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300,000 NY Kids Have Their Grandparents to Thank on Mother’s Day

May 7, 2010

NEW YORK, N.Y. - More than 140,000 New York grandmothers and, perhaps, even a few granddads, will be receiving Mother's Day hugs and greetings this Sunday. These are mostly grandparents who have taken on the role of parenting a second time around so their grandchildren don't have to be in the foster care system. When parents face mental illness, terminal illness, are troubled by addiction, or in those cases when they are neglectful or headed to prison, someone has to take care of the kids.

Jerry Wallace, director of New York State Kinship Navigator, deals with those situations every day. He says this Mother's Day, about 300,000 children in New York can thank their grandparents for stepping up.

"To parent, a second time again, willingly at a later age with all the disadvantages that come with a sixty-year-old having a four-year-old - is an amazing act of love."

Nationwide, the 2000 Census determined 2.5 million grandparents are the sole caregiver for their grandchildren. New York State provides limited funding to help some grandparent caregivers, but that funding would be cut by two-thirds in the proposed budget.

State funding to assist kinship caregivers recently was cut from over $3 million last year, to under $1 million in the proposed budget. Wallace says New York will lose money in the long run, because it only takes a few children moving into foster care - at an average direct and indirect cost of $46,000 per child - to eat up the proposed savings.

"Forty-five children leaving the private kinship community and going into foster care would approximate the two million in cuts that the governor is doing. You're not only going to save any money, but children in foster care do not do as well. Children have better outcomes when with their relatives, than they do in foster care."

The cuts will likely come up for discussion next week. AARP New York is convening a "speak out" for grandparents with Assemblyman William Scarborough, chair of the committee on children and families, in Laurelton, Queens on Friday, May 14.

More information about the issue is available at www.nysnavigator.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY