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Report: "Parent" is a Relative Term for 100,000 PA Kids

PHOTO: Grandmother and teen granddaughter
PHOTO: Grandmother and teen granddaughter
May 23, 2012

HARRISBURG, Pa. - For more than 100,000 Pennsylvania children, the roles of "mom and dad" are being played by grandparents, or other relatives or close family friends. It's called kinship care, and according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, it's becoming more common.

Michael Race, communications director for Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, says kinship care offers children distinct advantages over other living arrangements.

"Generally, that means they get to stay in their community, they get to stay in their schools, they get to stay in a setting that they are comfortable with, and that helps them thrive."

The report estimates that 9 percent of American children will live with extended family for at least three consecutive months before they turn 17. Race says Pennsylvania is seeing clear signs it's happening more here.

"That 101,000 Pennsylvania children in kinship care is a figure that has more than doubled in the past decade."

Race says there is dialogue happening now in the Pennsylvania legislature on an initiative called "Fostering Connections," aimed at improving permanent placement options for children in state care. It also targets 18-to-21-year-olds who've been raised by people other than their parents.

"A lot of those kids are in kinship care, and in terms of addressing the financial challenges, if we implement Fostering Connections as part of the budget, we'll provide greater financial support to kinship families and other foster families."

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

The report recommends that states make it easier for kinship caregivers to access resources, such as eligibility for foster care reimbursements. Race says those resources can be a game-changer for households that may already be struggling financially, even before taking on the responsibility of raising another child or children.

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

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA