Kincare Golden Contacts: Erik Kriss ekriss@aarp.org

David Irwin dirwin@aarp.org

 Legislation Gives Relatives Caring for Children Better Standing to Make Health & Education Decisions When Parents Are Out of the Picture

 ALBANY, N.Y. – When parents are unable to raise their own children, relatives often step in – but many lack the legal authority to make critical decisions for the children. New York took a step closer to changing that today with the state Senate’s unanimous passage of the “Relative Caregiver Bill.”

The bill, sponsored by Senator Martin Golden (S2094A/A7189A), will help thousands of aunts, uncles, adult siblings and great-grandparents across New York create a solid life foundation for more than 100,000 children.

The legislation allows these relatives the same opportunity grandparents already have to create more stable homes for children whose own parents are unable to care for them: seeking guardianship or custody of children who have lived in the caregiver’s home for at least two years continuously.

“This bill is all about ensuring that children who may not have been dealt the best hand have a solid foundation on which to build their lives,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York. “AARP thanks Senator Golden for guiding this common-sense legislation through the Senate.  There is no reason Speaker Silver and the Assembly should leave Albany this month without passing the bill and sending it to the governor.”

Guardianship and custody empower the caregiver to make critical medical, school and other decisions for the children, helping provide a solid foundation through a more stable home life.

U.S. Census Data indicate about 300,000 New York children are raised by their grandparents – but more than 100,000 are being brought up by other relatives.

Organizations representing children, families and the elderly all support the Relative Caregiver Bill. No opposition has been registered to the legislation, which is sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D,WF-Queens).

Jeanette Smalls of Schenectady, who has raised her 9-year-old nephew from birth, said: “As an aunt caring for my nephew, I know that our home is the only safe and secure home that he has ever known.  It is so important that our nephew and other children living with relatives have the security of this law.”

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