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THREE QUESTIONS WITH THE KINSHIP NAVIGATOR
May was Foster Care Awareness Month and we want to keep the conversation going with one of our partners, Ryan Johnson, MSW, Associate Director at NYS Kinship Navigator. The NYS Kinship Navigator is an information, referral and advocacy program for kinship caregivers in New York State. A kinship caregiver is an individual that is caring for a child that is not biologically their own.
Question 1: What is Kinship Care?
Kinship Care refers to relatives and close family friends who step in to care for children full-time when their parents are unable or unwilling to care for them. Children come to live in kinship care for many of the same reasons a child might end up in foster care with strangers, namely abuse or neglect, incarceration, abandonment, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, military deployment, and more. Most of kinship care happens outside of the foster care system – we estimate about 195,000 children are being raised by kinship caregivers, and only about 7,500 of them are in foster care with a relative.
Many kinship caregivers are asked to take children into their homes with little to no notice and often struggle in the first few weeks/months with establishing stability while they try to help children who are no longer with their parents and are in a new (yet familiar) environment. According to research, kinship caregivers are more likely to be older, single, and be on a fixed income compared to families with both parents in them. present.
Question 2: What are common issues caregivers face?
There are typically three main issues a kinship caregiver will face when taking a child in:
1) Stability: “Can the children remain with me?”
2) Authority: “Can I legally make decisions for the children in my care?”
3) Assistance/Resources: “What is available to help me raise these children?” (discussed in Question 3).
The type of custodial arrangement a caregiver has will impact the answer to these questions, so it is important that prospective kinship caregivers are given information before taking children into their home.
Interaction with Child Protective Services:
Research has shown that, in NY, about 50% of children living with kinship caregivers have had contact with Child Protective Services (CPS) before entering the home of the caregiver. When CPS is involved in a child’s life, the opportunity to become a foster parent is present for the kinship caregiver if CPS has initiated a removal of custody from the parent. The foster care system in NY is the most robustly funded service system available to a kinship caregiver, and for families who have children with high exposure to trauma and severe needs, kinship foster care may be the best available resource for that family.
CPS may also initiate a transfer of custody to a kinship caregiver through a mechanism called ‘direct custody’. This is still an official action of “removal” taken by CPS, but without the supports of the foster care system. These placements are often called “temporary custody” because they are intended to be a short-term solution without bringing the child into foster car. For families who do not wish to become foster parents but still wish to have the CPS agency involved in the tasks of reunification and supervision of the case, direct custody may be a viable option. This may also be an option for families who wish to become kinship foster parents for children in their home but need time to review their options prior to their application to become foster parents.
No interaction with Child Protective Services:
Kinship caregivers may also petition family court for legal custody of children. This can be done as a part of a CPS proceeding, or without child welfare involvement. Custody can be “joint” with the parents, or “sole” with the caregiver having physical custody of the child and some authority to make decisions on behalf of the child.
The majority of kinship care in New York is informal – meaning without the involvement of the child welfare system or judicial system. Caregivers who are caring for children without a court order or any legal designation may struggle to access benefits or make decisions on behalf of the children in their care. There are tools available for informal kinship caregivers that can help alleviate some of these stressors, so it is important that families get connected to services quickly.
Question 3: What supports are available to families?
For children in kinship foster care – they have all of the same supports and benefits available to them that a non-kin foster parent would have. Those benefits include subsidies, Medicaid, assistance with accessing counseling, visitation supervision, diapers and clothes, and other benefits to assist in meeting the physical and emotional needs of children in care. For the majority of kinship families (those not in foster care), there are still a number of supports available they should know about.
Financial stress is often the biggest concern for caregivers when unexpectedly adding children to their home. A special grant called the Child Only Grant can be applied for through Temporary Assistance. 95% of children in kinship care are eligible for this grant, but according to an analysis of the data, only 12% of eligible children are currently getting this financial assistance.
