January 09, 2018

New Resources and Developments for Kinship Advocates

National organizations working on behalf of kinship families have several exciting resources to share with the field. 

GrandFacts: State Fact Sheets

Working together, Generations United, The Brookdale Foundation Group, AARP, ABA Center on Children and the Law, Casey Family Programs, ChildFocus, Child Trends, and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption have, as of May 2017, fully updated GrandFacts: State Fact Sheets for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children.

GrandFacts are state-specific fact sheets for each state and the District of Columbia. First developed about 15 years ago, the fact sheets are useful and popular resources for kinship families and those working with them. They may be downloaded, copied and disseminated free of charge. Professionals find they are helpful tools to share with clients to inform and connect them with public benefits, tax credits, health and education resources, and programs that provide local services such as respite care and support groups.

Child Trends Fact Sheets

Linked through each of these GrandFacts state fact sheets is another state fact sheet focusing on data for children in foster care who live with relatives. This data was compiled by Child Trends and is available directly at www.childtrends.org. Although a much smaller population than kin caring for children outside of foster care, relatives play a critical role in caring for 30 percent of all children in foster care. Exploring your own state’s data can help you understand how many children live in relative foster family placements and achieve permanency through guardianship and adoption.

Legal Impact Network for Kin (LINK)

LINK is a new resource for the field and an opportunity to be part of a broader effort to help kinship families. LINK is a network for kinship attorneys throughout the U.S. It was created in 2015 by ChildFocus, the ABA Center on Children and the Law, and Generations United, with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This network is shaped and directed by a group of geographically diverse public interest law organizations that either provide direct services for kinship families or advocate for kinship care-related laws and policy change. 

LINK has launched a peer-led network interactive discussion site, developed training materials and tools, held webinars on kinship topics, and hosted three in-person meetings and a one-day kinship care “track” at the 2015 ABA Children and the Law conference. At all those opportunities, members shared information, developed policy recommendations, and determined the network’s next steps.

LINK now has over 65 member attorneys from more than 20 states, with a goal of a member in every state. To join this free resource, contact Heidi Redlich Epstein

Grandfamilies Advocacy Network Demonstration (GrAND)

The value in connecting advocates is beyond measure. A few years ago, Generations United and the Casey Family Programs kicked off the Grandfamilies Advocacy Network Demonstration (GrAND). GrAND consists of a select group of kinship caregivers from key states with wide expertise and personal experience as relatives who have raised children when their parents have been unable to raise them. 

GrAND members have strong voices. They inform all work done by Generations United and Casey Family Programs on behalf of kinship families. They also advocate for families at the federal and state levels, and have testified in Congress, presented at the White House, and met with many members of Congress and their staffs.

GrAND is expanding, and has current members in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington State, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The goal is to elevate kinship caregiver voices in all 50 states. If you work with a kinship caregiver in a state not already represented and would like to join GrAND, contact Ana Beltran

Child Welfare Peer Kinship Network

The Child Welfare Peer Kinship Network is another practical resource. It connects and helps state and local public child welfare agencies explore best practices in kinship foster care. The Network, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and managed by staff at ChildFocus, has an interactive listserv and conducts resource-sharing webinars. 

If you work in a state, county, regional or local public child welfare agency and are primarily responsible for policy and practice improvements in kinship care, please join by clicking this link:, or email Tiffany Allen.

www.Grandfamilies.org

More information about all these resources and networks are available at www.grandfamilies.org, a website for all things kinship. Launched 10 years ago, grandfamilies.org is a collaboration among the ABA Center on Children and the Law, Generations United, and Casey Family Programs. It contains an easy-to-use, searchable database of state laws and legislation directly impacting kinship families. It also contains explanations of 12 legal topics, practical implementation ideas, personal stories, and many other resources and publications.

Fifth National GrandRally 

The resources in this article were shared with hundreds of grandparents and relative caregivers from across the country who gathered at the U.S. Capitol on May 10th for the Fifth National GrandRally. They traveled to Washington to recognize and celebrate the role kinship families play providing safe, loving, permanent families for children and to educate lawmakers about the role federal policies and programs, such as Kinship Navigator Programs and Medicaid, play in ensuring support to kinship families, and how they can be strengthened. 

After the GrandRally, many participants met with their senators and representatives and staffs to share their stories and facts about children raised by relative caregivers, the permanence they provide, and the support they need to successfully help the children in their care thrive. Caregivers not able to come to Washington joined the GrandRally virtually and called their members of Congress to support the relatives raising children.

Past GrandRallies raised awareness of the strengths and needs of grandfamilies, and the Fifth National GrandRally is accomplishing that same objective. After a March Senate Aging Committee hearing on “Grandparents to the Rescue: Raising the Children of the Opioid Epidemic,” Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA) announced the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act (S.1091) at the GrandRally. That bill would establish a federal task force to support kinship caregivers. Advocates are encouraged to contact their members of Congress to support this legislation, which will help coordinate federal supports for families. Also, about a month after the GrandRally, several cost-neutral bills were introduced in Congress, including a bill (HR 2866) to reduce barriers to licensing foster parents by pointing states toward model standards. 


With many advocacy opportunities and new resources, it is an exciting and busy time for kinship families and those working on their behalf. 


Ana Beltran, JD, is a special advisor at Generations United, Washington, DC.

Heidi Redlich Epstein, JD, MSW, is director of kinship policy at the ABA Center on Children and the Law, Washington, DC.