Kinship Care Providers: Overlooked Caregivers of Overlooked Victims
Daily we see news reports of someone dying from a drug overdose—another victim of the opioid crisis. What we often don’t see is the other victim—their children who are now parentless, coming from a chaotic home environment and often exposed to violence and neglect. These children are the overlooked victims of drug addiction and the majority are being raised by extended family. These kinship care providers are the overlooked caregivers of the overlooked victims.
From 2013 to 2015, the number of children in foster care nationwide jumped almost 7 percent, and parental substance use was cited as a factor in about 32 percent of all foster placements, a rise of 10 percent from 2005.
This number has continued to rise.
In 2015, 2.9 million kids were living with their grandparents due to parental drug addiction, up from 2.5 million in 2005.
This number has continued to rise.
The Burden on Kinship Care Providers
Generations United, a nonprofit working with kinship care providers, reports that grandparents and other relatives raising children actually save taxpayers $4 billion each year by keeping the children out of the foster care system, but many of those grandparents are struggling.
- 21 percent live below the poverty line,
- 39 percent are over 60, and
- 26 percent have a disability.
While few would say this themselves, in many ways they are also victims of the opioid crisis.
Not a Part of Foster Care
The vast majority of kinship care providers (grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers) do not have a formal connection to the foster care system and are not licensed foster parents. As such, they do not have access to the foster care financial subsidies and often lack training on how to raise children who have experienced trauma. In most cases, their lack of involvement with the foster care system is intentional.
Kinship care providers often say that they don’t have the time for 30+ hours of required training and often don’t appreciate the need for this training. After all, this is not their first rodeo—they have raised kids before and believe they don’t need the government telling them how to do it. It’s easy to underestimate the impact of trauma on a child and how that influences parenting.
Unwelcomed Government Oversight
Many kinship care providers recognize that being a licensed foster parent means having to follow governmental regulations, such as housing requirements, discipline practices, etc. Plenty of extended families are wary of voluntarily bringing that degree of oversight into their family and fear the loss of control.
Kinship Navigator Programs
What is a Kinship Navigator Program?
Kinship Navigator Programs are designed to provide information, training, referrals and other follow-up services to the grandparents (or other kinship care providers) who are raising the kids, as well as to the agencies and service providers who will be linking them to the benefits and services that they or the children need.
Impact of the Family First Act
The Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First), effective October 1, 2018, stipulates that now states can receive federal reimbursement for up to 50% of the expenses incurred when providing the Kinship Navigator Programs. Those services must meet specific “evidence-based requirements” listed in the Family First Act. The federal aid is available regardless of whether the kinship care providers qualify under the income eligibilities related to Title IV-E foster care funding.
In March of 2018, the federal budget designated $20 million for Fiscal Year 2018 to be dispersed to states, territories, and tribes for the development of Kinship Navigator Programs to be able to meet the “evidence-based requirements” and thus be eligible to draw ongoing federal funding for the programs.
How Do I Find a Kinship Navigator Program?
Currently, there are about 70 Kinship Navigator Programs across the United States. There are still some states that haven’t instituted a program, but that might have other similar programs in place to help kinship care providers. You can access individual state fact sheets here to determine programs are available in your region.