Since 2017, the New York State legislature has recognized September as Kinship Care Month. “Kinship Caregivers” refers to non-parents who are caring for children, including grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, adult siblings, and even non-relatives who have been important to the child such as a family friend.
There are about 2.8 million children being raised by kin nationwide, with about 800,000 in New York State alone. There are many reasons why parents are unable to raise their children, including medical issues, mental health concerns, substance use, and domestic violence. With the opioid epidemic and related deaths, more children than ever are being raised by other family members.
It has been shown time and again that being removed from their parents is traumatic to children and continues to impact them throughout their lives. Kinship caregivers help to mitigate this trauma by stepping in and keeping them with family, and allowing continued contact with the parents in a way that is safe and healthy. The goal is often for the parents to work on the issues that have interfered with their ability to parent, and to be able to care for their children full time again.
Much focus is placed on the needs of the children and the trauma they have experienced. We also need to shed light on the changes that have happened in the lives of the caregivers, and encourage caregivers to take care of themselves so that they can continue to care for children. When children are removed from parents and placed with kinship caregivers, family dynamics and relationships change. This is an emotionally draining, but also very rewarding, time for caregivers.
Center for Elder Law and Justice employs three full-time attorneys and one full-time paralegal who represent kinship caregivers in Family, Surrogate’s, and Supreme Court in Erie and Niagara County, as well as assist with related issues that arise during the case, such as child support and benefits.
We would like to extend our gratitude to these caregivers who selflessly come forward to care for the children in their lives!