From the Imprint–Older New Yorkers who care for relatives’ children outside of the formal foster care system are in “crisis,” according to a new report by the state chapter of the nation’s most prominent advocacy group for senior citizens.
Extended family members and kin caring for nearly 200,000 children statewide are facing acute emotional stress and financial burden, the AARP reported last month. While they provide the same daily caregiving as any parent, the vast majority do so without the stipends provided to foster and adoptive families – or the financial, legal and child care benefits available to low-income biological parents.
The grandparents, aunts, uncles and family friends – who are more likely to be people of color, low-income or disabled – can be compelled by child protective services to take children into their homes with no formal court oversight, arrangements at times prompted by social workers investigating an allegation of child abuse or neglect.
Rather than petitioning a court to formally remove the child from a parent’s custody, they sometimes offer parents the option of signing a “safety plan” that temporarily shifts the children to the care of kin. Such plans skirt the costs of a formal foster care placement and mean kinship families don’t have to stay in touch with child welfare workers. But they can leave low-income caregivers struggling to support the children with scant resources and limited access to social services.
“The many grandparents in our African American communities who are raising their grandchildren perform a labor of love, but it’s a hard, virtually full-time job,” said the president of the New York state’s NAACP chapter, Hazel Dukes. In a statement accompanying the AARP report, Duke’s legacy civil rights organization agreed that state agencies should not take for granted the time, energy and money that relatives invest in caring for young people who would otherwise be placed with strangers.
“It’s not right that the government too often overlooks these critical caregivers,” Dukes wrote.