altered before enactment to also benefit relatives over the age of 59 who were caring for children.

Operation of the NFCSP

Every year, Congress appropriates a sum of money for the NFCSP. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging then allocates the funds to the states’ agencies on aging proportionate to their percentages of the elderly population. Each state must provide matching funds totaling 25 percent of its allocation.

The state agencies then allocate the funds to programs serving the elderly population in their geographical areas, coordinating their services with other community organizations to avoid duplication of services and to enhance services available to those in their communities. Up to 10 percent of the money can be directed into support services for elderly Americans caring for their relatives, such as grandparents caring for their grandchildren.

Eligible Beneficiaries

Two types of people can benefit from NFCSP funds. The first group consists of individuals who take care of relatives over the age of 59. The second group consists of relatives over the age of 59 caring for children family members. To fall into this second category, three criteria must be met: (1) the elderly relative and the child must live in the same household; (2) due to the parents’ inability or unwillingness to tend to the child, the elderly relative must be the primary caregiver; and (3) the child and the elderly relative must either have a legal relationship with the child or must be caring informally for the child. Preference must be given to members of the elderly population who are needy or who are caring for persons with developmental disabilities.

Types of Supportive Services

Five types of services are supported through NFCSP funds: information, access, counseling, respite, and supplemental. The information services are designed to help caregivers identify services available to them, and the access services help caregivers procure those services. Programs that help caregivers learn about their roles and that support them in those efforts are also eligible for funding, such as individual counseling and support group organization. Respite care, in which caregivers are given time off, is also supported. Finally, some supplemental services are supported through NFCSP funds, such as legal services and family meals.