WASHINGTON, May 10, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today hundreds of grandparents and other relative caregivers from across the country gathered on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol today for the Fifth National GrandRally: Building a Community of Hope for grandparents and other relatives raising children. They traveled to Washington, many of them on buses, to join Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Bob Casey (D-PA) and a community of advocates to recognize and celebrate the critical role kinship families, also known as "grandfamilies," play in providing safe, loving, permanent families for children and to educate lawmakers about the important role federal policies and programs play in ensuring essential support to kinship families. Michelle Singletary, the Washington Post's nationally syndicated columnist who was raised by her grandmother, was Master of Ceremonies.
"Grandparents and other relatives are our nation's best natural resource when it comes to making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children," Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said. "In times like these, with so many communities struggling with the opioid epidemic, it's grandparents and relatives who are often the first to step up and take care of the children who are left behind. I am proud to stand with the families who are improving the lives of children every day. I am going to keep fighting to make sure Congress doesn't pull the rug out from under them and gives these families the help they need."
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, co-chair of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth and champion of policies for children thanked the grandparents and other relatives for what they do., He said, "When grandparents and other relatives like you are willing to step in and raise your grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or younger siblings, you're providing more than just a safe place to sleep. You're providing the care, support, and stability that all children need. By opening your homes and providing love and safety for these children, you're creating a foundation for a better future."
Brittney Barros, 19-years-old, spent four years in Michigan's foster care system before being placed with her grandmother, and spoke about the power of keeping children in the family. She said, "Since my mom's rights were terminated my only hope and dream was to live with my grandmother with my brother and sisters. After numerous foster homes, group homes, and battles in court, my grandmother finally won guardianship of myself and two out of three other siblings. When I was placed with my grandmother I was beyond relieved – no more group homes, no more instability, no more wondering if I was going to be removed and having to adjust to yet another school and another life. She saved us from many years of turmoil, trauma, and the many dynamic issues youth face from the foster care system. This rescue is what every foster youth deserves."
Donna Butts, Executive Director of Generations United, a sponsor of the GrandRally, said: "While grandparents and other relatives have long been called upon to raise children for many reasons including parental substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, homelessness, incarceration, military service and death, the current opioid crisis is overwhelming many grandfamilies and the child welfare system. We need to recognize the vital role these grandfamilies play in America."
For every child in foster care, nearly 20 children are being raised by relatives outside the child welfare system and are receiving little to no support. There are more than seven million children living in households headed by a grandparent or other relative, and nearly 2.6 million of them are being raised in kinship families with no parent present. Nearly 2.7 million grandparents are householders responsible for their grandchildren who live with them, and one in five of them live in poverty. Federal policies and programs make big differences in the lives of relative caregivers and in the lives of the children they raise.
The GrandRally also featured testimonials of relative caregivers from Texas and Maine, other youth raised by kin, kinship allies, and musicians raised by or raising relatives, including A Second Chance, Inc. Choir from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and musician SaulPaul from Texas who performed an original song dedicated to his grandmother who raised him.
Caregivers not able to come to Washington joined the GrandRally virtually in group events across the country and called their members of Congress to support the relatives raising children who gathered on Capitol Hill.
"Every child in America deserves a safe, supportive and permanent family," Dr. Sharon McDaniel, Member of Casey Family Programs Board of Trustees, and Founder, President and CEO of A Second Chance, Inc. said before the rally. "More and more, grandparents across America are fulfilling this vital role. Casey Family Programs is proud to partner on this important event to honor grandfamilies' commitment to building communities of hope for their youngest members and to recognize that everyone has a role to play in creating hope and opportunities for children and families."
The Fifth National GrandRally was sponsored by Casey Family Programs, Generations United, Children's Defense Fund, AARP, FosterClub, GrandFamilies of America, and National Kinship Alliance for Children.
For more information about the GrandRally, please visit: www.GrandRally2017.org
The Children's Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.
To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/fifth-national-grandrally-brings-hundreds-of-grandparents-and-other-relatives-raising-children-to-the-us-capitol-300455286.html
SOURCE Children's Defense Fund