Commentary

Resources for grandparents and other relatives raising children

Washington, D.C. – As students around the country return to school this month, millions of them will be coming home every day to households headed by grandparents or other relatives. Washington, D.C. – As students around the country return to school this month, millions of them will be coming home every day to households headed by grandparents or other relatives. According to new 2000 Census data, 2.4 million grandparents are taking on primary responsibility for their grandchildren’s basic needs. Many of these grandparents take on this responsibility without a parent in the home.

High rates of parental substance abuse, divorce, illness and death, child abuse or neglect, incarceration, and a downturn in the economy have resulted in significant numbers of children living with adult relatives who have stepped into the role of parent. The job of these kinship caregivers is especially difficult because often they do not receive the same supports and information typically available to parents.

In an effort to remedy this situation, a group of child and aging advocacy and research organizations has prepared Kinship Care Fact Sheets, which include state-specific data and information for all the states about where kinship caregivers can find support services to help make their jobs easier.

“Grandparents and other relatives who are raising children have taken on an enormous responsibility to make sure that we Leave No Child Behind®,” said CDF founder and president, Marian Wright Edelman. “Now we have the responsibility to make sure they have the help they need so their children can grow up and become successful adults.”

In a unique national partnership, the Children’s Defense Fund, AARP, Casey
Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support, The Brookdale Foundation, Child Welfare League of America, Generations United, The Urban Institute, and Johnson & Hedgpeth, Consultants have compiled and released the most up-to-date state information, including:

•Newly available Census data on the number of grandparent caregivers

•A comprehensive list of kinship care family resources and services

•State foster care policies for kinship caregivers

•Information about key public benefits programs

•State kinship care laws

“Kinship caregivers across the country will now have the key information necessary to find help and support where they need it the most-at home in their own communities and states,” says Ruth Massinga, president and CEO of Casey Family Programs.

While relative caregivers and child and aging advocates in a few states, like California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Florida, have managed to increase available services and supports, other states lag far behind – leaving caregivers and the children they are raising to fend for themselves.

“We know that an unprecedented number of older Americans are raising their grandchildren,” said Bill Novelli, executive director and CEO of AARP. “Now it’s time for the country to recognize this and support their contributions.”

The Kinship Care Fact Sheets are available for all states and the District of Columbia and can be found on the Web sites of all participating organizations, including:
http://www.childrensdefense.org,
http://www.casey.org/cnc/state_contacts/kinship_care_state_fact_sheets.htm,
http://www.gu.org http://www.aarp.org/press.

September 2, 2002
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