Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Strong Families Safe Children not for Kinship Care

Some Bad News: Strong Families Safe Children money in Michigan will be transferred from communities who depended on the funds for their Kinship Care programs and moved to DHS children’s services.

Consider this about Michigan’s kinship children:
About 8,000 children are in Relative Foster Care.
Yet 183,000 children are in non-parent relative care, 75% of those are living with grandparents, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
That means that 4% of the children living with relatives are being served by Relative Foster Care through DHS, while 96% of children living with relatives are not receiving the extent of services DHS can offer. Maybe you should read that again. It is an important fact for how money is spent on kinship care.

To deal with the disproportionate gap in kinship services, many communities turned to the collaboration efforts of their human services. Strong Families Safe Children, administered by DHS, included a specific criteria to establish kinship care programs. Local administration of the money has been a key to the success of assisting all kinship families through the navigation process of kinship care.

On May 30, 2010, the decision from DHS was made by someone in the tower to cut those funds to community collaboratives and transfer them to DHS foster care – the 4% of relative care. Those communities depending on the core funding from Strong Families Safe Children for all kinship families are now much more likely to see the struggling kinship programs crumble.

Why is kinship care so pushed aside from the mainstream of social programs?
Is it lack of research showing need for services that also include the 96% of kinship families not involved with DHS?
Is it the complicated spread of needs over a wide cross section of our society – legal, education, counseling, health, financial, general navigation through these difficult mine fields?
Is it a lack of advocates in the field to pursue the necessary support? Or a weariness of advocates? In 2007 a strong core of Michigan kinship family advocates worked hard with the legislature to actually pass the Guardianship Assistance bill only to see the proposed funds encumbered by the heavily researched, well-positioned DHS programs (serving 4% of the kinship children).

This is not to say that Relative Foster Care with its wonderful family and children supports should not receive the necessary funds to strengthen the children, but rather to include all kinship families with strong navigational supports for children and caregivers. One frustrated DHS worker lamented as I researched the loss of Strong Families Safe Children funding for community kinship programs, “Strengthening all kinship care families is a vital course of Prevention – assuring that the families are strong and children more likely to find success in school and society.”
This is a very disturbing situation.
Concerned in Michigan