Category: ‘Kinship Research’

Placement versus Licensure: The Dilemma for Formal Kinship Care

February 20, 2014 Posted by Ali

Originally published in Fostering Families Today Jan/Feb 2014 Issue.

Placement versus Licensure: The Dilemma for Formal Kinship Care

One of my first experiences with a formal kinship family was with a spirited grandmother named Annette When CPS called, she unquestioningly accepted placement of her five grandchildren. The children’s mother had been murdered in front of them, and their father subsequently incarcerated. These children were lucky to have a stable relative willing to step in and provide fierce love and protection in addition to a connection to family and familiar community and activities, including school and church.

However, after several months had passed, Annette found she was spending much of her time fighting to become a licensed caregiver so she could get access to foster parent training, education in trauma informed parenting, and financial reimbursement. This was  time she would have preferred to spend providing additional care for the children, but the cost of their care had quickly drained her savings and she had to take a leave of absence from work to provide transportation for their many required appointments. She didn’t know how she could continue to support them.

A licensing worker had visited her home and said she would have to move into a larger house in order to have the correct number of bedrooms as required by licensing regulations. Event though the cost of moving was prohibitive, the child welfare agency said there was nothing they could do to assist her.

Annette did not understand why she had been approved for the placement of the five children if she did not meet the requirements for licensure. She was confused, overwhelmed, scared, and nearly broke caring for the five children. But Annette’s experience was not unique. While the number of unlicensed formal kinship caregivers is unknown, qualitative data suggests the number is not inconsequential, and this number is only likely to grow as the reliance on formal kinship care continues to expand.

Formal kinship care has increased over the past decades due in part to its well-documented advantages. Relative homes are just as safe or safer than non-relative placements. Children are less likely to be re-abused or neglected, they experience less placement moves, and are more likely to be kept with their siblings. If needed, kinship caregivers are more likely to provide permanency in the form of guardianship or adoption. Most uniquely, relative placements allow vulnerable children to maintain family and community connections (Kids are Waiting and Generations United, 2007).

While the increasing use of formal kinship care is positive, there are several factors at work that create a population of unlicensed caregivers. What relatives usually don’t understand when they receive the initial request to accept placement is that there are two different decision-making divisions in a child welfare agency: a division that makes a placement decision and a division that makes a licensing decision. These two divisions are often at odds and result in conflicting standards for relatives.

While Federal law supports relative placement, each state dictates separate requirements for foster parent licensing. These licensing requirements can go beyond what is required to meet the standards for placement; for example, the specific number and use of bedrooms for children. Relatives who meet the child protection standards for placement and already have children placed in their home may be surprised they do not meet the licensing requirements.

This disconnect in placement and licensing policy creates a two-tiered system of care for children placed in formal kinship care. Annett was denied a licensure based on the inadequate number of bedrooms in her home. With the placement, but without licensing, Annette became an unlicensed formal kinship caregiver, doing the work of a foster parent with no financial support.

Unlicensed relatives are provided a different level of support by the child welfare agency. Annette desired to be licensed in order to receive the same access to training and financial reimbursement  as foster parents. Unlicensed kinship caregivers have very limited access to training, support, and financial resources. For the foster children in their homes, unlicensed relatives are potentially unable to provide the same quality of care as licensed relatives. The children in unlicensed homes do not receive access to the same support, such as a caregiver trained in trauma informed care, a fully inspected home, and supplemental financial resources to sustain placement.

Kinship caregivers are exceedingly vulnerable to the financial strain of additional children. When relatives already have low income, accepting children without the option of licensing quickly pushes these families into poverty, forcing them to rely on other less adequate public support.

The gap between federal law around relative placement and state policies around licensing creates two different experiences of foster care for children in formal kinship care that varies in disparity state by state. Each state’s licensing policies must move toward being able to keep up with the needs of children in kinship care so this two-tiered system of care does not become further entrenched.

Let’s reflect back on Annette’s situation. The state placed Annette’s grandchildren with her and then denied licensing, creating incredible hardship for a family already hit by tragedy. Yet Annette, like many kinship caregivers, continued to care for the children as best she could, signing up for welfare and food stamps for the children and pawning most things of value in her home.

For many kinship families unable to find the resources to be licensed, the children, who are at the heart of child welfare, are the ones who lose most of all. To begin to improve the experience and outcomes for these foster children and their unlicensed kinship caregivers we must take a critical look at how law, policy and practice intersect to create the two-tiered system (licensed or unlicensed) that currently exists for formal kinship caregivers, advocate for more compatible placement and licensing standards, and reach out to surround kinship caregivers and the children in their homes with support the current policies fail to provide.

