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Report: Kinship Care Families Short on Support

May 23, 2012

PHOENIX - Some 60,000 Arizona children are in what's known as "kinship care" - meaning that a grandparent, other relative or family friend is raising them. A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation says these kinship caregivers aren't getting the support they need.

Kinship care, says Children's Action Alliance president Dana Naimark, is an unexpected, large and expensive responsibility that people are taking on at a time when they may be planning for retirement or traveling.

"Many of these caregivers are struggling with health issues. They struggle with housing once they have grandchildren living with them. They struggle with medical care, for them and for their grandkids, and also dealing with the trauma that the grandkids have suffered."

The Casey report says more states need to adopt policies that are helpful to kinship caregivers, and that caregivers need to be made aware of federal, state and private programs available to help them raise the children in their care.

Laura Jasso, who chairs the advocacy group Arizona Grandparent Ambassadors, says kinship caregivers need to have more visibility with state policymakers.

"What we want to do is teach grandparents to advocate for themselves, to let legislators know and other people know we're not here for handouts. We're here to raise good Arizonans, and we just need some help."

Naimark says Arizona's kinship families have suffered from what she calls "shortsighted" state budget cuts.

"Three years ago, there was a budget cut that wiped out services for 9,000 children being raised by relatives. We need to make sure these families are very visible and that lawmakers are thinking about the consequences of their actions."

One way lawmakers could help, Naimark says, is by passing a bill to grant kinship caregivers a $75 monthly stipend to buy things such as shoes and book bags for the children they're raising. The bill went nowhere in the last legislative session, she says.

"Not only did that bill not pass, but it never even got a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The fact that it couldn't even get a hearing really doesn't say much for our lawmakers paying attention to these families."

The report, which highlights policies some states are pursuing to help kinship families thrive, is online at aecf.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