Stand Up for Kinship Caregivers and their Families

Stand Up for Kinship Caregivers and their Families

Bio: Tiffany Thompson earned an MSW from Spalding University, Louisville, Kentucky. She is a published author who is passionate about foster care, women’s rights, education, and social justice. When not volunteering or pursuing professional development, she enjoys spending time with her family.

According to Childwelfare.gov , the month of May is National Foster Care Month. Childwelfare.gov notes that financial support for National Foster Care Month is a collaboration involving the Child Welfare Information Gateway and the Children’s Bureau , a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Social workers, community partners, and foster families are recognized annually by the President of the United States via a public statement (Childwelfare.gov, 2017).

As a social worker who has visited foster care agencies throughout Louisville, Kentucky, I know there is a tremendous need for foster caregivers. As someone who has worked with children professionally for over 18 years, I understand the challenges of being a caregiver. As of April 2, 2017, the Kentucky Statewide Foster Care Facts Sheet indicated that 8,188 foster children had active placements. The financial amount required, per foster child to cover the average time in care was $53,596.63 (Statewide Foster Care Facts Sheet, 2017). The lack of available caregivers and the gap in financial resources for kinship caregivers has prompted further investigation by many social workers and other helping professionals.

Justin “Jay” Miller, PhD. reveals that prior to intervention by child protective services, extended family members frequently become caregivers for foster children and youth (Miller, 2016). Secondly, Miller (2016) adds that children thrive with kinship caregivers when the parental home is unsuitable. However, unequal payments for kinship caregivers versus foster caregivers, adds an economic burden for relatives fulfilling placements.

An article by Deborah Yetter titled, “KY Case on Foster Pay Headed to Supreme Court,” reported that Kentucky authorized foster caregivers receive a monthly income of about $750 per foster child. Kinship caregivers may qualify for social programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, but they do not get a stipend (Yetter, 2017). Advocating for Kentucky kinship caregivers to have uniform benefits is an attorney in Lexington named Richard Dawahare. Dawahare (2017), emphasized in Yetter’s article that the low subsidies kinship caregivers receive cover necessities (Yetter, 2017). Yetter (2017) also conveyed that the 6th Circuit concluded that an injustice had occurred by the state’s unwillingness to compensate kinship caregivers. Bearing in mind the fiscal deficits that many kinship caregivers face, equal financial support is the only viable solution.

After discovering the negative impact of financial inequity on kinship caregivers and foster children, I wanted to find out what I could do to stand up for this vulnerable population. Therefore, I went to the Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky website and read about the “Ways to Act” in our state. Among the options listed was a sample letter to local legislators. I found out who my local legislators were by going to “Find Your Legislator” . Then, I sent the following letter to Representative Reginald Meeks – District: 42 and Senator Gerald A. Neal – District: 33 via email.

“Please Lift the Moratorium on the Kentucky Kinship Care Program.”

The program has left many children who live with their grandparents and other relatives without vital supports needed in order to be successful. Grandparents and other relatives step up every day to keep children from going into the foster care system, oftentimes without any help. The subsidy has been a lifeline for some families who would not have been able to raise their relatives without it.

An article in the Courier Journal noted that, “Dawahare said a Supreme Court decision upholding foster payments to relatives would be “huge” for families in Kentucky, many of whom are low-income and struggling with the additional expense of caring for children they have taken in. “It would be utterly huge,” he said. “Earthshaking.”

Please support kinship families by lifting the moratorium on the Kinship Care Program.
Thank you!

Sincerely,
Tiffany Thompson, MSW, CSW

The above letter was adapted from the Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky website.
I also found several other resources such as:
“Advocating for Kinship Families” tip sheet in pdf form
A National Foster Care Month webinar: “Supporting Caregivers While Promoting Positive Outcomes sponsored by the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment at AdoptUSKids
6 Key strategies and tools to build, nurture, and engage families
• A report titled, “Children Living Apart from their Parents: Highlights from the National Survey of Children in Nonparental Care
• A beautiful work by Breanna Gehris (2015) titled, “An Open Letter to Foster Parents”
• And an opportunity to donate to Sunrise Children’s Services in Mt. Washington, Kentucky to send Mother’s Day cards to foster moms.

I decided to send 24 Mother’s Day cards to Sunrise Children’s Services so that they could give them to the foster mothers that they work with through their agency. I included a portion of the Gehris (2015) letter on each card. It is my hope that the cards will brighten someone’s day and show appreciation for their willingness to care for foster children and youth in our state.

Advocating for equal benefits, sending cards to foster mothers, staying abreast of foster care trends, applying best practices when serving foster families, and viewing webinars to sharpen skills are some of the myriad ways we can stand up for kinship caregivers. In view of the socio-economic and emotional challenges that kinship caregivers encounter, we need to continue advocating for equitable compensation for these families.

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