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Report reveals stress and racial disparities of 'kinship care'

About 21,000 – that’s 2 percent of all of Minnesota’s children -- are being raised by grandparents, other relatives or close family friends, rather than strangers. And that can be a good thing.

But what people at Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota and a new report reveal as concerning are not only increasing numbers but also the financial, emotional and legal challenges these caregivers face. In addition, there are racial disparities.

Their plea for more attention and more support for these families and their children comes in connection with a new Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation showing that more than 2.7 million children in America fall into this practice called kinship care.  

“These children ultimately will do better if their kin are not stressed in caring for them,’’ says Marcie Jefferys, public policy director for Children’s Defense Fund- Minnesota.

She says such support for these families could include counseling and respite services, as well as assistance in obtaining guardianship.

The report is  “Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families.” 

Nationally over the past decade there has been an 18 percent increase in children living with relatives or close family friends because parents are unable to care for them.

The report indicates a disturbing prevalence of such child-rearing situations among African-American families, where children are about twice as likely as the general population to be live with extended family or close friends at some time in their lives.

In addition, the study cites U.S. Census data showing these kinship caregivers are “more likely to be poor, single, older, less-educated and unemployed,” thus more likely to struggle with the costs associated with child care and health insurance, according to the study.

Less than 12% of kinship care families receive TANF assistance, despite generally being eligibleSource: 'Kids Count' by the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Besides having problems accessing or not being aware they are eligible for such programs as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the caregivers are dealing with child trauma from parental separation and sometimes legal challenges because parents have not afforded them legal custody of their children, according to the study.

Reasons behind the care giving being done outside the traditional mother-father situation, include death, child abuse or neglect, military deployment, incarceration or deportation.   

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