More than 2.5 million children across the U.S. are raised in Grandfamilies (also known as kinship families). These are families in which grandparents, other adult family members, or close family friends are raising children, with no parents in the home. The parents are not caring for their children for many reasons, including parental substance use, incarceration, military deployment, severe disability, deportation, teenage pregnancy, or death. When children cannot remain in their parents’ care, research shows they do best in Grandfamilies.
It’s Hard for Grandfamilies to get Help
Despite the crucial role grandfamilies provide for the children in their care, grandparents and other relatives often do not have access to the critical supports and services they need. Grandparents and other relatives often become caregivers to their relative children with little to no warning. They are usually unaware of what supports and services are available to them or face obstacles in accessing supports and services. While some grandfamilies are formed when the child welfare system becomes involved with a family, many caregivers step in to care for the children to prevent the need for child protective services. The vast majority of kinship families are raising children outside of foster care, and as a result are less likely than foster parents to be eligible or have access to important supports, services and benefits. In fact, for every one child inside the foster care system with relatives, there are 18 children being raised by relatives outside of foster care. Even relatives who are raising children inside the foster care system often get fewer supports and resources than non-relative foster parents. Due to the difficult and unexpected circumstances that lead children to be in the care of relatives, children and caregivers in grandfamilies face greater health, mental health, social and financial challenges than those in the general population. It can be difficult for families to get the help they need.16 Grandfamilies experience:
- Less access to economic and educational resources and social supports.
- Less access to legal resources due to financial restrictions and awareness of available resources. Limited access to mental health services for depression, stress, behavioral or emotional issues because of stigma, accessibility, cost, and lack of information about grandfamilies.
- Limited understanding of available services and supports or how to apply, particularly caregivers outside of the formal child welfare system.
- Children in grandfamilies are less likely to receive needed early intervention or special education services.
- Families struggle to access affordable child care that meets the needs of the children.
- Less than one-third of eligible grandfamilies receive housing assistance. Less than half receive SNAP (Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program/formerly the Food Stamp Program).
- Nearly half of children in grandfamilies had caregivers who had not received any payment for caring for the child, such as foster care or adoption assistance payments, Social Security survivor benefits, child support, or TANF.
- Unique challenges faced by caregivers in rural areas with limited access to supportive services.