While foster parents continue to be the safety net for our country’s abused and neglected children, in recent years a significant change has begun to take place. More and more, instead of placing these children in the homes of strangers, caseworkers strive to place them in the homes of relatives or family friends, also known as kinship homes.
This change has resulted in more grandparents raising grandchildren then ever before. In 2012, National KIDS COUNT reported that 4% of all children under the age of 18 in the United States were living in a home where a grandparent was their primary caregiver. This number is likely to rise going forward.
New Jersey follows this trend, with grandparents, aunts and uncles and family friends being approached first to take in at risk children, rather than sending them immediately to foster homes. Kinship caregivers must become licensed, just as foster parents must, to take in children who are in the custody of the State.
The pros and cons of kinship care are well-documented. On the positive side, staying with a grandparent can be comforting to a child who lacks stability and may be frightened or confused. On the other side, grandparents may be overwhelmed with emotions for both the birth parent and the child. For this reason, as well as increased age and other factors, they may have a more challenging time caring for a young child or teen.
Grandparents raising grandchildren are often remembered with fondness and respect by their grandchildren when they are older. In her blog post The Ties That Bind – Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, FAFS CEO Mary Jane Awrachow shares her memories of growing up with her grandmother and how this experience impacted her life.
Are you a kinship caregiver? What are some of the unique challenges you face?