May 30, 2012: In the last ten years, the U.S. has seen an 18% increase in non-parent child caretakers (kinship care, which includes grandparents and other relatives and friends) -- because the parents "can no longer care for them," according to Kids Count Data Center, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Kids Count, which released its new data last week, reports that "an estimated 9% of youths will live with extended family for at least three consecutive months at some point before age 18...the likelihood that African-American children will experience kinship care is more than double that of the overall population, with [20%] of black children spending time in kinship care at some point during their childhood."
Definition of constituency:
Nationally, relatives or family friends are raising approximately 2.7 million children because their parents can no longer care for them. Kin and close friends step up to care for children for many reasons: parental substance abuse and mental illness; child abuse, neglect, or abandonment; illness or death; incarceration; and domestic violence.Children may also go to live with relatives because of military deployment, employment opportunities in other states, divorce, and deportation. In all of these very different circumstances, kinship care arrangements vary in length from several weeks or months to lifelong caregiving relationships.
The formal policy report issued by Kids Count, "Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families," urges "state policymakers to make crucial benefits and resources available to kinship families so that their children can thrive and have the best shot at becoming successful adults."
The data for California indicates that 330,000 children, 4% of the children in the state, live in "public and private kinship care." Another 16,338 are in state-supervised kinship foster care (28% of all children in foster care).
Highlights from the report:
*Only 9% of all children in kinship care live above the poverty line. 63% live 200% below the federal poverty line (FPL).
*Foster care and TANF (welfare) benefits "fall far short" of covering costs of raising a child (monthly base cost of raising two children is $1,980; TANF pays $344; foster benefit are $1,022).
*Kinship families have limited rights to act on behalf of the child's well-being, calling "attention to the need for comprehensive supports to address the common barriers facing these families."
*"According to US Census Bureau data, kinship caregivers are more likely to be poor, single, older, less educated and unemployed than families in which at least one parent is present ...
*..."foster care regulations...were not designed with relatives in mind. ...the failure of some state child welfare agencfies to inform caregivers that licensing is an option may also cause them to miss out on financial support and other benefits..."
The report hones in on three broad policy objectives:
1. Increase financial stability of kinship families
2. Strengthen kinship families within the child welfare system
3. Enhance other community-based and government responses for kinship families