Kinship Care in the News 2012

January 14, 2013 Posted by Ali

Links to articles on Kinship Care published nationally and internationally in 2012. Happy Reading!

November 13, 2012: Kinship care on the rise in Massachusetts

Raising children is a challenge even under the most ideal circumstances, and the ideal circumstances are increasingly hard to find. Today, children are often born into less traditional families or to parents who are unable to provide them with the care necessary to live a healthy, happy life. While many of these children move into the foster care system or become adopted by another family, some are lucky enough to have a grandparent, aunt, uncle or other relative who can step in as a “parent,” both emotionally and financially…

Children whose parents are in the picture but are not capable of providing care face another huge emotional barrier: seeing their parents or even living with them, but not truly seeing them as parents. This can be problematic for the guardian as well, as they’re caring for multiple generations under one roof at a heightened age with parental roles seriously blurred.

Families experiencing the emotional and financial struggles associated with kinship guardianships or adoptions are often overlooked because these relationships are historically easier to adjust to than non-kinship adoptions, but their struggles are very real. In our state, the majority of kinship guardians are grandparents, 13 percent of whom are living in poverty, according to DCF. As a state, we do a great job providing services to these caregivers, including the Massachusetts Department of Social Services’ Kinship Care Resource program, but it’s important to continue to push our leaders to recognize the difficulties kinship families endure and make sure guardians are well aware of the resources that are available not only to them, but to the parents and children involved as well…Read Full Article Here

October 1, 2012: Kinship parenting on the rise in Vt, nationally

Essex, Vt. – On a recent morning in Essex, Vt., it was still dark; just after 6:00. But the Hamlin household was already wide awake. With five kids, there was a lot of hair to style, teeth to brush, backpacks to stuff, and even cats to chase.

But as New England Cable News learned on a visit with the family, none of the children are biologically Brenda Hamlin’s. “Who’d have thought we’d have adopted three grandchildren and be raising nieces?” Brenda Hamlin asked.

She already raised five kids of her own, but then took in three step-grandchildren, a niece, and a great-niece when their parents couldn’t care for them. “I really appreciated it,” said niece Brianna Caron, a high school junior. “It’s really nice.”

Hamlin said some of the children now in her care were born addicted to drugs. “If she didn’t adopt me, I don’t know what I’d be doing right now,” grandson Dyllan Hamlin, a seventh grader, said…Read Full Article and see Video Here

September 28, 2012: Richland County focuses on keeping kids with kin

The nation honors and salutes grandparents during September, and rightfully so. We owe them a national debt of thanks that grows larger with each passing year.

That is because today, more than ever, we rely on grandparents (and other relatives) to assist in the safe growth and development of children. It’s also why the federal and state governments have proclaimed September to be “Grandparent/Kinship Month.”…Read Full Article Here

September 18, 2012: Richland County focuses on keeping kids with kin

PIERRE | Gov. Dennis Daugaard has declared the month of September as Kinship Appreciation and Awareness Month in South Dakota to recognize the many families who have opened their homes to care for their kin in times of need.

Kinship care is a living situation in which a relative takes primary responsibility for the care of a family member, most often a child or elderly individual. Kinship care enables family members to live with people they know and trust, provides a sense of hope, and reinforces the family member’s sense of personal and cultural identity.

“We look for family members first and foremost to care for those who are found in an unsafe environment,” said Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Secretary of the Department of Social Services. “Families serve as the primary source of love, identity and support.”

The month of September continues as a time to honor and recognize kinship care, promoting awareness to those who play a valuable role in supporting children and elderly individuals in South Dakota.

August 27, 2012: Missionaries Urge Shift in Orphan Care

A new movement in orphan care seeks to place Third World kids with communities and kin instead of warehousing them in orphanages…Members of the network say they’ve realized what many full-time international missionaries have known for years: That in many cases the world’s 150 million Third World orphans are better served by their own families and communities than by orphanages… Read Full Article Here

August 6, 2012: Kinship Caregivers Gaining in Numbers

Toledo, OH —When Roy Jenkins was asked by the courts to care for his grandchildren, he thought the situation would be temporary, and they’d be living with him for a year or two. That was eight years ago. Mr. Jenkins, a North Toledo resident, is raising three of his grandchildren, ages 13, 10, and 8.

