Kinship Care Families Step Up to Raise Children Despite Multiple Hardships

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Government and Communities Can Do More to Support Kinship Care Families

Kinship Care in Georgia
at a Glance

128,000 children in Georgia are in the care of their grandparents.

That is the 5th highest in the nation.

115,629 grandparents are the caretaker of their grandchildren (no parent present).

Of those grandparents, 23% live below the poverty level.

103,000 children in Georgia are in public and private kinship care.

This is a increase of 78 percent of Georgia’s children in kinship care over the past decade, compared to 18 percent across the nation.

While only 989 of Georgia’s children are in state-supervised relative foster care, they represent 14% of all Georgia children in foster care.

Whether kinship caregivers receive assistance from foster care or TANF, they receive much less financial support than the $990 USDA estimate of the monthly cost estimate to raise one child.

Kinship families in the Georgia foster care system receive an average per month of:

  • $355 for children birth to 5
  • $401 for kids ages 6 – 12
  • $457 for kids ages 13 and over
    (GA DFCS)

TANF Child-Only Payments in Georgia:

  • $155 for 1 child
  • $235 for 2 children
  • $280 for 3 children

A significantly increasing number of children over the past decade are relying on grandparents, relatives, and close family friends for the security of a home. More than 2.7 million children in the United States live in kinship care. In Georgia 103,000 children are in public and private kinship care. Our state has seen a rise in kinship care of 78 percent over the past decade, compared to 18 percent across the nation.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation today released a new report, Stepping Up for KIDS: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families, which examines the critical role kinship families play in protecting, nurturing, and providing primary care for these children, both inside and outside the child welfare system.

There is a growing trend of grandparents and other kin stepping up to take on more of the responsibility for raising children in a tough economy even when they have work and financial challenges of their own.

“While raising another family wasn’t part of their plan, they step up when called and make sacrifices,” said Gaye Smith, executive director of Georgia Family Connection Partnership. “Their loved ones need them.”

Most grandparents and other kinship caregivers face financial, health, housing, education, legal, and work challenges that often place their own work and retirement plans at risk. The increase in kinship care magnifies the need for more supports, resources, and services at the state and community level to allow these families to carry out this vital service more effectively, while still being able to build their own security for the future.

Kinship care families provide a safe, stable, and nurturing home for children suffering from the trauma of parental separation and other hardships. Children in kinship care fare better than their peers in foster care. They are less likely to experience behavioral problems, psychiatric disorders, and school disruptions, and they are better able to adjust to their new environment. Kinship care provides the best chance for these children to become successful and responsible adults.

According to Georgia Dept. of Human Services Permanency Director Deborah Burrus, Georgia has policy in place to inform families of their options and benefits once a child enters foster care. Kinship families receive subsidies based on the ages of the children in placement.

“Where we fall short is not having a formalized support system to stay in touch with families,” said Burrus. “A child separated from the birth parent experiences trauma. We don’t do enough to meet the child’s emotional and psychological needs through relative and kinship caregivers. I hope we can better support kinship caregivers with the training and resources they need to meet the child’s needs while in their care and move toward a long-term permanency solution that maintains the child in the community.”

Such a program began in rural South Georgia in 2001. The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, in collaboration with the School of Nursing at Georgia Southwestern State University, offered a multiservice, interdisciplinary Relative Caregiver Program primarily in the caregiver’s home. The program, based on a holistic, psycho-educational model, was designed for grandparents and other relatives raising children in Georgia’s rural areas of Sumter, Schley, Dooly, and Macon counties. The Department of Family and Children Services and other community agencies referred families to receive these ongoing services at the Institute:

  • monthly in-home sessions on topics relevant to the caregiver’s needs;
  • regular group sessions along with special programming for adults, teens, and children;
  • health assessments and referrals by nursing students and staff;
  • individual and group counseling; and
  • annual outings for both caregivers and children.

“The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving focuses on supports for caregivers across the lifespan, including the caregivers of children,” said Dr. Leisa Easom, executive director of the Carter Institute. “Community caregiver support programs are critical to enhance the health and well-being of the caregiver, as well as the ones for whom they are caring. As we plan for the future, we must remember that children of today are our caregivers of the future.”

Georgia Family Connection Partnership, as the statewide leader in collaboration for 20 years, is eager to serve as part of the solution to increasing coordinated, integrated community-based responses for kinship families and the vulnerable children in their care.

 “We must maximize our efforts to connect local and state partners, identify community needs and resources, bring the right partners to the table to plan strategically, and invest in model programs and effective practices at work in communities across our state,” said Smith. “Only then will we be equipped to protect children in kinship care, strengthen their families, and maintain the community and cultural connections they need to grow into responsible adults.”

Read the KIDS COUNT policy report, Stepping Up for Kids.

For interactive statewide data, visit Georgia KIDS COUNT.

Contact:

Naja Williamson
Georgia KIDS COUNT Manager
404-527-7394 (x133)
[email protected]

William Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director
404-527-7394 (x114)
[email protected]

Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP) is a public/private partnership created by the State of Georgia and funders from the private sector to assist communities in addressing the serious challenges facing children and families. GaFCP also serves as a resource to state agencies across Georgia that work to improve the conditions of children and families. Georgia KIDS COUNT provides policymakers and citizens with current data they need to make informed decisions regarding priorities, services, and resources that impact Georgia’s children, youth, families, and communities. Georgia KIDS COUNT is funded, in part, through a grant from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private charitable organization dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children in the United States.

The KIDS COUNT Data Center (datacenter.kidscount.org) is a comprehensive source of information where you can download this year’s complete Data Book and access the new mobile site being launched using your smart phone.