Increasingly, children in the United States are living in households with caregivers other than their parents. In cases when a child lives with grandparents, other relatives or close friends, those caregivers are referred to as kinship caregivers. Whether they are established formally or informally, this arrangement has increased by 18 percent between the years 2000 and 2010. A report by the Casey Foundation was recently released and brings up several family law concerns that should be addressed in these unique situations.
Generally speaking, children in California who do not live with their parents are often placed in either foster care or in the care of family members. In cases when a child is formally placed in the care of loved ones, it is considered to be part of the state-supervised foster care system. However, many of these arrangements are made informally, between a child's parent and other family members without the interference of the courts.
There is considerable trouble for people who are informally named as kinship caregivers. For starters, they are often trying to work their way through the confusing guardianship system on their own. They may not know what, if any, benefits they qualify for. In some cases, they are eligible for financial aid. Sadly, because of the way the system is set up, kinship caregivers are not always qualified to receive the same financial support that foster care parents receive.
However, the findings of this particular report suggest that kinship caregivers need to be better supported. Families or friends who take on the guardianship role of a child make a significant difference by keeping a family together. Instead of sending kids into the foster care system, kinship caregivers ultimately save taxpayers more than $6 billion a year by taking them in.
Therefore, kinship caregivers should not have to deal with the kind of challenges they are currently experiencing. They should be supported, both financially and emotionally, as they take on the role of guardian. It is generally agreed upon that children who are raised by loved ones do much better than those raised in the traditional foster care system.
Source: Fox News, "Report: More support needed for kinship caregivers," May 23, 2012