“It wasn’t where I expected to see my life at 53,” Mr. Jenkins reflected recently. “But I love my daughter and I love my grandchildren.”

He and his family are part of a growing group. Nationally, extended family and close family friends care for more than 2.7 million children, an increase of almost 18 percent over the last decade, according to a recent study about kinship care, “Stepping Up for Kids,” by the Annie E. Casey Foundation…Read Full Article Here

July 9, 2012: Florida’s Social Worker of the Year- Kinship Center Director Anne Strozier

Tampa, FL — USF’s Florida Kinship Center Director Anne Strozier earns local and state-wide recognition for her work.

…Strozier’s commitment and passion for studying the subject of kinship care in particular and helping the people engaged in caring for relatives’ children – is profound. That passion drives her to advocate year after year for the people she calls “unsung heroes.”  She’s active both locally and all the way to Tallahassee where she has taken on the job of educating legislators for the past decade.

‘Legislators have gone from questions like, ‘What is kinship care?’ to a greater understanding of the problems family caregivers face,” she said. “Believe it or not, there are more than 350,000 being raised by their relatives in Florida.  That’s more than the number of children in foster care in the state. Most of these are grandparents who thought their child-rearing days were behind them and who have had to put off retirement – sometimes indefinitely.

The most pressing issue is making the same benefits that routinely go to strangers available to relatives who care for their siblings, grandchildren, nephews, nieces or cousins whose birth parents are unable to do so.  In order to get help, children have to be removed from their homes and spend time the foster care system before official placement and many families understandably don’t want to put children through that.

“I never cease to be amazed by the extent to which people take on raising children with little or no help and sometimes these are people who desperately need financial and emotional support. Most are informal caregivers who don’t get the support they need.  They save states, counties and entire nations a lot of money because they love the children they are raising and want to keep them with the family.  But it costs a lot to raise a child.”

The center she founded empowers kinship care families by establishing and facilitating support groups.  Under her direction the center has developed curriculum and training for kinship caregivers and professionals and conducts research. ”…Read Full Article Here

July 8, 2012: Caregivers Worry About Funding Changes to Kinship Program

ST. PETERSBURG, FL —…[Catholic Charities] is the second subcontractor to pull out of the Pinellas County [Florida] program. Big Brothers Big Sisters, which served families from Gulf-to-Bay to Park Boulevard, ended its contract in October.

“We picked up that piece and expanded that service in a seamless fashion,” Rickus said. “They were looking to get back to their mission and Kinship Care was not their mission. I’m going to assume that Catholic Charities is in a similar boat. I know there’s been some good times and some challenging times in performing their contract. This is a very small contract for them.”

Now some caregivers are concerned that their families will lose the sense of belonging they have enjoyed by attending regular meetings at Catholic Charities….Read Full Article Here

May 23, 2012: More Support Needed for Kinship Caregivers

NEW YORK (AP) — As more of America’s children are raised by relatives other than their parents, state and local governments need to do better in helping these families cope with an array of financial and emotional challenges, a new report concludes.

Compared to the average parent, these extended-family caregivers are more likely to be poor, elderly, less educated and unemployed, according to the report, “Stepping Up For Kids”, being released Wednesday by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Yet despite these hurdles, child-welfare experts say children who can’t be raised by their own parents fare better in kinship care than in the regular foster care system.

“We urge state policymakers to make crucial benefits and resources available to kinship families so that their children can thrive,” said the Casey Foundation’s president, Patrick McCarthy.

According to 2010 census data, about 5.8 million children, or nearly 8 percent of all U.S. children, live with grandparents identified as the head of household. However, many of those children have one or both of their parents in the household, as well as grandparents.

The Casey report focuses on the estimated 2.7 million children being raised in the absence of their parents by grandparents, other relatives or close family friends. The report says this category of children — whose parents might be dead, incarcerated, implicated in child abuse or struggling with addiction — increased 18 percent between 2000 and 2010.

The majority of such living arrangements are established informally, but as of 2010 there also were 104,000 children formally placed in kinship care as part of the state-supervised foster care system.

These children accounted for 26 percent of all children removed from their homes by child welfare agencies and placed in state custody, but practices vary widely. In Florida and Hawaii, kinship care accounts for more than 40 percent of the children in foster care; in Virginia, the figure is only 6 percent.

