Thursday, November 29, 2007
As we mentioned in an earlier blog, this is not a book on how to parent, but rather a guide to getting through all those public systems that kinship caregivers face - legal, social services, schools, therapy, community services. In other words, how to advocate for your new family in the sometimes intimidating and usually exhausting world out there. We also have chapters on the importance of making a will, being aware for children in this new electronic world, finding resources, getting money for the future, and having fun.
The third section is a book within the book on how to get together with other kinship care providers in your community and how to actually start a full-service kinship resource center.
The final section is a full list of resources including lead organizations in each state that help to establish services for kinship care families.
The approach of the book speaks directly to kinship families in a casual yet, hopefully, informative manner. The academics are kept to a minimum. There are stories from case situations to enhance each chapter. Several professionals that work in the field of social services or law have also expressed an interest in the book.
Anyone with comments about the kinship care book or this blog can comment here or drop a note to CRP, P.O. Box 1073, Okemos, MI 48805.
Friday, November 2, 2007
Edward James Olmos- Actor "I was very fortunate. I was raised by my great-grandfather and my great-grandmother. And great-grandparents are exactly that: great, grand parents. And I must tell you, that was probably the single most important aspect of my life."
Thank you, sir, for that honor to your folks. I am looking for more examples. If you know of celebrity or well known sports or business people who were raised by non-parent relatives please contact me, Helene (Tita) firstname.lastname@example.org . There is more to share with you, so check back here in a day or so.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Here are a few steps to find out -
1. Plan a time and place to meet - coffee shop, school, church, senior center
2. Advertise in the neighborhood with posters, at social services, health department, doctors, schools, the places kin families frequent; send news releases with information about the meet up to local media.
3. Arrange safe child care in close prosimity to the gathering.
4. Arrange simple snacks if the place is a public service building.
Once a meet up group begins gathering and learning about their concerns and joys, providers may want to take the next step to organize a bit further by planning regular meeting times and place. They may want to arrange a speaker on a common subject - social services, legal issues, psychological issues, health concerns, school issues. Many organizations offer knowledgeable speakers for free, just ask. Again, be sure to arrange outreach, safe child care, and snacks.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
There is other news: Today the President of the United States vetoed the bill offering funds for the children's health insurance program. The program supplements funds to States for the children of low-income working families who do not qualify for Medicaid. No where in the discussion do I hear about the huge numbers of kinship care families who depend on this insurance to cover the children in their care. Insurance companies notoriously deny relative care children even when a guardianship is in place. It is terribly sad when our own leader would deny these American families while requesting billions of dollars to fund wars that destroy families. It may be too late, but this is a time to get involved. This is not a partisan issue. Many brave Republicans are taking the lead to override the veto. They may need to hear from us.
Child Welfare League of America is co-sponsoring a briefing to Congress on another financial issue: the costs of Foster Care. The report titled Hitting the MARC: Establishing foster Care Minimum Adequate Rates for Children. Current Foster Care rates, according to the report are not even near adequate. To bring the rates to the reasonable costs of raising children under Foster Care would mean increasing the current rates by as much as 40%. You can see the full report for Hitting the MARC on CWLA's website, www.clwa.org .
Well back to work for me. I hope you continue to check this little blog and pass it on to grandparents raising grandchildren and other kinship care families.
In peace, Tita
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The relative cooperates with the public system until the child is reunited with the parent(s) or . . .The relative may be offered Kinship Foster Care, which, again, varies by State. Foster Care provides more funds per child, but the family usually must comply with all Foster Care policies including training, housing, and specific rules that may constrict a family’s movement. In some states kinship foster care is really no different than non-kin foster care in that the family may be asked to take other non-related children in crisis. The design of Foster Care includes a Permanency Plan. Children need permanency in their home life. And States do not want children languishing in Foster Care . . . even if they are in a Kinship home.The Permanency plan is based on a reasonable time frame (one year) from the placement. Of course this cannot happen in many cases. Agency Social Services workers are already overburdened with coordinating systems to mend the family. They are very aware of the benefit that kinship care provides children, and they are equally aware of the significant costs to kin families. But Social Services Child welfare departments are under pressure to secure the children in permanent homes, which may mean encouraging Adoption.