The Office of Children and Family Services funds 14 local case management programs (operating in 25 counties) as well as the Statewide Kinship Navigator (operating in all 62 counties). These programs exist to assist caregivers with accessing available benefits and services, as well as to provide case management and referral services to increase stability and permanency for the children in their homes.
For more information about kinship care, available benefits and services, and the custodial options available to kinship caregivers, visit our website at
NEW YORK CHILD ADVOCACY AND HEALTH CARE ORGANIZATIONS CELEBRATE THE PASSAGE OF THE NEW YORK CHILD POVERTY REDUCTION ACT
New York's Legislature has voted overwhelmingly for the Child Poverty Reduction Act, a bill committing New York leaders to publicly set a goal of cutting child poverty in half in the next ten years and take immediate steps toward that goal. With the Governor's signature, New York law will clearly signal that our state will no longer tolerate having two of five children living just above or in poverty.
The Child Poverty Reduction Act S.2755-C (Ramos)/A.1160-C (Bronson) carves the beginning of a path to sharply reduce child poverty in New York State. This legislation declares policymakers’ intent to cut child poverty in half in ten years and establishes the Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council tasked with developing a plan to do it. The Council will evaluate specific policies and their impacts on child poverty, including racial disparities, make concrete budget and policy recommendations with benchmarks and timelines, and publicly share data to make sure that New York meets its goal.
“New York State has taken a crucial step toward reducing poverty among its youngest residents by passing the Child Poverty Reduction Act,” said Dia Bryant, Interim Executive Director of The Education Trust–New York. “As the ongoing pandemic continues to take a disproportionate toll on communities of color, who have far greater rates of children experiencing poverty, it is critical that state leaders take on this issue with the greatest of urgency. We owe it to our children, our families, and our communities.”
Before the pandemic, New York’s child poverty rate was higher than 32 other states. Before the pandemic, a Black child was two times more likely to live in poverty than a white child. Before the pandemic, poverty affected the lives of one in five New York children and, in some communities—including Rochester, Buffalo, and the Bronx—one in every two children. 2020 was already well-past time to address child poverty.
Since the pandemic, hundreds of thousands more children and families have plunged into poverty. Racial inequities have widened and been laid bare. Of the 4,200 children that lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19, Black and Hispanic children experienced that tragedy at twice the rate of Asian and white children. By March 2021, 31% of New York adults reported it had been somewhat or very difficult to pay for usual household expenses and 24% reported not being current on rent or mortgage, with eviction or foreclosure in the next two months likely.
“Child homelessness, hunger and suffering has been normalized in New York for far too long. This bill will redefine how we measure success and ensure New York prioritizes poor children in the budget process," said Ben Anderson, Director of Poverty and Health Policy at the Children's Defense Fund-New York. "We thank Senator Ramos and Assemblymember Bronson for their leadership on this landmark bill."
The Child Poverty Reduction Act went before the legislature with 41 co-sponsors in the Assembly and 24 co-sponsors in the Senate. New York legislators—Democrats and Republicans from rural, urban, and suburban communities that span the entirety of New York State—sent a clear message, with all but three voting in favor.
Outside of the legislature, nearly 60 partners, coming from all corners of the state and all walks of life, have joined in advancing the Child Poverty Reduction Act. Enthusiasm for this bold and urgently-needed initiative comes from nurses, pediatricians, parents, educators, child care providers, colleges and universities, hospital leaders, community health centers, child welfare agencies, libraries, youth bureaus, and community-based organizations. These are the people who, every day, see and try to cure child poverty’s ills. These are the people who know it would be better for our children, our families, our communities, and our state, if we prevented poverty before it seeded poor health, problems in school, and reduced opportunity.
“If signed by the Governor, this law will be a bridge from today, when we make policy and budget decisions and hope they don’t plunge more children into poverty, to a new day when New York is intentional about reducing child poverty and improving equity,” said Kate Breslin, President and CEO of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy. “This bill creates a new expectation that New York will significantly and consistently year over year cut child poverty by employing analysis, measurement over time, and public accountability about whether and how a wide variety of policy and budget decisions affect opportunity and economic security for our most vulnerable children.”