Through the Fostering Connections Act of 2008 and other programs, federal funds are available to assist children who leave foster care to live under the legal guardianship of relatives. However, states vary in how generously they allocate such funds, and the Casey report said more outreach is needed to ensure that kinship-care families know their options.

“They’re trying to navigate this system on their own, and there’s not a lot of knowledge about what benefits they’re eligible for,” said Mark Testa, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Social Work.

“They’re actually doing a heroic job in keeping these kids part of the family, and they deserve our gratitude,” he said. “Without them, our foster care system would be overwhelmed.”

Donna Butts of the advocacy group Generations United estimated that kinship caregivers save U.S. taxpayers more than $6 billion a year by sparing state and local governments the cost of foster care.

“We shouldn’t then just leave them alone,” Butts said. “They need information, they need support, they need respite. Both the children and the caregivers need help.”

Among the problems encountered by kinship caregivers, according to the Casey report:

—Many of them take on children who were abused or neglected, and are coping with the trauma of family separation.

—They sometimes lack the legal authority for enrolling a child in school or obtaining medical care.

—Though most kinship families are eligible for federal aid through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, many caregivers are unaware of this option or are reluctant to apply because of perceived stigma.

—Their eligibility for financial aid may be constricted by licensing requirements that were designed for foster parents and aren’t always appropriate for kinship families. Such requirements might include foster-parent training programs and regulations pertaining to the square footage and window size in bedrooms.

“Under federal law, unless they can meet the same hypertechnical licensing requirements as strangers, they are not, in fact, entitled to the help that total strangers get,” said Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

Among the agencies viewed as a leader in the field is greater Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Department of Human Services, which makes kinship arrangements for more than half of its children in foster care.

“It’s much less traumatic if they can go to someone they know and love, and who knows them, as opposed to going to strangers, no matter how well-intentioned that stranger is,” said the department’s director, Marc Cherna.

The department policy is to pay kinship caregivers the same rates as other foster parents, and work with them on how to optimize the children’s long-term prospects.

According to the Casey report, one in 11 American children lives in kinship care for at least three consecutive months. For black children, the ratio is one in five.

Morrisella Middleton, 62, of Baltimore, raised two of her grandchildren for many years while also working full-time as supervisor of an assisted living facility. The children’s mother — Middleton’s daughter — had struggled with drug problems and their father died of cancer.

It wasn’t easy. Middleton went on disability after incurring congestive heart failure and hypertension, and relied almost entirely on Social Security benefits. Her grandson, Shane, also had chronic health problems related to lead poisoning, she said.

“I did not get the money like people do who are foster parents,” Middleton said. “The road has not been easy, but the reward has been so very satisfying. I see the fruits of my labors.”

Shane, now 19, recently began a job as a retail stock clerk. The granddaughter, LaQuanna, is 24 and works as a pharmacy technician.

Would Middleton advise others to consider kinship care?

“If you love these children and you want them to have a chance, then you don’t have a choice,” she said. “In somebody else’s home, or in a group facility, they’re not going to get the chance that you could give them.”

Read Full Article Here.

May 6, 2012: Resurrection: A Mother In Prison, and Out

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK — …Many children of incarcerated parents end up in kinship care—living with grandparents or other relatives. The other alternative is the foster care system. However, according to a 2011 report from the New York State Kinship Navigator, kinship care, not foster care, provides the largest single resource for placement of children with incarcerated parents…Read Full Article Here

May 1, 2012: Families Need More Support to Take on Caring Role

UK — The idea of children being cared for by members of their extended family is nothing new, in fact it has been around for centuries.

But increasingly it is being looked at as an alternative to taking children into local authority care or traditional fostering, as research suggests encouraging children and young people to stay with family members when they cannot remain with their own parents has a more positive effect on them. Read more: Families need more support to take on caring role | Redditch Standard

April 28, 2012: Kinship Foster Families Receive Little Reimbursement

ARIZONA — Criss Weeks and her husband didn’t expect problems last year when they began caring for two young grandsons and their twin newborn sisters.

But soon after Child Protective Services placed the boys, ages 3 and 4, in their home, the oldest began showing signs of trauma, the result of being pulled from his home and from whatever else he may have experienced while living with his mother.

About 80 percent of Arizona’s nearly 12,300 foster children live with families, either relatives or licensed foster homes, which research shows is best for kids who’ve been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect.

The Weekses provide what’s commonly called kinship care, and they get paid next to nothing for it. In Arizona and across the country, more than 6 million children in the U.S. are being raised by relatives, mostly grandparents…Read Full Article Here

April 26, 2012: Children’s Services OKs Privatization of Foster Care to Focus More Resources on Kinship Caregivers

COLUMBUS, OH — …Executive Director Chip Spinning said the change allows the agency to shift more staff members and resources to work with birth parents and with other relatives who are known as kinship caregivers.

Growing numbers of children are being placed with extended family members rather than in foster homes, and the agency needs to do more to help with stability and safety, Spinning said. Of the 21 staff members who now work with foster parents, none focuses exclusively on linking family caregivers to resources.

“We have 500 kids sitting in kinship-care situations,” he said. “If we don’t put a support system in place, they’ll come into our system.” …Read Full Article Here

April 26, 2012: Labour Party Calls on the First Minister to Pay Kinship Carers Equal to Foster Carers

SCOTLAND — …”It is deeply unfair to expect a grandparent or other relative to bear all the expense of bringing up that child just because they are related.”…Read Full Article Here

April 20, 2012:  Arbroath Woman Sets Up Caring Support

ARBROATH, UK — AN ARBROATH woman is behind the creation of a support group for families that raise the children of relatives as one of their own.

Jackie Lonie has set up Angus Kin (Akin) a support group that aims to provide advice, friendship and practical help for the potentially hundreds of Angus families that keep young relatives out of the foster system by taking them in…Read Full Article Here

April 19, 2012: Need Assistance? Check in Gramma’s Cupboard

CATTARAUGUS, NY — Many grandparents and other family members find themselves raising grandchildren or children related to them…Read Full Article Here

April 12, 2012: More than 2.5 Million Grandparents Take on the Role of Parent

USA TODAY —…Grandparents who assume the responsibility of raising their grandchildren have a unique opportunity to play an important role in their grandchildren’s lives. “We’re talking about shaping another human being’s life and giving these kids a chance at having a more promising future,”…Read Full Article Here

April 12, 2012: Kinship Caregivers Get Shut Out: Children’s Board of Hillsborough County cuts Kinship Caregiver Programs

TAMPA, FL — …Kinship caregivers are raising more and more children who would have been placed in the much more expensive foster care system. Now those children may once again fall through the cracks...Read Full Article Here

April 11, 2012: Wildrose Caucus Candidate Jason Hale (Canada) Includes Help for Kinship Caregiver as Part of Campaign Pledges

STATHMORE, ALBERTA — I along with Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Caucus will initiate the following policy improvements related to Senior’s Care and Health Care for the Strathmore-Brooks Constituency:

Senior’s Care – I/we will: Introduce a “Kinship” care program where family members who would otherwise be employed are compensated to provide extended care for their loved ones… Read Full Article Here

March 20, 2012: [NY] Catholic Charities’ Kinship Program Helping Relatives Raise Relatives

FULTON, NY – Caregivers who find themselves raising their relatives’ children are able to access a program that can prove to be a valuable resource.  Catholic Charities of Oswego County’s Kinship Program is designed specifically to provide support to caregivers, who, through a variety of circumstances, have taken on the responsibility of raising their relative’s children…Read Full Article Here

March 14, 2012: [California] Kinship caregivers struggle without state support

When Hazel Wingate’s 61-year-old brother told her he was going to have a child, she was 62. Wingate assumed that the child would be cared for by his mother, as were her brother’s five other children.

But this mother had a drug problem…Read Full Article Here

 March 1, 2012: VA’s Kinship Care Bill Could Open The Door To ‘School Shopping’

…Senate Bill 217, sponsored by state Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, would require school districts to allow kinship caregivers — grandmas, grandpas, aunts and uncles — to enroll children who live with them in the public schools within the districts of the respective caregivers.

Educators, such as those in Williamsburg and Fairfax County, worry the state will force them to open their doors to students looking for top-notch academics and diverse extracurricular activities, even though the student may, at least technically, reside in another school district…Read Full Article Here

Support Gap in Kinship Care

July 8, 2012 Posted by Ali

Happy Sunday! Every week or so I browse the web to gather kinship news from across the US and post it in our news section here. This week I came across a well written blog post that calls out the benefits of kinship care for children and the lacking governmental and financial support for kinship carers by John Oliver Santiago for the New American Media Entho Blog that I would like to highlight.

Support Gap in Kinship Care

“There are currently 2.7 million kids in the U.S. who are under kinship care. And according to a recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, this number has increased 18% from 2001 to 2010. There are many ways children can end up in kinship care including parental death, incarceration, abuse, or service in the military.

