Over the past decade, the number of children raised in kinship care — that is, by grandparents or other relatives or family friends — has increased 18 percent, a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds.
Issued as part of the foundation's KIDS COUNT series, the report, Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families (20 pages, PDF), found that approximately 9 percent of youths will live with a member or members of their extended family for at least three consecutive months at some point before the age of 18 because their parents can no longer care for them. The report also found that these arrangements often involve family members and friends with limited incomes who struggle to meet the basic needs of children in their care — a challenge that could be alleviated with improved awareness of and access to government and community-based programs.
According to the report, kinship care is particularly prevalent in African-American families, where children are twice as likely to be raised by extended family or close friends at some point in their lives as children in the general population. Moreover, kinship caregivers often have to contend with children who are traumatized by separation from their parents, are unable for legal reasons to enroll a child for school or give medical consent, and are likely to be poor, single, older, less educated, and/or unemployed.
"The Casey Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of children and families, and that includes supporting extended family and others who take on the responsibility of raising kids," said AECF president and CEO Patrick McCarthy. "Research shows kids fare better when they remain in the safe, stable, and familiar environment that relatives can provide. We urge state policy makers to make crucial benefits and resources available to kinship families so that their children can survive and have the best shot at becoming successful adults."
“More Children Raised by Relatives and Family Friends, Report Finds.” Annie E. Casey Foundation Press Release 5/23/12.