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Report: More in MI Raising Kids "Family Style"

May 23, 2012

LANSING, Mich. - Nearly 60,000 Michigan children have something in common with the President of the United States: they're being raised by their grandparents or other relatives. According to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, nearly 3 million American children are being brought up by relatives or close friends of their families. That's an 18 percent increase in the last ten years.

Jane Zehnder Merrell, project director with Kids Count Michigan, explains why.

"Military deployment has been a big issue, and deportation. All of the stresses in modern society, particularly during this prolonged recession, have had an impact."

Merrell says more than half the Michigan kids in kinship care are being raised by grandparents, who struggle to make ends meet. Most are single and poor, and many don't realize that the children qualify for financial support. She says many state programs for these families have been cut from the budget, and things are not getting better.

Merrell says everyone agrees that staying with relatives is the best option for the children.

"That maintains the bond within the extended family; it represents less disruption for the child. The bad news is that we don't do much as communities and in state policy to support these families."

Merrell says Michigan grandparents often face legal issues around enrolling children in school or getting them health care. Many of the support groups that used to help have had to close their doors, and she says Michigan policymakers don't seem to be paying attention.

"These huge cutbacks we've seen over several years of budget deficits have been bad enough, but now, with revenues picking up, instead of talking about reinstating some of these vital programs, we're actually talking of making more tax cuts."

Merrell says some who are raising grandchildren are finding support through the University of Michigan's kinship care program, although that program is operating on a very limited budget.

University of Michigan resources are at

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

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MI