Kinship care families short on support
Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012 11:02 am
By: Bo Bradshaw, Tennessee News Service
NASHVILLE – More than 65,000 children in Tennessee reside with relatives instead of their parents, according to a “kinship” report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
That number has risen during the past decade, says Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. While care by relatives often is the best solution for children, she says, the reality is that more needs to be done to support those families.
“Unfortunately, many of these families really struggle because they are more often to be caregivers who are poor or single, older, less educated and unemployed than families where the parents are present. So, it’s really important that we have services and supports in place to help them have the resources they need to care for these children.”
O’Neal says children end up with relatives or close family members because of military deployments, substance abuse, mental illness, child abuse or neglect.
Financial woes are one of the biggest concerns and challenges here in Tennessee, she says.
“There is a need to focus on providing the public infrastructure that can help these children overcome the circumstances they’ve had and help these families have the resources they need to support them.”
Nationwide, the report says, the number of children in kinship care has risen 18 percent in the past decade.
O’Neal says relatives are the best resource for childrens’ welfare programs, but that more state support is needed to ensure that the children benefit from the services before they become part of the undesired part of the system.
The report recommends that states do more to help kinship caregivers. O’Neal says Tennessee has made some progress and hopes additional strides can be made.
The report, “Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families,” is online at AECF.org.