Imagine living in a low income home where having food to eat, water to drink, and a pillow to rest your head on at night is hard to come by. Now, imagine living without your parents but with one of your relatives instead. So new guardians, new schools, and even new neighbors. There is a lot of changes that these kids have to face. To make the move into a kinship home more smoothly, and solve other problems that happen within the home.
Every caregiver should have the ability to receive welfare checks, in the same amount of those given to non-relative caregivers. The kinship foster care system is a foster care system in which children are placed to live with one of their relatives. To really understand the problems of the kinship foster care system, one must really know what types of kinship foster care there are. These foster care systems are either voluntary, formal, or informal. Voluntary kinship care is when children go to live with one of their relatives with the involvement of the Child Welfare Agency, but not the state, which allows the caregivers to have custody right away (Child Welfare Information Gateway 6). The next type is informal kinship care, where children go to live with relatives without the use of the child welfare agency or the courts (Child Welfare Information Gateway 5). The last type of kinship foster care is called formal kinship care.
In this placement, the state takes legal custody, and relatives have more controlled meetings with the Children Welfare Agency (Child Welfare Information Gateway 6-7). Every foster care case is different, and they lead to more different outcomes.There are many different types of outcomes that can allow a child to have to move in with a relative. What first starts out the kinship foster care system is needing a new placement. After that the Child Welfare System comes in, or CWS for short (Child Welfare Information Gateway 2).
At that point, foster care agencies try and locate a relative that can foster a child. These agencies strive to find a kin, or relative, for these children to live with (Hong et al. 86).
In such circumstances, the children either enters the voluntary, formal, or informal kinship care. Supposing that no family members are available to take responsibility for the children, children then go into the unrelated foster care – the more commonly known type of foster care. According to researchers Jun Sung Hong, Carl Algood, and Yu-Ling Chiu, ” Kinship foster care has also become the fastest growing form of child placement in several countries around the world, such as England” (863).
In fact, “by 2010, 2.7 million children in this country (US) were living in kinship arrangement, a 70% increase from just 20 years prior” (Garcia et al. 459). Little do people know that 51 percent of these children living with relatives experience food shortages, and nearly 39 percent are living in poverty (Hong et al. 865).
As writer John Majane states “According to the 2002 Urban League and the National Survey of American Families, over 50% of children in kinship care live in low-income homes” (Majane). “Close to 52% live with a caregiver over the age of 50” (Majane). What could really benefit this problem is having welfare checks in place for every state and for every kinship caregiver and child. These welfare checks are currently in place, but only 40 percent of these homes receive them. Because people do not see it as an issue when there is more kids going into the kinship foster care system every year.
The other 60 percent receive what is known as TANF or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (Berrick 74). Although they can get other benefits, like SNAP, there are a lot of jumps that these caregivers do not have the time to go through in order to get them. TANF checks are already significantly lower than those checks given to a non-related foster caregiver (Berrick 75). If these checks were of equal money, kids would not go through some of the hardships that they go through now. These TANF payments vary from $293 for one child to $479 for two children each month Compared to those caregivers in non-related foster care, an unrelated caregiver can get up to $345 for each child per month.
The payments made from the welfare system are much higher than those payments given to kinship caregivers from TANF benefits. The foster care welfare system gets to decide where they want their money to go to, and how much. There are different criteria that one may have in order to get a welfare check, such as having a foster care license. Different states have different amounts of checks they send out. For instance, the more kids in one household, results in a greater amount the caregiver gets.
And the older the foster child, the higher the amount of the check. In the state of California, the highest amount that goes out to unrelated foster caregivers is $859 per month for siblings aging from 8 to 16. Now, from all ages, and the same number of siblings, kinship caregivers get almost $400 less than what most non related foster caregivers get each month (Berrick 75). These people figure that because kinship caregivers volunteered to take responsibility, they should not have to receive payments in order to take care of them. It is safe to say that every kinship caregiver should have the ability to receive a welfare check of the same amount to those raising a foster child in unrelated foster care. Just because one is related, does not mean that those kingivers and children are not going to struggle.
This check would be for the greater good of both the children and the caregivers. Children and caregivers go through a lot in these homes. Money can be the root of many problems, but since more and more children are being placed with one of their family members, this should be more of a reason that kinship caregivers should get a check equal to the check given to an unrelated foster caregiver. Since the kinship foster care is becoming more popular, it should be all the more reason to allow a equal welfare check to every one of those caregivers, no matter what foster care system they are working through. Even though most relative caregivers get some financial help from the government, it is often not enough for the caregivers and the children.
And financial help from the government doesn’t add up to much help for these kin caregivers and children anyways (Hong et. al 863). According to a survey done by Professor Elaine Farmer, these relative caregivers are a mix of aunts and uncles but are mainly grandmothers, which is another reason why we should allow for welfare checks to be sent out (332).When 39 percent of children in the kinship foster care system are living in poverty, something needs to see a change (Hong et al. 865).
