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Report: More MN Children Raised by Relatives

May 23, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The number of American children who are being raised by grandparents or other relatives continues to grow, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The research found that kinship care has grown by 18 percent in the last decade.

Marcy Jeffreys with the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota says many who take on the care of a relative's child face a variety of challenges legally, emotionally and financially.

"Especially in the case of a grandparent who's retired and now is having the additional cost of raising a child. So we need to have as many support services and financial assistance in place as we can to help these families, because in the long run we'll all be better off if these kids are raised in a healthy environment."

Priscilla Gibson, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota and an expert on kinship care, says it's important to support these grandparents and relatives, because they often provide the best option in what can be very stressful circumstances for the kids.

"They stay in care longer when they're with kin, than they are with strangers in foster care. The other thing that kinship care provides that 'stranger' foster care does not provide is a connection with family, a feeling of belongingness."

Gibson says there are many reasons why children may not have parents to raise them, from premature death and mental illness to drug abuse and incarceration. She also says, in raising their relatives' children, the people who are disproportionately represented are lower-income women of color,

"... who take on these children with few resources; and they continue to do it, the researchers say, because of an investment in family. They do not want their children to be in the foster care system."

The Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota is calling for greater state support for such caregivers. In Minnesota, about two percent of all children, or 21,000 kids, are in kinship care.

More information is at www.cdf-mn.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN