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Report: Over 69-Thousand Virginia Kids Living with Kin

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PHOTO: Grandfather reading to a child
PHOTO: Grandfather reading to a child
 By Monique CoppolaContact
May 23, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. - Military deployment, death or job losses are just a few of the reasons next of kin, or close friends, step in to help raise children other than theirs, a situation referred to as kinship care. A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that, in Virginia, over 69,000 kids are living in this type of arrangement.

Amy Woolard, senior policy attorney with Voices for Virginia's Children, says there has been an increase in kinship care over the last few years, which is preferable to placing kids in institutions such as group homes.

"And it's really moving kids back into communities, back with their families, where we know they do much better educationally and behaviorally. I think we're quite a bit behind many other states in using kinship care, but we're kind of slowly waking up to the benefits of that for kids."

The report recommends states and communities do all they can to remove barriers many families face when it comes to kinship care, so that families and children have all they need to thrive.

Woolard says kinship families face many barriers in Virginia, from financial issues to bureaucracy, and the biggest hurdles can be for those in a less formal arrangement - meaning that social services and the state are not in the equation.

"One of the biggest barriers that we at Voices have been working on this year is actually school enrollment. A lot of communities in Virginia, a lot of localities, are requiring that these relative caregivers take formal custody of the children in their care before they're allowed to enroll in school."

A bill with bipartisan support that would have helped kids in kinship care more easily attend schools where they live was vetoed by Governor Bob McDonnell on Friday. State Senator George Barker (D-39) has planned a press conference regarding that veto for this morning (11:30 a.m., House Briefing Room, 910 Capitol Street, Richmond).

The report:"Stepping Up for Kids" is at www.aecf.org.

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