Congress Urged to Boost Kinship Care

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Advocates of more federal support for kinship care took their case to Congress last month.

Representatives from Generations United, the Pew Charitable Trusts and AARP, among others, held a briefing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building for about 40 congressional and nonprofit staffers, reporters and kinship family members.

They built their case around a new report, “Time for Reform: Support Relatives in Providing Foster Care and Permanent Families for Children,” by Generations United and Pew’s Kids are Waiting campaign.

The report says subsidized guardianship for kinship caregivers provides foster children with safe homes and moves them to permanent placements more quickly.

“If guardianship is subsidized, tens of thousands of kids will be able to exit the foster care system,” said Leslie Cohen, research specialist at the Children and Family Research Center at the University of Il- Reuters/Linda Henriksen/Scanpix linois at Urbana-Champaign.

“The report combats the idea that ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,’ ” said Generations United Executive Director Donna M. Butts, referring to a theory that the abuse and neglect of a foster child’s parents is likely to be repeated by relatives caring for that child.

The report says children in kinship care families tend to be safer and more content than children in foster care with non-relatives, and that children recover from emotional and developmental problems more quickly when they’re in familiar settings with familiar people.

Foster youths and grandparent caregivers emphasized the benefits of kinship care and the financial struggles of the grandparents. The speakers urged legislators to support the Kinship Caregiver Support Act (S.661), recently reintroduced by Sens. Hillary Clinton (DN. Y.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

The bill would establish “kinship navigator” programs in the states to help relatives find programs and services, provide funding to states for subsidized guardianship, and mandate that relatives be notified when children are placed in foster care. Kids Are Waiting is a collaboration of organizations that was established last year by Pew to promote reforms recommended by The Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care.

The report is available from Kids Are Waiting: www.kidsarewaiting. org,

– Alexis Vaughan