In New York State, more than 250,000 children are being raised by grandparents or other relatives who are not their parents, but serve as a primary caregiver. These informal care relationships are also known as Kincare.
Programs that support these families, keeping children out of traditional foster care are in jeopardy under New York State Budget cuts.
The 2011-2012 budget calls for cutting funding for the Office of Children and Family Services Kinship Program reducing it from $927,500 to $340,000. This amount is substantially lower than the $2.75 million in funding the programs had in the 2009-2010 budget year. AARP and Kinship advocates recommend fully funding the NYS Kinship Navigator and the 21 Kincare regional programs to $3 million.
“Cutting these programs does not make sense for the well being of the children or for New York State financially,” said Lois Wagh Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. “Without kinship programs that help children remain with a grandparent or family member, more children would be placed in foster care at a greater cost to the state.”
For every child who remains in kinship care and out of the formal foster care system, New York State saves at least $22,000 per year, per child. Kincare arrangements more often provide safer, more stable environments than foster care and cost the state approximately, $500 per child, per year.
Kinship Care in New York: Keeping Families Together, a report recently released by AARP and the New York State Kincare Coalition illustrates why these programs are so important. The children they care for may have experienced trauma, suffer emotional distress from the loss of their birth parents, or have physical or other developmental disabilities. Kinship caregivers must overcome numerous barriers, including enrolling children in school, getting medical care, accessing family rights, and obtaining necessary benefits.
"Without these state funds grandparents would not be able to receive the information and assistance they need to help support their grandchildren including linking them to resources, accessing benefits, individualized assistance, case management, support groups, as well as referrals for counseling and legal assistance,” stated Carolyn A. Portanova, Catholic Family Center President/CEO.
“Community programs have already faced cuts in the past, reducing respite and legal support services. Current needs are for material support (food, diapers, clothes, beds, school supplies etc), respite (during school breaks, summer, and ongoing for younger children), volunteers to provide transportation, assistance with finding affordable housing and subsidized legal support," continued Portanova.
Less than 26,000 children are currently in state foster care. The added cost of just 125 of these children leaving kinship care and entering the formal system would be close to full funding for the 21 regional kinship programs. More children leaving kinship care would add more children to the foster care system, driving the cost to the state even higher.
“Grandparents and relatives who care for children are a national resource,” stated Gerard Wallace, Esq., Director of the NYS Kinship Navigator, and national expert on Kincare. “Without them, tens of thousands of children would be in foster care. It's our nation’s family value and it's our tradition, and support for these caregivers means better outcomes for kids.”
Watch a news clip from our press conference and join AARP members across the state in fighting to save New York State’s Kinship Programs from Budget Cuts. Call 1-800-327-1198 and ask your state legislator to save Kincare programs in New York State.