More than 40,000 WA Kids Raised by Relatives, Family Friends
(Public News Service) It may be rewarding, but it isn't easy raising kids or grandkids, and a group of people caring for their relatives' children is asking for some official recognition of that. They have one month to get 100,000 signatures on a petition to declare February as "Kinship Care Month." That's the month when George Washington was born.
According to Cate Newbanks, executive director, National Kinship Alliance for Children, the nation's first president understood firsthand the struggles many families go through caring for children of family members.
"George Washington was himself raised by relatives, off and on, when his family was struggling," Newbanks said. "And then he was a kinship caregiver, as was Martha, for the grandchildren. Relatives are continually stepping up to the plate to provide children with what they need."
While the term "kinship care" had not yet been invented, the very first children to live in the White House were step-grandchildren, Newbanks noted.
The Kinship Care Month petition is on the White House website, www.WhiteHouse.gov, or supporters may call 1-888-659-3745.
In the state of Washington, more than 40,000 children are being cared for by relatives other than their parents, or by family friends.
Kinship care is a particular challenge for grandparents, who are of course older, and might not have anticipated the expenses involved with raising another generation. Kinship caregivers typically receive only a fraction of the financial assistance that families raising foster children get, added Newberg.
"Kinship caregivers aren't asking for the same benefits as foster parents, but they do need help, because this is not something that was planned in their lives," she said. "And the children coming to them oftentimes have suffered immense traumas, and need other kinds of supports and services."
This year in Olympia, advocates fought to keep the state's Kinship Caregivers Support Program alive when it was on the legislature's chopping block. It provides a few hundred dollars to mostly lower-income people who take children into their homes unexpectedly and don't have the funds to pay for things like cribs and car seats.