A growing number of Idaho children are being cared for by relatives other than their parents. Stepping Up For Kids, a sobering report authored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, reveals that the number of children in so-called "kinship" care has increased by 100 percent during the past decade. Currently, more than 7,000 Idaho children live with grandparents, uncles, aunts and older siblings.
"Kinship caregivers are more likely to be single, older, less educated, unemployed and poor," said Lauren Necochea, director of Idaho KIDS COUNT. "Kinship families face great challenges."
Not the least of which is enough money to put food on the table.
"It costs an average $990 per month to raise a child, according to the United States Department of Agriculture," said Necohchea. "Kinship families in the foster care system receive an average $511 per month, while kinship families who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding get only $249 a month."
Less than 12 percent of kinship families receive any assistance from TANF, although nearly 100 percent are eligible. According to the report, "even those who are able to get help find themselves navigating through thickets of bureaucratic rules."
Money is just one of the challenges facing kinship caregivers. Extended relatives sometimes lack the necessary legal authority to enroll a child for school or access basic medical care. Additionally, kinship providers must contend with child trauma and emotional issues tied to abuse or neglect.
Considering that nearly a third of all Idaho children that have been separated from their parents by the state of Idaho are currently in kinship care, the alternative would be to place more children in foster homes, requiring a greater financial burden to taxpayers and increased stress to an already over-burdened court system.
President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey are two of the millions of American men and women who were raised by grandparents or other relatives.
"When children cannot remain safely with their parents, other family and friends can provide a sense of security, positive identify, and belonging," reads the report. But unless Idaho and the nation responds to a growing need for financial, legal and emotional support for kinship care, the innovative program, which depends upon the better part of our human nature, could hang in the balance, resulting in more children in traditional foster care.You can read the full report here: kinship_report.pdf