The dynamics to families of adopting their relatives are often not an acceptable choice. The problem then is children in the safety of their kinship care providers and some kind of assistance to those providers. Realistically, Kinship care providers whether temporary placement or Kinship Foster Care, are saving the States a great deal of money that might have been used for very expensive residential care. There are no studies that I know of that can account for the savings to society when the safe kinship care launches healthy citizens.
Consequently, we want Kinship Care to thrive and to make that happen we want kinship care providers to receive some assistance in the costly care. Thirty-five states have developed a Guardianship Assistance (sometimes called a subsidy) for kinship care providers. Two or three states have abandoned the assistance program, while others are searching ways to establish an appropriate financial supplement to the kin families.
Generations United (http://www.gu.org/ ) made a significant study of States that have an assistance program for kinship care providers. The variation of plans is surprising. Illinois has a well thought out model kinship assistance program. Michigan is currently in committee with two very important bills: MI Senate (S. 661) and MI House of Representatives (H.R. 2188).
The key to the success of appropriate support for Kinship families is the awareness public officials have of the issues involved. Yikes – does that mean that grandfamilies have to not only provide for their whole new family, they have to become political activists as well? Um. Yep.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Of the 16 I was only able to actually speak with 2 people, left messages for most of the rest, two were disconnected numbers. Since the 1980's when the trend to place children with relatives to help relieve the pressure on the Foster Care system, relatives have become the placement of choice for tens of thousands of families. Just as many families voluntarily care for related children. These families are providing a significant service to the children as well as the helping systems that are relieved of significant financial support of the children. When families take on the extra care of traumatized children in their family a number of critical issues become part of the burden - medical care, school, counseling in many cases, court appointments, legal involvement. For these families it is not just an extra plate at the dinner table. Yet when the families seek help they are more likely to find voice mail, restricted programming, or no help at all.
The relatives, especially grandparents, who rescue the children are the unheralded heroes of our collective village.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
If you are looking for quality child care check out the collaborative website: www.childcareaware.org which identifies several national resources for referral as well as a comprehensive guide: "38 Questions for Parents Choosing child Care" from the National Association of Child Care Resources & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA).
The issues of finding quality child care and paying for it are challenged by all that we have learned in the last decade regarding brain development in young humans. When those first three to five years of life are not attended to properly with secure, healthy, active, loving environments - well, we all suffer. The new human brain, even before it is born, is better than any computer that same brain might ultimately build in a few years. High speed rapid connections web swiftly across a soft gray matter calculating, building, archiving, developing the most subtle, but critical knowledge blocks, using all the newly formed senses for miraculous input and output.
We already know that, as a society, we must get this information to parents to help them help these babies to grow healthy and secure. But we also know that the muddle of so much in our society cripples the potential of these wonderful beginnings. When parents can't do the task, it is often the relatives that step in - the grandparents, aunts uncles, cousins, older siblings, even good friends and godparents trying to bridge the gaps in the critical moments of development.
One of the handicaps for parents and relative caregivers who are also part of the social fabric working away from home is to find a great place where the bounty of these little humans will be cultivated. Unfortunately the cost of good child care in many states is so prohibitive and the quality part is less available to families on a limited income, that finding the match won't happen. In 49 states child care fees for an infant is higher than the average family spends on food, or for two children child care is higher than median rent cost.
There are humble options to families in our country, but not much. The Department of Health and Human Services in most states offer financial child care assistance to eligible families. The IRS offers some child care deductions on taxes for specific situations. And some quality community centers offer child care scholarships. A few corporations have recognized the significant productive benefits of on-site child care and other family friendly programs that support valued employees by supporting their family needs.
When the federal government looks to cut "domestic" programs to fund other costly projects, this is one area that gets the evil eye. Weary advocates bravely lobby just to continue the little federal support to quality child care and parent education programs. Maybe someday we will get our priorities in order and recognize the value of strengthening the health and development of our society right from the very beginning.
Oh dear, where did that soap box come from? Take care, friends. I appreciate your comments to me directly.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
The internet, as you can see just by visiting this little diary, can connect us all to together. But there are predators (like you need another predator) who use this miraculous tool to get money, sex, or perverted kicks.
Children are very adept at the internet. They use it for information, for music and videos, for their own creative outlets, and for games.
Ah, games. Games for kids and adults are a 7 billion dollar business in this country serving 145 million U.S. gamers. There are games to play privately on the little battery powered PlayStation Box or games that connect to the internet for players all over the world. Yes, you read that correctly. Little Amy who loves a challenge on her PlayStation2 can play the game with several players who are signed on (kids and adults) from anywhere in the world. We live at amazing time. However, this renaissance also requires vigilance from virtual roadside bandits as well as the games themselves.
