COMMENTARY

A reminder to lawmakers about Kinship Care

Posted

In 2017 and early 2018, I delivered a petition containing thousands of stories of personal struggles from across the Commonwealth of people needing assistance asking legislators to fund Kinship Care. 

They were grandparents, aunts, uncles and more, asking for help for children in their care.  They were not the biological parents, but relatives known as kinship families.  They are family members who stepped in at a moment’s notice and took custody of children; many whom were removed from their homes due to neglect and abuse. 


There was Katie, a 23-year old single mother of two, who was called to the school where her nieces and nephews attended.  When she arrived, she found her sister in handcuffs and the kids in tears.  She took 3 kids and instantly became a caretaker of 5.  She wrote how the children suffered starvation, physical, mental and sexual abuse.  Her letter begins with, “The State is failing me … I’m lost between the cracks.”  Katie’s budget didn’t include 3 more kids, but she took them in a heartbeat.


Teresa and her husband, who are in their 50s, received custody of five grandchildren, ages 1-7.  The youngest was born with several drugs in her system suffering terrible withdrawal symptoms.  Teresa had to quit her job because babies born addicted to drugs require intense care.   This is a common occurrence.


There were stories from single grandmothers in their 60s and 70s just getting by on social security before taking in 4-8 children.  They rapidly drained their life savings and went deep into debt, putting their own future in doubt while facing homelessness.


Kentucky has the highest rate of child abuse in the nation and the highest rate of children living with non-parental relatives.  Kentucky has the highest rate of children born addicted to drugs.  There isn’t enough aide for all of these children who are innocent victims.


There are always some whose perspective is that family should take care of their own.  My response is that it’s not ‘business as usual’ we are living in epidemic times.  No one thinks twice about catastrophic situations where people lose everything and federal, state and other agencies step in and provide help to rebuild lives.  These children in essence lose everything and walk into a relatives home with what’s on their backs regardless of the circumstances of their caregiver. 


By not actively assisting today we are participants in potential cyclic colliding multigenerational catastrophes.  We’re allowing thousands of aging adults to go bankrupt draining state resources later.  We are perpetuating the drug epidemic as studies show that traumatized children in deep poverty turn to drugs, prostitution and more.  Helping these children earlier provides a better societal long-term investment.


Prior to 2013, Kentucky had a Kinship Care Program which provided $300 a month per child.  This lifeline recognized the plight of kinship families. It was more cost effective and better for the children than foster care, which pays approximately $700 per month per child.


The program was halted in 2013 but the number of children with kinship families grew.  Kentucky went from 53,000 children in 2014 to 100,000 in 2019. Those that needed and requested help over these past few years got caught in the gap, forgotten and waiting.


In 2019, the federal government recognized needs for kinship children and provided funding with the Family First Act.  However, many families from 2013 to 2019 are ineligible for Family First foster assistance or the old Kinship Care subsidy. These were and are the letter writers pleading for help for their kids.


In 2018, Kentucky legislators tried to restore Kinship Care, but many still go without.  Some point to the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program (KTAP) which provides modest assistance, but excludes many due to program restrictions.  These restrictions include a family limit of seven children. Kids are penalized for being in large sibling groups.


Looking to the future with Family First initiatives, we can’t forget those caught in the gap. We must creatively re-address kinship programs and ensure these kids are not penalized because they are with family. Kentucky’s children count on us to get this right.


NORMA HATFIELD is a grandmother raising two grandchildren, President of the Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky and a member of Grand Voice Network, Generations United

Comments

5 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
LMS for AMJ

These kids need more assistance. My niece was placed with me through PNP when she was a baby. Both her parents were incarcerated for drugs and crimes and her natural mother (my sister) gave birth while in prison at a prison hospital. At that time her natural father was also imprisoned. Both her natural parents were incarcerated for the first 10 years of her life. a DECADE without her parents because of drug addiction.

We have received the Kinship care benefits of the old program and nothing more for ten years. Now we are caught in the gap between the old Kinship program and the new Families First and foster care initiatives, and we need to get more assistance and benefits, and we are hoping to be heard. I was told that she had to be placed back into the system with PNP and then designated as a placement to me if we wanted to get what the new Kinship program offers. I don't trust that. I'm working full time as I have her entire life, and I am a single woman with needs of my own. I run a household by myself and am low income. I have only my income. My niece should be considered as having her own household/income considerations, and my income should not count against her receipt of services, what little I have.

We are in need of benefits more than what the old Kinship program provides. After 10 years, we are only just now being told we could get help with child care and day care expenses. BUT even with that, there are no facilities offering this care, and/or they are full with more than a year wait for some of them. I spent 10 years (not knowing we were even eligible after all the years of my writing and emailing for more help) - to supplement the cost of her daycare, after-school and child care costs, and the two together still do not cover even child care, much less food, clothing, school supplies, extracurricular programs, to name a few things. Although I'm GRATEFUL for the help, the kinship monthly stipend has historically only paid for me to be able to maintain my full-time working status in order to raise my niece. Without Kinship and health insurance, we would absolutely not be able to manage.

Why can't our children get food under "child only" benefits?

My niece deserves to have at least the same benefits as a child in the foster care system or new Kinship incentives. She is with family. Her success, happiness and well-being is in the hands of someone (me) who is her blood relative, instead of having been placed in foster care under who knows what conditions causing a lifetime of pain. Foster care is important and much needed, but it's my belief that we need to allow families FIRST the opportunity to step in and put the funding there, not back into the "system" at a higher cost.

Please stop taking kids away from family just to pay more to have them with strangers and tossed around in the foster care system, which is becoming unmanageable due to the amount of need. Stop encouraging foster care, and encourage FAMILY care. Please stop discouraging families from caring for their kin folk.

All children in the system deserve better, and the families caring for their families should get some kind of recognition and compensation for keeping those children out of the foster care system Thank you for listening and considering change for the betterment of all our children and community.

Thursday, January 30
Joyce

This story effects so many relatives! More than you could even imagine! I am a grandparent stuck in the gap for much needed assistance!these or kids didn't ask for the life c handed to them and we are just trying to give them the life they deserve! To be a kid safe and secure! Go to Amy school and look around or any neighborhood, today the grandparents raising their grandkids is the norm in ky! Norma is fighting for all these children that deserve so much more!

Thursday, January 30
Michelle

I an one of those people. Something needs to be done to help the kin and fictive kin in raising these children that they would drop everything to help on a momments notice. We are doing our part to keep the kids out of foster care. Government should step up and help us just like they help foster parents. It is better for the kids to be with relatives or people they know if at all possible

| Thursday, January 30
Connie

It's. Not right that I'm on social security and trying to take care of two nieces and kinship said we don't get help because the case was in a different state but I've lived in ky all my life. It's all I hear go to that state but it's all lies . Ky dont look out for the ones that stepped in.parents rights was suppose to be taken away in 12 months in ky 15 months in indiana but still I have permanent grauildship for two years n o w with no help. I want to adopt but no help there either.

Friday, January 31
Linda ONeal

I'm a grand mother of 3 that my husband and I have had in our custody for 6 years everything was good in the beginning then my husband came home three years ago could not work no more because he has leukemia it took him two years to get is disability social security which is $1212.00 minus $135.00 for insurance now please tell me how we are to keep a roof over our babies heads food clothing and electric on this amount of money yes I guess we are considered lucky ones we had things that we had accomplished that we have sold to keep a roof over these babies heads we have asked for help the last two years with no help coming our way and asking please show us how to get help so that we could keep these babies finally after spending a lot of we adopted them now we're waiting on their first check from disability social security which is only going to pay $205 per child which is not enough to feed them during school have food at the house and clothes for them yes I feel that the grandparents has been let down but my main concern is these three grandbabies has been let down so hard by the state they are being punished because their grandparents are willing to take them to care for My grandbabies deserves the same respect and support for the state is anybody else's shame on all of you for not considering that they need help also

Friday, January 31

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions