Governor Needs to Invest in Kinship Programs That Save Tax Dollars

Dec 05, 2008, 14:30 ET from AARP New York State

Statement by Lois Aronstein AARP New York State Director

ALBANY, N.Y., Dec. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In New York State there are 297,239 children living in grandparent-headed households (6.3% of all the children in the state). There are another 111,806 children living in households headed by other relatives.

These grandparents and other relative caregivers often lack information about their rights as caregivers and about obtaining a range of support services. Unlike parents, kinship caregivers face challenges enrolling children in school, getting medical care, accessing family rights, and obtaining necessary benefits. In response to their needs, New York appropriates $2 million dollars for a statewide kinship navigator program and 13 regional programs.

Each year, these programs provide essential services to over 4,000 children. These children live with family members for the same reasons that children are in foster care - because their parents abused, neglected or abandoned them, or their parents are alcohol and/or substance abusers, are deceased, mentally ill, or are unable or unwilling to parent.

These programs clearly save the state money. In New York, according to the Office of Children and Family Services, the average cost of a child in non-specialized foster care is $22,000 per year. The kinship programs' average cost is approximately $500 per child.

The total cost of all of the state's kinship programs is less than what it costs for just 100 children in foster care. These kinship families are not part of the "formal" foster care system. They are "informal" kinship care providers, and without their caregiving efforts, more children would be sent to the more expensive foster care system.

In addition to cost implications, there are numerous studies showing children raised by family members live in safer and more stable homes than children in the care of non-relatives. In fact, a recent study, published in the June 2008 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, found that children living in kinship families have better outcomes than children in foster care.

AARP strongly believes that when the Governor releases his budget next week, he should embrace the work of these programs and continue to assist these kinship families. New York should invest its scarce tax dollars in programs that are effective and save money for the state and its localities. These vital kinship programs should be allowed to continue to produce positive social change in the lives of our next generation.

SOURCE AARP New York State