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Family Ties Shift in Wyoming as Kinship Care Grows

PHOTO: Grandfather reading to child
PHOTO: Grandfather reading to child
May 23, 2012

CASPER, Wyo. - For more than 4,000 children in Wyoming, grandma, grandpa or an aunt is playing the role of "parent." And a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows it's a growing trend.

Wyoming Kids Count Director Marc Homer says keeping children's ties to extended family is important when they endure the stress of a separation from their parents.

"They're more successful in school, there's less absenteeism, and in the long term, fewer behavioral and psychiatric problems."

Children end up being cared for by relatives or close family friends because of military deployments, parental death, incarceration, substance abuse or mental illness, or child abuse and neglect. The report points out that many caregivers don't know there are resources available to help them cover the unexpected costs of taking in those children, such as SNAP, Medicaid, child care and TANF cash assistance.

Homer says most kinship caregivers in Wyoming are grandparents, and they face unique challenges in caring for children again. He finds that state policies are often difficult when care-giving needs to become permanent.

"Unfortunately, the path to permanent guardianship, or even adoption, is rather difficult. There's a lot of roadblocks and some of their rights are not really protected."

Nationwide, the report says the number of children in kinship care has risen 18 percent in the past decade.

The report,"Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families," is at
www.AECF.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY