Editorial: NY Kinship care programs in critical need of help
Published: 2:00 AM – 03/24/13 in recordonline.com
“There is a quiet, enduring strength about the grandparents, aunts and uncles who suddenly find themselves raising children who aren’t their own. The kinship parenting trend they are a critical part of has grown to substantial proportions — and it has done so largely off the radar.
One of every 11 children in New York state will be raised at some point during their developmental years by someone who is not their parent. In Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, there are 6,500 adults raising someone else’s kids. Most of them are grandparents or other close relatives.
Circumstances ranging from the death of a parent to addiction or physical abuse are among the reasons why parents are no longer able — physically, psychologically or legally — to raise their sons and daughters. But the newest factor to accelerate the trend appears to be the sluggish economy.
Public funding for programs that support kinship parenting is dwindling.
The official who heads the statewide organization, Kinship Care Navigator, which provides information, support and referral services for relatives acting as parents, says many local programs have fallen victim to decreased government funding — even as the need for such programs as the Relatives As Parents Program increases. Jerry Wallace notes that at one point, there were more than 100 programs such as those in Orange and Ulster counties throughout the state.
Today, Wallace says, less than 10 have a chance of continuing.
The funding needs go well beyond the monthly compensation some receive for basic foster child care. Also critical are programs that help these new guardians navigate a full spectrum of difficult, life-changing issues — particularly for those who have never raised children of their own.
This is a complex playing field. Attempting to find your way through the maze of legal, health, financial and educational issues facing kinship parents is overwhelming.
And what about the emotional issues for both the children and the nontraditional parents?
About 60 percent of these nonparents are grandparents. They are not likely to be well equipped to understand the cultural, psychological and social dynamics that drive the lives of their grandchildren. Same for the children in reverse. They need help. They need to connect with others facing the same challenges. They need coping tools. They need access to the professional and peer-to-peer advice programs that RAPP and others provide.”
While these programs have had multiple funding sources during the years, many of those sources have ceased or reduced funding. Orange County RAPP, for example, is funded by various sources, but when a funding source backs out, others historically have followed. And this September, it is expected to lose its state funding. When that happens, RAPP will no longer be able to offer legal consultations or mental health services for caregivers under 55 years old (those 55 and older are covered under an Office for the Aging grant).
These programs need the support of local foundations and charitable groups during an era when state funding grows more scarce.”