Following the Great Recession in 2008, when poverty rates rose, they continued to climb for six years, until 2015, when they finally dipped slightly. This time needs to be—and will be— different, for the sake of every single child and family whether they live in Buffalo, Batavia, or Brooklyn.
"There is no time to waste. Right now, there are federal funds available to jump start this effort."
New York certainly has the means to tackle child poverty and legislative leaders just demonstrated they have the will. When the Governor signs the Child Poverty Reduction Act, New York will signal our shared intention to make budget and policy choices that leave no child behind. “In New York State, there are over 700,000 children living in poverty. That’s approximately 1 out every 5 children in the New York State. In numerous communities in New York City, the number of children in poverty is as high as 1 in 2 children. The science is clear, poverty detrimentally impacts child development and their immediate and long term wellbeing. Too many children, disproportionately Black and brown, are facing poverty every day despite the tireless efforts of their working parents and caregivers. Citizens’ Committee for Children applauds the Senate and Assembly for taking this critical step forward and looks forward to working with them and our child advocacy colleagues to advance budget, legislative and program priorities that confront and tackle child poverty,” stated Jennifer March, Executive Director.
“We congratulate the legislature for recognizing the vital importance of addressing child poverty now,” said Elie Ward, Director of Policy, NYS American Academy of Pediatrics. “Hundreds of thousands of children in New York suffered the effects of poverty before the COVID pandemic, but the number of additional children who fell into poverty in the last year has created a child poverty crisis of unimaginable proportions. We must address this crisis now. The children cannot wait any longer.”
“Over 300,000 New York children have been newly pushed into or close to poverty due to the pandemic—that’s more children than live in Westchester County—we can and must do better by our children. Westchester Children’s Association applauds Senate and Assembly leadership for this important first step in reducing child poverty; now we must commit to the resources, data transparency, budget decisions and policies that will make it happen,” stated Allison Lake, Executive Director, Westchester Children’s Association.
"I am thrilled to see the Child Poverty Reduction Act pass the Legislature. Poverty has negative effects on children that last a lifetime, and can add stress to parents that unfortunately may result in abuse. Poverty is also often misidentified as neglect. PCANY's mission is to strengthen families, and this Act will help do just that. I look forward to working with partners to cut child poverty in half in ten years!" exclaimed Tim Hathaway, Executive Director, Prevent Child Abuse NY.
"Immigrant children make up 41% of all children in New York State living in low-income families," said Liza Schwartzwald, Senior Manager of Education Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition. "The Child Poverty Reduction Act is a critical step in New York State's commitment to reducing inequity for these and all families. The New York Immigration Coalition thanks Senator Ramos and Assemblymember Bronson for putting forward this legislation and addressing the disparities our families have faced even before the COVID-19 crisis. We look forward to continuing the work to ensure that all children in New York State can thrive."
“Beyond the incalculable moral toll, child poverty costs the state billions of dollars every year in lost opportunity. But it is a choice. We know how to end it and the Child Poverty Reduction Act commits New York State to cutting it in half. Robin Hood is grateful for the leadership of Senator Ramos and Assemblymember Bronson to advance this landmark legislation,” said Jason Cone, Chief Public Policy Officer of Robin Hood.
“As the Physician-in-Chief of Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester, I see first-hand the pervasive effects of poverty on our children’s health every day—the harm to our kids is real and alarming, and it can last a lifetime,” said Patrick Brophy, M.D., William H. Eilinger Chair of Pediatrics, University of Rochester Medical Center, Golisano Children’s Hospital. “So the onus is on our community to do everything we can to eradicate poverty.”
“We are grateful that the New York legislature voted to take this historic first step, thanks to the leadership of Assemblymember Bronson and Senator Ramos,” said Larry Marx, CEO of The Children’s Agenda. “Half of our community’s children lived in poverty in Rochester every year of the last decade—enduring hardships that act like a life sentence. But cutting child poverty in half in 10 years is entirely realistic; it’s been done before with tax credits, expanded childcare, Pre-K, and home visiting programs for low-income and working families. The public policy decisions New York State makes or fails to make in these same areas from now until 2030 will determine the trajectory of the health, education and success for hundreds of thousands of this generation’s children.”
STATEMENT OF EMPIRE STATE CAMPAIGN FOR CHILD CARE AND WINNING BEGINNING NY ON GOVERNOR'S RELEASE OF THE CHILD CARE AVAILABILITY TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS
Empire State Campaign for Child Care and Winning Beginning NY applaud the Governor’s Child Care Availability Task Force Recommendations released last week. The recommendations set forth a comprehensive, ambitious, and practical plan for New York to equitably expand access to high-quality child care to all New York families that need it, and to provide child care educators compensation and support reflective of the extraordinary value of their work. They present a consensus vision of the diverse government, business, child care, parent and advocacy leaders who made up the Task Force, arrived at after two years of active engagement and hard work by all.
New York now finds itself with a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We have a data-driven, fully vetted plan for transforming New York’s child care system; $2.4 billion in additional child care stimulus funds to jump-start implementation; a federal administration that is prioritizing expanding and investing in early childhood education; and a state Legislature committed to ensuring New York’s recovery is just, equitable, and centers those New Yorkers most impacted by the pandemic, among them, children. At the same time, the challenges facing the child care sector and families as the impacts of the pandemic continue cannot be overstated. We must take full advantage of the opportunity presented by this moment, and with an urgency reflective of the tremendous need of both families and of child care providers for concrete support.
We call upon New York leaders to take the following next steps without delay:
• Expand the state and counties’ administrative capacity immediately—transformation cannot happen without new staff and resources;
• Invest a portion of the federal child care stimulus funds in child care’s most precious resource—its educators and staff—many of whom worked through the pandemic at great risk to themselves and families at wage levels that leave many living in near poverty. New York should follow the lead of many other states and provide the child care workforce stimulus payments without delay—a small but important step toward fair compensation, and essential to workforce retention at a moment when child care workers are leaving the field in great numbers; and
• Extend the term of the Task Force and give it authority to monitor and guide implementation. These recommendations mean nothing unless they are implemented swiftly, effectively, and with input from child care providers and families.
This is our moment, New York, to set our state on track to offer high-quality, affordable child care to all New York families! We cannot miss the opportunity to take full advantage of the new federal funding and transformational plan generated by the Task Force.
“New York is poised to make transformational change to child care. We have the opportunity to improve quality for children, make it more affordable for families and improve compensation for early childhood educators. The Child Care Availability Task Force report provides the blueprint and increased federal funding creates the ability for us not just to rebuild but to build back better.” Kristen Kerr, Executive Director, NY Association for the Education of Young Children and a member of the Child Care Availability Task Force
“I cannot wait to see what we do with this work. The Task Force has worked so hard to form it into action.” Gladys Jones, Founder, ECE on the Move and member of the Empire State Campaign for Child Care
“Lack of child care, a gendered wage gap and the preponderance of presence in low-pay jobs were pre-existing conditions that lead to a predictable, and wildly disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women—especially women of color. We need to use this moment—and the NYS Child Care Availability Task Force report as a blueprint, to catalyze conversations about creating work/life models that going forward, consider the needs of working women and their families. Child care is the essential support required to capitalize from the diversity of voice that comes from having 71% of mothers with children (under 18) working outside the home.” Sheri L. Scavone, Executive Director, WNY Women’s Foundation and a member of the Child Care Availability Task Force
“On the heels of historic investments in child care in the recently enacted state budget, this report makes it clear; we have work to do. We look forward to working with the Governor and State Legislature to expand licensed, quality, and affordable child care across the state.” Pam Wells, President, CSEA/VOICE Local 100A
“The Alliance for Quality Education is pleased that the Task Force report is finally out. The report illustrates the pathway toward a child care system that works for all families, particularly for Black, brown, immigrant and low-income families who have not only been marginalized over the years, but also were hit the hardest during the pandemic. Now, we need to make sure that we use the resources available through the state and the federal government to operationalize this roadmap, quickly and in an inclusive, collaborative way.” Marina Marcou-O’Malley, Policy and Operations Director for the Alliance for Quality Education
“It was an honor to be a part of the Child Care Availability Task Force and work with such inspiring colleagues from across the state. The report is a roadmap for a more equitable and effective child care system in New York. I look forward to working with our state partners to seize this moment by using the historic federal investment in child care to transform New York’s child care system.” Jennifer Rojas, Executive Director, Child Care Council of Suffolk and a member of the Child Care Availability Task Force
“The work of the Child Care Availability Task Force—together with the recent investment of federal funding—sets the stage for transformation of the child care system in New York State. We must seize this opportunity to support providers, programs, and parents. Child care is a concrete support for many and we must increase access to affordable, high-quality options in order to strengthen families, the backbone of our great state.” Jenn O’Connor, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Prevent Child Abuse New York and a member of the Child Care Availability Task Force
“This report is a call for New York State to make the bold investments towards ensuring access to child care for all New York’s families. With a historic new federal investment in child care and rising demand as more working families need to return to in-person work, the time to act is now. Day Care Council of New York looks forward to working with New York State policymakers to expand high-quality early childhood education for all New York families.” Andrea Anthony, Executive Director of the Day Care Council of New York and a member of the Child Care Availability Task Force
“Before COVID hit, child care was in crisis, which was why the Task Force convened in the first place. As we leave the crisis stage of the pandemic behind us, we cannot afford to miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a system worthy of the central role child care plays in children’s development, in the lives of families, and in the lifeblood of our economy. Now is the time to invest, and rectify the woeful under-investments of the past.” Larry Marx, CEO of The Children’s Agenda and a member of the Child Care Availability Task Force
“I will always believe every challenge is an opportunity and we have the opportunity right now to do the right thing for our current workforce and for our state’s youngest citizens, our future. With the release of the Child Care Availability Task Force report coupled with this historic investment in child care, our lawmakers have invested in our children and also in the state’s economic development and infrastructure. In the 2022 budget, New York State has recognized that in order to rebuild our economy it is essential that we include a commitment to something as critical as child care. I thank the Governor and our Senate and Assembly on behalf of my colleagues and the children and families across New York State! It is imperative that this funding is released planfully and immediately because families and child care providers cannot wait any longer for help.” Beth Starks, founder and Executive Director of Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center, Assistant Professor and Early Childhood Education Coordinator at Jamestown Community College, and member of the Child Care Availability Task Force, Winning Beginning NY & Empire State Campaign for Child Care
“The recommendations of the Child Care Availability Task Force lay the framework for addressing the child care crisis in New York. The critical role child care providers serve in our economy was finally recognized during the pandemic. It is the Early Care & Learning Council’s hope that New York continues to invest in the future of our industry, by stabilizing the workforce through wage increases, addressing child care deserts and providing quality accessible early education for all New Yorkers.” Meredith Chimento, Executive Director of the Early Care & Learning Council and a member of the Child Care Availability Task Force
“As New York State recovers, quality early childhood education will play a vital role in helping parents and caregivers return to work, promoting healthy child development, and mitigating the impact of trauma on children. It was an honor to be a part of these important conversations, and I look forward to supporting the implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations to address the needs of children and families across New York State.” Yolanda McBride, Director of Public Policy, Children’s Aid and a member of the Child Care Availability Task Force
