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More than 330,000 California Children Raised by Relatives and Family Friends, Report Finds

May 22, 2012

OAKLAND, CA—Over 2.7 million children in the nation live in kinship care, according to a new KIDS COUNT report released today from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Children Now, its California grantee. Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families highlights the increased vulnerability experienced by more than 330,000 California children, who are being raised by relatives and family friends because their parents can no longer care for them. Frequently, caregivers who take on parental responsibilities lack vital financial and community support, and, therefore, struggle to meet the basic needs of these children. As such, children in kinship care are more likely to have higher poverty rates, are less likely to be covered by health insurance, and are more likely to have physical and mental disabilities.

Recognizing the increased vulnerability of children living in kinship care, California had until recently provided funding for support services for them through its Kinship Support Services Program (KSSP). The community-based family support services provided through KSSP have been instrumental in supporting both relative-caregivers who are relatives and the dependent children living in their homes. But as California proceeds with the realignment of public safety services, this funding will no longer be tied to the delivery of kinship support services. Consequently, advocates worry that these critical services may not be prioritized as counties look to meet the many needs of children coming in contact with the Child Welfare System.

“The concept of realignment is meritorious, but there’s great risk involved for vulnerable children and families being served by the system, if it’s not considered thoughtfully and crafted carefully,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now.

“California must ensure realignment follows three principles in the implementation of this important piece of legislation,” Lempert added. “First, full and adequate base funding for child welfare services must be provided to counties and must account for necessary growth. Second, firewalls must be built in order to ensure other local public safety programs do not appropriate child welfare services funding over time. And third, the state must establish effective state oversight and local accountability.”

KIDS COUNT’s Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families is available for free download online here.

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