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New Report Outlines Plan for Helping Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

The New York State Kincare Coalition has released its recommendations for a five-year plan of action to better support the grandparents and other relative caregivers who are raising more than 400,000 children in New York State. AARP New York is a member of the Coalition, which is a statewide network of organizations and agencies that are dedicated to empowering kincaregivers.

The report, titled Kinship Care In New York: A Five Year Framework, puts forth a number of recommendations aimed at crafting laws and policies to adequately address the unique needs of grandparent caregivers, who are the backbone of a growing informal caregiving population existing outside of the foster care system. By stepping in to care for their grandchildren when parents are unable to parent, these caregivers provide stability for children and keep the children out of the formal foster care system.

Yet, in New York and across the nation, the laws and policies governing non-parental care are often misunderstood or simply don’t exist.

Across the country 4.5 million children live in households headed by grandparents and an additional 1.5 million live in households headed by other relatives. Those numbers represent a 30% increase since 1990, and a 15% increase since 1997.

About 2 out of 5 of these children are there without their parents present. Sometimes a parent has died. In other cases, substance abuse or mental health disorders have afflicted parents. Some parents are incarcerated. Others are serving in the military. These grandparents and other relatives often have made great sacrifices to help care for and protect these children and would have it no other way.

New York State ranks among the top five states in the country with the highest number of children living in grandparent-headed households. It is also one of the ten states with the highest numbers of grandparents who report that they are responsible for most of the basic needs of grandchildren living with them. Many relatives hope they can continue to care for the children and keep them out of foster care, but they need help.

The recommendations in the report center around assisting grandparents in gaining access to existing services, providing special programs tailored to their special challenges, and enacting laws and regulations that support kinship rights, authority and needs.

“Many advocates and policymakers both agree that assistance to kincaregivers is a means to an end, which is ensuring that children have stable and productive home lives,” said Gerard Wallace, the author of the report and director of the New York State Kinship Navigator. “They also agree that despite this worthy goal, laws and policies still do not adequately support kincare families.”

The report draws upon numerous sources, including current research, model practices, and the recommendations from participants in the Coalition’s annual summit, Kinship Care in New York: A Five Year Framework for Action, which took place in Albany last November.

In its first published white paper in 2005 that was the outcome of a 2004 coalition summit, the Coalition recommended 17 actions to support kin caregivers, and helped to implement ten of those 17. The accomplishments included the passage of two laws which gave relatives increased educational and medial decision making authorities for children in their care, and increased opportunities of grandparents or other kin caregivers to become foster parents of relative children already in foster care system.

The full report can be viewed and downloaded from the New York State Kinship Navigator website.

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