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More Arizona Children Raised by Relatives

Dana Wolfe Naimark, Children’s Action Alliance
dnaimark@azchildren.org
(602) 266-0707 office

Laura Jasso, Arizona Grandparent Ambassadors
gparentambassador@gmail.com
(520)-240-6055
Brenda Gloria, Arizona Grandparent Ambassadors
beeglow@graffiti.net
(602) 670-3078

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Key Policy Steps Can Help Children Thrive

What do President Barack Obama, U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe and Oprah Winfrey have in common?  Like 60,000 children in Arizona today, they were raised by their grandparents or other relatives for part of their childhoods.  This practice, called kinship care, has been growing in Arizona and throughout the nation.

The Arizona Grandparent Ambassadors are asking every state legislator and every legislative candidate to read a new report, called Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families.  The report, published by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, highlights effective policies that states are already pursuing to help kinship families thrive.  These include policies to make better use of federal resources and to make existing supports more relevant for kinship caregivers.

A lot of research confirms what thousands of grandparents throughout Arizona know firsthand:  children do best with their own family members even when they can’t live with their parents.   Sadly, the  love and healing kinship families give often come with severe hardships that accompany the huge, unexpected responsibilities.  Key steps can dramatically improve support for caregivers so that children can grow into successful adults.

“We created the Arizona Grandparent Ambassadors so that we can help each other keep our grandchildren safe, healthy, and thriving,” said Doris Gilder.  “So many grandparents we know personally are struggling with financial issues and health issues and they have nowhere to turn.  We know there are many more out there struggling alone.”

The number of children being raised by relatives in Arizona has grown 63% in the last decade, two and a half times faster than the number of children in the state.  About 3,600 children who have been abused or neglected are living with relatives who are serving as foster parents.  Fifteen times that number — more than 54,000 children — have no formal involvement with the Child Protective Services system. 

Relatives have stepped in to care for kids when parents can’t — due to death, illness, incarceration, military service, domestic violence, deportation, or substance abuse.  Stepping Up for Kids  notes that kinship caregivers are more likely to be poor, single, older, less educated and unemployed than families with parents, which makes it especially difficult for them to take on the extra costs for children.

In the past, Arizona pioneered some successful policies designed for kinship caregivers,” said Dana Wolfe Naimark, President and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance.  “But kinship families have suffered from shortsighted state budget cuts in recent years.  Grandchildren have lost child care and health coverage and  9,000 children lost basic financial support overnight when lawmakers changed the rules to shut out kinship families.”

“Keeping families together and strong is a basic American value that is shared no matter your race, your political party, or where you live,” said Brenda Gloria, a grandmother who adopted two of her grandsons in Phoenix.  “We have stepped up with love and commitment for our families.   We want to work with elected and community leaders and other grandparents to act on key policy changes that will help us do an even better job raising the next generation for Arizona.”

Children’s Action Alliance is an independent voice for Arizona children at the state capitol and in the community.  CAA works to improve children’s health, education, and security through information and action.

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 www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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