“Grandma Underground”: Kentucky Parents Fight for Kinship Care Subsidy

2013 was a difficult year for the child welfare system in Kentucky as budget estimates failed to cover its growth and several funding cuts were made. Among these cuts was the kinship care subsidy, which helps kinship parents shoulder the additional cost of raising their relatives. Now, kinship parents across the state are coming together through what Kentucky grandparent Norma Hatfield calls the “Grandma Underground.”

Kinship parents receive funds thanks to the Fostering Connections Act.

Across the nation, kinship care has largely been considered the way forward in child welfare. As covered in our previous article, “Kinship Care in the United States: An Overview,” we explained how child welfare in the US is shifting to rely more and more heavily on kinship caregivers. This comes in the wake of studies and other evidence that life with relatives provides fewer disruptions and more positive outcomes for children in care. To ensure fewer disruptions, kinship programs employ what is known as “presumptive eligibility” – that is, the state presumes that a relative caregiver is eligible to be a foster parent and will place the child with them before the standard background checks and inspections are completed, with the understanding the caregiver in question complete such processes as soon as possible. Presumptive eligibility also allows kinship caregivers to receive the kinship care subsidy while being processed.
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Kinship Care Trends Across the Nation

Widely regarded by child welfare professionals as the best placement option for foster children, kinship care has been on the rise in the United States. Collectively, child welfare agencies have been pushing for more kinship placements as reports show that outcomes improve for children placed into the care of relatives.   These kinship care trends are signs that our child welfare system is working.  From a legislative standpoint, however, the major breakthrough in kinship care came in the form of the Fostering Connections for Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (FCSIA, also known as the Fostering Connections Act).

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Laying the Groundwork for Kinship Care Trends

Passed in 2008, this bill paved the way for kinship care throughout the nation. Although “kinship care” as a concept was introduced to the US child welfare system as early as 1978 (way it was vs way it is link), it wasn’t until 1990s that it was regulated and supported by federal funds, becoming endorsed by the federal government as a specific program within foster care. At that time, more than 75% of the children in kinship care were in private or unlicensed homes.

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Kinship Caregiver Challenges – Where to Turn

Kinship Caregiver Challenges & Concerns

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Photo by Ricardo Santeugini

Kinship caregiver challenges are very similar to challenges faced by foster parents, but the emotional impact of raising a relative’s child is unique. While foster parents make a conscious, well-planned decision to take a child into their home, kinship caregivers often have to make the decision quickly and without preparation. Also, because the child is family, there are complex emotions that kinship parents must cope with, including being torn between the needs of the child they’re caring for and, in many cases, the wants of their own child.

There are many topics of concern that kinship caregivers face; here is a partial list: Continue reading

Kinship Care in the United States: An Overview

kinship care in the united statesThe number of children in kinship care in the United States is growing. This shift has led to new challenges for families and the development of special programs to meet their unique needs.

Across the United States, many aunts, uncles, grandparents, other relatives and family friends are providing care to children who are unable to live with their birth parents. This method of care is commonly referred to as kinship care. Relatives and family friends, who are known to a child, can often help ease the pain and sorrow of separating from a parent by offering a safe and nurturing environment. Continue reading

Kinship Care on the Rise

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.

kinship careThis 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. Continue reading