Kinship Care on the Rise

(See the bottom of this article for resources for Kinship Care Families) According to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families. 19,000 West Virginia children, and more than 2.7 million children nationwide, were cared for by extended family members and close family friends in 2010.  In West Virginia, kinship care has increased by 27% in the last 10 years. Overall, 1 in 11 children in the United States lives in kinship care at some point before the age of 18. One in 5 black children spends time in kinship care at some point during their childhood.
What is Kinship Care?
The term kinship care refers to situations in which children are cared for full time by blood relatives or other adults with whom they have a family-like relationship, such as godparents or close family friends. There are two main types of kinship care. Private, or informal, kinship care is an arrangement in which extended family members raise children without child protective services involvement. Public kinship care describes situations in which families care for children involved with the child welfare system. Kinship foster care describes the subset of child welfare-involved children who are placed with relatives, but remain in the legal custody of the state.

Who are Kinship Families?

Even though state and federal regulations prefer placement with kin over foster families who are strangers to the children, only 13% of children in West Virginia in state supervised foster care are in a formal kinship arrangement, while in the U.S. that figure is 26%. 63% of Kinship Care families are below 200% of the federal poverty line. 16% of Kinship caregivers are retired, 19% are disabled, and 60% are over the age of 50. Less than 12% receive TANF, even though nearly 100% of the children are eligible.  Only 17% receive child care assistance and 15% receive housing assistance. The report recommends that states take advantage of existing federal funding for these families
  • Increase their financial stability through TANF-funded programs specifically designed to meet their unique needs.
  • Remove barriers within the child welfare system through policies that formally seek to involve relatives in a child's care and through reforms to foster-home licensing requirements.
  • Establish laws and resources to bolster kinship families by promoting stable housing, access to child health care and community-based services for older relatives.

Assistance Available to Kinship Caregivers

In West Virginia and many other states people providing kinship care are eligible to apply for TANF (welfare) benefits for the child regardless of the caregiver’s income.  These families are also eligible to receive food stamps (SNAP) Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIPS), Medicaid, WIC, and other forms of state assistance. Families can also claim these children on their annual taxes and may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit as well as dependent care deductions. To find out more about services to help Kinship Car Families you can contact: WV DHHR Kinship Care Resources US Administration for Children and Families Kinship Care Resources Grandfamilies State Laws and Policy Resource Center AARP Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Guide Relatives as Parents Program National Committee of Grandparents for Children's Rights  

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