Kinship care includes children who are currently under the care of non-parental relatives: grandparents, uncles, aunts, or family friends, and can be broken down into two types: private or public. Private kinship is an informal arrangement made within the family, while public kinship is made through the foster care system.

Since one in every four foster kids are already living with relatives, it’s surprising that more aren’t placed under public kinship care. The foster system is a highly bureaucratic process meant to ensure the utter safety of these kids, but has this produced an oversight where kinship care is leapfrogged and kids in the foster system are placed with strangers?

For example, a longtime friend has been trying to gain custody of her two younger sisters for the past few years. Though she and her father live together and show a capacity to provide for the two sisters, they’ve only succeeded in gaining visitation rights and time spent with the girls. The many legalities that the family has to go through to gain custody has only brought further emotional toll on all parties involved.

According to the study, placing kids in kinship care eases the emotional toll of parental removal. But kinship care is also burdened with many problems, namely a lack of government support.”to read the complete post, visit the blog here.

If you have any personal stories of experience with kinship care you would like to share here, please contact ali@fosterkinship.org.

New Report Highlights Strengths, Needs of Kinship Caregivers

May 29, 2012 Posted by Ali

The Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT policy report “Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families” was released last week, and shines a bright light on the strengths of kinship caregivers as well as the needs of kinship families.

Kinship care refers to private care without child protective services involvement as well as public kinship care in which families care for children who are involved with the child welfare system. There also is kinship foster care, which describes the subset of children who are placed with relatives but remain in the legal custody of the state.

According to the report, 1 in 11 US children lives in kinship care at some point before the age of 18. Nationally, these 2.7 million children are being raised by grandparents, aunts, and other relatives who step in when parents are unable to raise their children.

The report estimates that in Nevada, 19,000 children are in kinship care with no parents present. Foster Kinship, a Clark County nonprofit supporting individuals caring for their relative’s children, estimates the number of relatives supporting children as much higher when you add in the individuals who are heads of the household and responsible for children other than their own. The 2010 US Census for Clark County, NV shows 19,000 grandparents who are in some way caring for their grandchildren, and the number of children in Clark County, NV living in grandparent-headed homes today (35,451) is up by 5,000 from 2008 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010; Las Vegas Junior League, 2008).

“A growing body of research confirms that, in most circumstances, kinship care is the best option when children cannot live with their own parents,” the report states.  Placement frequency, attachment disorders, caregiver perception of the child and community connection are all more favorable in kinship care than unfamiliar foster care.

However, kinship caregivers are often unprepared for the challenges of “second time parenting” and the multiple systems they will encounter as they raise the child. The caregiver often lacks the necessary legal authority to enroll a child for school or give medical consent.

Caregivers may also be unfamiliar with available government support programs or struggle to access them, including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the federal financial aid program for low-income families. Less than 12% of kinship families receive TANF payments, although nearly 100% of the children in these families are eligible.

“Kinship caregivers, whether they obtain assistance from foster care or TANF, receive much less financial support that what the USDA estimates it costs to raise a child,” the report explains.  As an example, a kinship caregiver raising two children outside of the foster care system, TANF benefits would only provide $344 per month, just 17% of the estimated $1,980 needed monthly.

Most families who receive TANF payments still need support, as the caregivers are likely to be poor, single, older, less-educated and unemployed, which makes taking on child care and health insurance costs an extra burden.

The report states private health insurance usually covers only biological and adoptive children, not children in kinship care, and caregivers are often unaware of children’s eligibility for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“An advocate for the kinship caregiver is extremely important,” says Ali O’Donnell, founder and executive director of Foster Kinship, “that is why we focus our resources and support exclusively on kinship caregivers. Informing and supporting kinship caregivers strengthens the families and increases the children’s chances for long-term success.”

“Kinship care helps protect children and maintains strong family, community and cultural connections. When children cannot remain safely with their parents, other family and friends can provide a sense of security, positive identity and belonging,” the report summarizes. Foster Kinship’s services aim to “stand in the gap” for caregivers and provide the support and resources to care for their relatives, and help keep home in the family for vulnerable children. Where services are not already available in the community or fall short of the needs of the family, Foster Kinship will work to provide assistance to this population through kinship caregiver support groups, resource direction, family days and financial support.

For more information on kinship caregiver assistance in Clark County, NV, or to find out how you can help, please visit www.fosterkinship.org or call (702) KIN-9988.

 
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