Effective today, April 1, about 2,900 children and 1,600 families on average a month will not be able to access public financial assistance for child care. It seems a cruel joke that this is occurring on April Fool’s Day.
Freezing applications for the child care assistance program will not allow any new families to receive assistance. This move, while expected to save the state some money, makes up 0.4 percent of the state budget. However, the effects will be felt much more dramatically in the lives of the families, the children, and the child care providers affected. If only this were an April Fool’s joke.
This move, while seemingly saving money in the short term, will likely cost more money in the long term. Some parents unable to access child care might lose their jobs and turn to unemployment or welfare assistance. Families unable to receive help are often forced to use a patchwork of arrangements that do not provide the stability young children need and that can easily fall through, causing further disruption for children. Research is clear that parents are more likely to work when they have reliable child care, and they find it challenging to work when they do not. Helping families pay for child care makes it more likely they can get and keep a job. Several past waiting list studies indicate that without child care assistance, parents turned to welfare.
To make matters worse, the state has also stopped new applications for kinship care providers. Kinship care is a program providing financial support to non-parental, relative caregivers, like grandparents. This allows grandparents or other relatives to care for children when the parents are unable. It also prevents children from entering foster care or group homes. Research shows that kids recover faster and better with relatives than with strangers, even well-intentioned strangers.
In addition to eliminating critical supports that lead to better outcomes for children, these cuts, like those to child care assistance, will undoubtedly cost our state more in the long run. A kinship care subsidy for grandparents and other close relatives costs the state just $300 a month, while payments to foster care parents costs around $600 a month (a conservative comparison that does not even account for the additional state costs for case workers or residential care).
Our kinship families who are stepping up to care for children are faced with extreme challenges. These families are more likely to be poor, single, older, less-educated and unemployed than families in which at least one parent is present. Cuts to kinship care subsidies will make it harder for grandparents and other relatives to help kids recover from abuse or neglect and drive more kids into the foster care system.
Today and in the months to come, thousands of families will be left wondering whether their inability to access kinship care and child care subsides is a cruel joke. Budgets are about priorities. If helping kids recover from abuse and neglect and preserving family ties are important, then the governor, Cabinet officials, and legislators need to protect those investments. Our families deserve better. Our children, Kentucky’s future, deserve better.
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In addition, research shows that kinship care is the MOST EFFECTIVE option in preparing youth who have been maltreated for successful adult functioning. Compared with alumni of the traditional foster care system, youth raised in kinship care are (1) more likely to succeed in school; (2) more likely to demonstrate the skills needed for independent living, e,g,, know how to drive a car, cook for themselves, manage their time; demonstrate good work habits, and so forth; (3) less likely to have experienced additional trauma; and (4) and less likely to experience symptoms such as serious mental illness or addictions. All these indicators seem to be tied that children and youth in kinship care are likely to have connected with solid adult role models, people they will have in their lives forever–family!
The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a group devoted to improving the lives of children and youth in foster care, recently reviewed the accumulated research comparing kinship care with non-kin foster care, concluding that kinship care should be considered every maltreated child’s first, best option.
Kentucky’s decision to end the kinship care program is penny-wise and pound-foolish! Ultimately it will damage children, and cost the taxpayers more in money spent far more sorrowfully in mental health treatment, juvenile and adult corrections, homelessness, addictions treatment, etc.
Even though we claim “poverty” in the state budget, do we really need to set our children up to fail?
Excellent points Helen – thank you. The state budget articulates the priorities and vision for the state. If we care about the future of Kentucky, we need to prioritize children in the budget.
These programs are some of the most successful. The dollars spent really help. Why are we risking spending more in the future by cutting these programs.
I am a grandparent raising two of my grandsons. My husband and I struggle every day with finances, he works I care for the boys. While we do not qualify for kinship care, we do have friends who are raising a drug addicted brothers children, who do receive funds. If it were not for these funds they would not be able to care for the children, as they could not afford their care on one income, and are able to make it on two because of the additional money for child care. In the scope of the state budget kinship care is not a lot to ensure that families are able to care for the helpless members of their family, and to be sure they are being taken care of and loved. If you want to make meaninful cuts, start at the top and cut out some of the ‘vanity’ and ‘extra’ items in the budget (ie beautifying public officials offices, ‘gifts’ to people, businesses, organizations although feel good, not necessary, cut the ‘free vehicle’ programs for officials that don’t need a state vehicle because they can drive their own.)
Thanks for your thoughts Ellen. Our state policymakers need to prioritize children in their budget decisions.
I am raising five grandchildren. Two year old twins born addicted to drugs with severe developmental delays. A three year old with detachment disorder. A five year old with speech problems and an eleven year old who has been in therapy for emotional dis function.
I had to quit my job to take care of my grandchildren. I gave up health life and disability insurance my job gave me.
My daughter stole over 70,000 from us before she finally went to jail.
We are on food stamps kinship care and my husbands social security.
Without kinship we would be homeless or the children would have to go to foster care
Kinship care is 300. Per month per child plus medical card plus 310. In food stamps.
Foster care would cost 700. Per month per child plus medical card plus 200. Per month per child and therapy for all kids for life.
No one can love and care for these kids more than grandparents.
Please bring back kinship care for all the new grandparents stepping into the new role as grandparents as parents. We will all profit in the future.
Thanks for sharing your story Sandra. Grandparents and other kinship care givers like you are so important for the well-being of Kentucky’s children.