One really valuable internet site for those of us who care for children is: www.wiredsafety.org . Check it out. Parry Aftab, creator of WiredSafety.org answers questions on line.
We’ll have more on this in a later blog. I appreciate your comments.
As always, in peace,
Thursday, June 21, 2007
If you really are checking I'd also like to know what topics are concerning you as someone interested in the hush-hush issue of Kinship care - grandparents, aunts uncles, older sibs, all going through the tough course of raising a child. In the book I cover some of the big topics that many families have shared with me:
Legal issues - when and what to do to protect children in the relative care family (guardianship? power of attorney?)
Social Services issues - what can social services do to help us help these children? (and how do I find social services near by?)
School issues - when and how to register and secure children in school.
The list goes on. What is on your mind? Maybe we can help.
In the meantime, back to the book work.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Many of the families that I have worked with over the years have so much to think about they just can’t bear to go into the issues of their own death. However preparing a Will is really a positive step for securing relative-raised children. Families who do not have notarized statement of their wishes after death are leaving their material goods AND the care of their children to “Probate” – the State authority to decide how both goods and children’s care will be distributed. This is called intestate – dying without a will.
Courts are likely to return under-age children and any funds such as insurance beneficiary or educational savings accounts to the surviving parents of the child. Children live with a relative for a reason. Often care with the surviving parent is not in the best interest of the child.
What to do:
Talk with an attorney, kinship care support group, senior center, local AARP representative, or other legal assistance resource on how to prepare a Will that covers:
- An executor and alternate executor of the estate (even if you think you have nothing of value). The executor can be any trusted person who will follow through with your wishes as stated in the Will.
- A designated guardian for the children, and alternate in case the designated guardian is unable or unwilling to accept the responsibility.
- Specific wishes about protection of any funds that have designated the children as beneficiaries.
Be sure to follow through with notarizing the document, make copies and store in a safe place.
NOTE: A Living Will is not the same as the Will designating your wishes after you
die. These are two very different documents. Statements about your care if you become debilitated and unable to care for the children should be noted in a Living Will.
Monday, June 11, 2007
If you found this blog, you most likely have an interest in learning more about families who are raising related children. There are three million kinship care families in America today and more than six million children. These families are from all segments of our society - rich, poor, urban, rural, a hundred ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Some caregivers are very young, some are very old. Most are grandparents who have lovingly taken on the job of raising their grandchildren.
Though the problems faced by all the kinship families are different, the hopes are the same: to raise healthy children in a safe and loving environment. But as many Kinship families can testify, the task is far from easy. Unlike raising children in a parent-headed household, which is difficult all by itself, kinship families also face a myriad of public services that may be called upon to assist one problem or another. Often the rules to obtain the proper service are frustrating and intimidating, leaving Kinship Care families to struggle through the best options available to them.
Kinship Care is not a "they" problem. Caring for related children can happen to anyone at anytime, when the kin caregiver says "Yes". The caregivers second response is usually, "What now?" When and how to get legal authorization to make decisions for the child from entering school to acquiring guardianship is one of the biggest decisions Kinship Care families have to make. Money becomes a big issue when the costs of gas to get to a host of appointments starts cutting into the caregivers own health care costs. One grandfather who took on four of his grandchildren told me he was shocked at how much milk the young teens required and how much just the milk took from his food budget.
Often it is the suddenness of becoming a kinship care provider that is the hardest to get over. Sometimes in the middle of the night, the social worker stands at the door with one or two or more children explaining the necessity of kinship care. After finding space to sleep and eat and live, comes finding the important papers - the birth certificates, the health records, school registrations, custody papers, social security numbers. Then the families face the appointments. Appointments with social service case workers, doctors, schools, crisis counselors. Then, for many caregivers, the realization that the life they had with friends and spouses, and coworkers is now changed drastically. Everything centers on the needs of the children. This is what Kinship Care providers have taken on, and this is why I call them courageous.
The following posts are just quick ideas, some have been included previously in e-mail newsletters, or from the upcoming book. Perhaps this Kinship Care blog will reach and hopefully help more of these very special grandfamilies. Please read at your leisure. Comments are welcome.
Best wishes, Tita