Even though these caregivers could have retirement funds, having another kid in the household can make expenses rise and very quickly. Taking responsibility for a child is no small task,which in return leads to extra stress on the kinship caregivers.In fact, due to stress, these underfunded caregivers are more apt to not want to increase family size. And according to a multiple of research studies, by Schweiger and O’Brien “..
. caregivers and children both affect and are affected by one another” (Hong et al. 864).
Because of this, kinship foster care benefits both the child and the caregivers, but only if the benefits are true to those from non-related homes (Hong et al. 864). Other study done by researchers Coakley and Coworkers report that “… relative caregivers felt that providing a home to children was rewarding in and of itself” (Hong et al. 864). These caregivers face whatever they have to for the children.
In that same study the children also hinted that living with a relative made life “easier” when having to move living arrangements (Hong et al. 864). Many caregivers could live just fine without a welfare check, but that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t have the opportunity.
After years of trying to make kinship foster care the most successful type of child placement, in which it became successful, but cannot just stop there. Although kinship care benefits the child, there is little known of what kinship caregivers face. For instance, 45 percent of these kinship caregivers struggle with raising children that are in their care (Farmer 339). As Elaine Farmer comments on just the amount of strain kinship caregivers go through:These placements therefore make a major contribution to stability for children who cannot live with their parents. This is a real achievement given the disadvantages faced by kinship carers… caring leads to a situation where some kin carers are left to struggle to care for needy children with low levels of supports and financial help. At present, kin carers’ commitment and willingness to continue against the odds benefits the children they look after, but the good outcome for these children are sometimes achieved at the expense of the kin cares themselves, who are sometimes under considerable strain (340).In other words, there are very little good things that come out of being a kinship caregiver, and the struggles are often invisible and while of course people want to help their kin and see the benefits, that doesn’t mean that they don’t also struggle and sacrifice to raise the kids. Researches Garcia and Coworkers even state that “Kinship carers were more likely to become depressed or remained depressed than non-relative foster caregivers”(459).
But these caregivers do not just do it for themselves, these caregivers do it for the better of the children. It is made clear that kin caregivers do not all receive that amount of support that they need when raising these children. And if they do receive checks, does it really go to the children? One cannot choose how one spends its money.
But that should not be a reason to hold the check out. Which is another reason people do not caregivers to receive this checks. Say one was living with one of his, or her relative, and they noticed that their relative was feeling overstressed, because of them. One would feel bad ,right? Then, that would most likely make one person feel guilty instead.
Little do they know, that it is not their fault.But the fault actually falls on the government. The government needs to realize that these are actual homes that will need financial help.
Giving a welfare check, the same one given to unrelated foster caregivers should be a must for these homes. Many people also wonder why kinship caregivers should receive welfare checks when the country is in debt already. But having a welfare check available is a must for these caregivers and the children they take care of, even though having more debt, and raising taxes is a big issue on its own. This should not hide the fact that 51 percent of these children are going through food deficiencies (Hong et al. 865).
Having kinship foster care children in a stable, loving home should be more important than taxes and money itself. Giving out the same check as non-related foster caregiver gets is the most important factor to be considered, and often times is not.Another reason that a welfare check should be sent to all of these kinship homes, is that these children are also facing housing problems. This means that some of these children would share bedrooms, and even use a living room as a bedroom for these kids (Farmer 336). Not to mention older kids might have more psychological difficulties because they lost their right of privacy, when having to share bedrooms to take in these children.
According to researcher Elaine Farmer, in the course of a new placement for foster children, 66 percent of children living in the kinship foster care system had psychological difficulties (337) . No, these welfare checks would not be able to buy someone a new house or apartment, but they could be used to buy extra beds, blankets, and even pillows for these children. A quote from Professor Elaine Farmer states “Kin carers were much more likely than unrelated foster carers to be living in overcrowded conditions” ( 336). While overcrowdedness happens in kinship homes, there is many other housing problems that should be addressed. For instance nonexistent utilities, like non-working dryers, toilets, and heaters that these welfare checks can go towards (Hirsch et al. 88). Even after all those statistics, “Studies report that residing with a relative made life easier for children”( Hong et al. 864).
In fact, 93 % of children that lived with relatives lived in the same house until they were 18 (Farmer 335). But don’t let two good statistics lead someone out. The problems, such as “food insecurity” (Hong et al. 865), “overcrowded conditions” (Farmer 336), and “emotional or behavioral difficulties” (Farmer 337) these kids and caregivers face is often times too much for them to handle . It seems obvious that these kinship foster care homes should deserve more. This welfare check has the ability to bring more to the table for these children, and the kinship caregivers. This is a real issue.
Just because one is related to their foster child, doesn’t mean that these homes will not struggle. There should be no differences between the amount unrelated foster care givers get from their welfare check, from what kinship caregivers get from their check. In the end of things, every foster child deserves the chance to have a happy, safe, and loving home to live in. Which is why it should be a priority for every kinship caregiver to receive welfare checks. If people do not see this as a big issue that it is now, chances are they will not see it later.
This check will not be able to solve all the problems faced by both children and caregiver, but it has more to bring for both.