“New York’s Child Care Availability Task Force recommendations create a roadmap for transforming child care at a moment when transformation is both possible, and absolutely essential. For the families and child care providers still reeling from the challenges of this pandemic year, however, these recommendations will mean nothing unless New York implements them boldly and without delay. We look forward to supporting implementation and to the real moment of celebration: when all New York families can access high-quality child care, and all New York child care providers receive the compensation and resources they need and deserve.” Dede Hill, Director of Policy, Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, facilitator of the Empire State Campaign for Child Care, and a member of the Child Care Availability Task Force
“The Child Care Availability Task Force Report is a significant step into a re-imagined future for New York State child care. It provides the preliminary ingredients needed to reconstruct a child care system that meets the needs of current day children, families, and workforce in their traditional, blended, and ever-changing compositions. The Report implicitly yet factually eludes that today’s child care industry has successfully sustained the most challenging crisis of our time and therefore has outgrown the past model. Its precepts firmly establish the field of early care and education as a public good and human right for all children and families. This work must manifest now, more than ever.” Vonetta T. Rhodes Ed.M., Western New York Child Care Action Team
“Governor Cuomo’s release of the Child Care Availability Task Force recommendations represents a critical opportunity to expand access to affordable high-quality child care and early learning opportunities for young children. Along with the child care resources included in The American Rescue Act, the Task Force recommendations can help accelerate New York’s economic recovery and build the foundation for a new child care system in our state. One that is accessible and affordable to all families, particularly families of color and low-income families 5 whose inequitable access to high-quality, affordable child care was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. This is our chance to get it right for the youngest New Yorkers and their families.” Dia N. Bryant, Ed.L.D., Interim Executive Director, The Education Trust-NY
“All Our Kin is proud to support the Child Care Availability Task Force’s common sense recommendations to make long overdue improvements to New York’s child care system. We look forward to partnering with other stakeholders to ensure that the implementation process centers equity and responds to the needs of family child care providers and the children they serve.” Christie Balka, Senior Policy Director, All Our Kin
HOW CAN I HELP? SENATOR JABARI BRISPORT AND ASSEMBLY MEMBER ANDREW HEVESI ON CAP MONTH
A national effort, April’s Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Month is designed to raise awareness of both the prevalence of child abuse and neglect and the opportunities we all have to prevent maltreatment. As the recently appointed chairs of the Senate and Assembly Children and Families Committees, we recognize CAP Month as the chance to begin a conversation about what we can all do to better protect children and strengthen families.
We are the immediate past Chair of the Assembly Social Services Committee and a former public school teacher. As such, we understand that children don’t grow up in bubbles. They are heavily impacted by their caregivers and the world around them. When their parents experience stress—whether it’s the usual day-to-day pressure of life or a negative event like job
loss—children are more likely to feel the brunt of that burden. The pandemic has exacerbated the exhaustion and isolation that many families felt previously, which is why we are seeing increased rates of domestic violence and other abuse. And when childhood trauma continues to manifest into adulthood, we see increased parental substance abuse and chronic disease that wears on the family unit.
Luckily, there are policy decisions that we—elected officials—can make, and practices that you—the public—can implement.
Our policy priorities include a number of initiatives that would support families, such as:
Training mandated reporters in trauma-informed practice;
Expanding access to affordable, high-quality child care;
Increasing the value of rent subsidies included as part of preventive services; and
Reforming public assistance eligibility requirements
Things that you can do to help prevent child abuse include:
Reaching out to neighbors and friends to offer concrete supports, like providing a meal
or mowing a lawn
Letting a child in your life know that you are there to listen;
Taking action--quickly and easily--when there are opportunities to weigh in on policy, whether it's signing a petition, calling your local legislator, or spreading the word about a community program.
Throughout April—and beyond—we urge you to work with us to prevent child abuse. We each have the power—and the responsibility—to make a difference in the life of a child.
Senator Jabari Brisport, Chair of Senate Children and Families Committee
Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi, Chair of Assembly Children and Families Committee