More Children Raised By Relatives and Family Friends, Report Finds

May 23, 2012
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Kara Arzamendia, 651-855-1184

More Children Raised By Relatives and Family Friends, Report Finds

Past decade sees an 18 percent increase in children raised in kinship care

 Family and close friends who become caregivers often lack vital financial and community support

ST. PAUL, MINN — According to a new KIDS COUNT® report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, more than 2.7 million children in America, were raised by grandparents or other relatives at some point in their lives. This long-time practice called kinship care has become more prevalent in the last decade, which has seen an 18 percent increase in children living with relatives or close family friends because their parents can no longer care for them. In Minnesota, about 2 percent (21,000) of all children are in kinship care. While only 879 of these children are in state-supervised care, they represent 17 percent of the total foster care population.

The rise of kinship care demands immediate attention, according to the report, Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families. Many family members and friends who take on parental responsibilities with their often-limited incomes struggle to meet the basic needs of children — a problem that could be alleviated with increased access to and awareness of government and community programs.

The new KIDS COUNT report details the types of challenges kinship caregivers encounter:

  • Financial. They are more likely to be poor, single, older, less-educated and unemployed, which makes taking on such additional costs as child care and health insurance an extra burden. They often struggle to access public programs, particularly in the case of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) — the primary federal financial aid program for low-income families.
  • Emotional. They must contend with child trauma from parental separation, as well as possible emotional and behavioral issues tied to abuse or neglect.
  • Legal. They sometimes lack the necessary legal authority to enroll a child for school, access basic medical care or give medical consent.

Stepping Up for Kids shows that kinship care is particularly prevalent in African-American families, where children are twice as likely as the general population to be raised by extended family and close friends at some point in their lives. The report identifies the various circumstances — including death, child abuse or neglect, military deployment, incarceration or deportation — that lead extended family members to become primary caregivers.

Priscilla Gibson, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota, is an expert on kinship care research. “Kinship care allows children to remain as part of their family, form a bond with the family, and experience the positive psychological feelings that come with being wanted by family,” said Gibson.    She adds, “Too often misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the law by the courts or social workers and lack of information on the part of relatives results in children being placed in foster care with strangers rather than with their own relatives.”

Minnesota has a patchwork of programs available to help relatives caring for their kin. Children's Defense Fund-MN is calling for more attention to the supports that relatives need—regardless of whether they are caring for children through formal or informal arrangements—to help children deal with what often are very stressful circumstances leading to their move out of their parents’ home. CDF-MN also urges Minnesota child welfare administrators and policymakers to seriously consider adopting the federal Guardianship Assistance Program that would help relatives who agree to provide a permanent home when children cannot return home or be adopted.

Stepping Up for Kids includes the latest kinship care data for every state, the District of Columbia and the nation. This information will be available May 23 at 12:01 a.m. EDT on  


The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization whose primary mission is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families. For more information, visit KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.