Family structures are shifting. A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation details the unique challenges of 2.7-million children being raised by relatives other than their parents at some point in their lives. The number has increased more than 18% in the past decade.
It’s called kinship care, and officials say up to 101,000 Pennsylvania children (about 4%) are impacted.
“Many of these caregivers are older and have less income, and they’re taking on the responsibility in the middle of a crisis,” explains Robert Geen, the foundation’s director of family services and systems policies.
“The children themselves have experienced the trauma of being separated from their parents, so it is a challenging situation.”
That’s not to say kinship care is bad for kids. Research shows that children do best with relatives when they cannot stay with their parents, but Geen says the best evidence is common sense. “Ask any parent where they would want their children to live, if they could not take care of them, and they’re going to say a relative or extended family member,” he tells Radio PA.
The new report includes recommendations that take this changing family dynamic into account. Geen says kinship caregivers should be given the authority to make decisions on behalf of the child, and that government programs designed for the nuclear family should be reevaluated to see if they are meeting the needs of kinship caregivers.