September is Kinship Care Month:
Celebrating the Many Families Where children are Raised by Grandparents, Other Relatives, and Family Friends
Kinship care refers to the more than 150,000 New York children who live full time with grandparents, relatives and family friends. Their caregivers, who are frequently at or near income poverty levels, have multiple challenges — the additional costs of bringing children into their homes, the endless search for services, the fight to keep a family together, their own health needs, and planning a future for theirchildren.
More than 95 percent of New York's kinship children do not receive foster care benefits, although the reasons for their care are frequently similar to the reasons children enter foster care — parental abuse, neglect, abandonment, incarceration, death, alcohol and substance abuse, mental illness and similar unfortunate circumstances. Yet despite the obstacles, child welfare experts agree that kinship homes offer the best resources for vulnerable children, providing resilience, continuity, and unconditional love — qualities of care that can help even severely traumatized children overcome their struggles. Kinship care is indeed an indispensable part of the child welfaresystem.
The NYS Kinship Navigator is a statewide program that serves kinship caregivers, prospective caregivers, and professionals across New York State. It operates a toll free help line Monday- Friday 10:00am – 4:00pm which is staffed by a kinship specialist that can assist with information on financial assistance, legal assistance, support, and information about local kinship services. The program website at www.nysnavigator.org houses over fifty cited legal fact sheets to assist caregivers and professionals with common kinship issues. The program is also accessible via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Navigator is currently in its 9th year of operation, and has served over 11,000 unique kinship families. It also serves as a conduit for statewide and national kinship policy, including the recent success in establishing “Kinship Care Month” in New York State, to be celebrated in September.
Kinship Care Month is both a celebration and an advocacy strategy. It is a well-deserved opportunity to hold events that acknowledge the tremendous contributions of kinship families and to provide outreach to the kinship community and it is also an opportunity to educate policy makers and the general public. There is a great need for more programs and policies that support children being raised in kinship families, especially kinship families who do not have additional supports.
In 2014 and 2015, Governor Cuomo and the NYS Legislature issued resolutions proclaiming September as Kinship care Month. Other states are also celebrating Kinship Care, including Vermont, Virginia, and South Dakota. Many more are taking steps toward establishing Kinship care Month.
For more information on Kinship Care Month and for statewide events celebrating our caregivers, please visit our site at http://nysnavigator.org/pg/professionals/kinship-care-month.php, or call the program directly at 1-877-454-6463.