Organizations Urge State to Tap Newly Available Federal Funding to Help Caregivers - Mostly Grandparents - Access Grants, Services
ALBANY, N.Y.— Non-parent relatives raising children in New York – disproportionately African American and mostly grandparents – face multiple disparities while performing an already tough task.
New federal laws have made federal matching funds for “kinship caregiver” services more easily available for New York State, and in a new report, AARP New York and leading organizations representing New Yorkers of color are calling on the State to reverse last year’s legislative cuts to kinship care programs and increase this cost-effective funding in the new state budget due April 1.
“Non-parent relatives who raise children perform heroic work, not only for their families but for society,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “Kinship caregivers need help, and Washington is making funding more available than ever. New York State must seize this opportunity right now, in the new State Budget.”
“Better support for kinship caregivers is long overdue,” said NAACP New York State Chapter President Hazel Dukes. “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. It’s not right that government too often overlooks these critical caregivers. The NAACP calls on our legislators and Governor to invest in these families.”
“The NYS KinCare Coalition, led by the NYS Kinship Navigator in partnership with local kinship programs, provides much needed support to the estimated 195,000 kinship children in New York State,” said NYS Kinship Navigator Director Rae Glaser. “Children find stability, permanency, and overall better outcomes in the care of relatives and family friends. Kinship Care is a ‘natural resource’ and has been pivotal during the past year for families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We support the call to robustly fund kinship services to ensure that families have access to much needed benefits and supports.”
The federal Families First Prevention Services Act of 2018 shifted federal financing priorities from foster care to family-based care, while the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 incentivized investments in kinship supports by easing requirements and increasing the federal match to 100% of states’ spending during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The State hasn’t increased its $2.56 million annual support for 14 local kinship programs, which serve 25 counties, and the statewide Kinship Navigator that serves the rest since 2016. In fact, last year, the State Legislature actually cut spending for kinship services by $950,000, forcing the State Office of Children and Family Services to re-direct one-time funds to fill the gap.
The State Assembly is proposing adding $1.9 million for kinship care in the new State Budget due April 1, and the Senate $950,000. AARP New York urges the Senate and Governor to enact the full Assembly proposal.
Funding issues and more are documented in Disrupt Disparities: Kinship Care in Crisis, a new report commissioned by AARP New York, the NAACP New York State Chapter, New York Urban League, Hispanic Federation and Asian American Federation. The report also shows:
- Only 15% of eligible children in New York receive the $430-a-month federal “Non-Parent” grant for which they qualify.
- Nationally, one in five African American/Black children will live in a kinship home during their childhood – more than double the one in 11 average.
- 21.1% of grandparents caring for children in New York have income under the federal poverty line, while half of all single grandmothers raising grandchildren live in poverty - with grandmothers more likely to be caregivers than grandfathers.
- Less than one third of eligible grandparent-headed households receive housing assistance.
- Older kinship caregivers are even less likely than other low-income New Yorkers to know what supports they are eligible for, such as housing, legal assistance, financial benefits, child care and the Non-Parent Grant (for which the application process is complex and lengthy and for which eligibility guidelines differ across counties), or how to apply; many are uncomfortable with the internet and online applications.
- Lack of legal ability to enroll children in school, make educational or medical decisions for children, take them to the doctor or obtain documents such as birth certificates can keep families from achieving stability.
Despite all these obstacles, 46% of grandparents raising their grandchildren have had them for at least five years. And grandparents and other kinship caregivers are more likely to provide a permanent home and help children maintain connections to siblings and other extended family while remaining connected to a sense of cultural identity. These factors lead to better behavioral and mental health outcomes in the short-term, and decreased adverse health effects in adulthood.
Kinship caregivers are raising about 195,000 children in New York, with 96% doing so outside of foster care - which limits their access to the resources, supports, and benefits foster parents receive.
About 65% of all kinship caregivers in New York are grandparents caring for their grandchildren – some 120,376 grandparents in all, according to the American Community Survey.
Besides urging the State to increase funding and drive additional federal support, AARP New York and its collaborators make the following recommendations:
- Double the number of children enrolled in the Non-Parent Grant to 30% of eligible children through increased training of State staff and wider community education to ensure families are aware of this and other benefits for which they qualify.
- Prioritize working kinship caregivers for childcare assistance.
- Grant “special population” status for new housing construction for kinship caregivers and ease restrictions on housing assistance when kinship caregivers take children into their homes.
- Fund legal services specific to kinship issues in every major population center.
- Regulate the use of “safety plan arrangements” by ensuring child welfare agencies conduct extensive follow-up with parents, children, and kinship caregivers.
- Define the term “kinship caregiver” in law to clarify eligibility for services.
- Explore potential opportunities for support through the National Family Caregiver Support Program, a federal initiative designed to support caregivers.
Contact: Erik Kriss, email@example.com
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AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.