Kinship Caregivers

On December 29, 2020 – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 310 which authorizes payments from the Ohio Dept of Job and Family Services to pay kinship caregivers. This is a big deal and hopefully other states will now follow suit. The governor noted that in Ohio alone, there are 2,600 kinship caregivers providing safe and loving homes to nearly 4,000 children registered in a children services agency.

The governor ordered the development of a system to pay kinship cargivers by June 1, 2021 and that payments to caregivers should be caught up retroactively to the date the bill was signed – December 29, 2020.

Across the United States, 4% of all children (more than 2.65 million) are in kinship care. In this arrangement, relatives raise kids when their parents cannot care for them. This is an effort to keep families together.

There are three general and sometimes overlapping categories of kinship care. These categories are: 1) private or informal care, where families make arrangements with or without legal recognition of a caregiver’s status; 2) diversion kinship care, where children who have come to the attention of child welfare agencies end up living with a relative or close friend of the family. and 3) licensed or unlicensed kinship care, where kids live with relatives but remain in legal custody of the state.

There are many reasons that a parent may be unwilling or unable to care for their child, including death, incarceration, illness, substance abuse and financial instability.

Kinship caregivers may be grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, or family friends of the children in their care. Caregivers often feel responsible for extended family members and prefer to care personally for relative children who may otherwise end up in non-relative foster care. In many cases, grandparents and other relatives have not planned for the addition of children to the home, and may have problems accessing social and educational services that have changed drastically since they raised their own children. Some caregivers experience feelings of guilt and social isolation resulting from fear of the perception that one failed in raising one’s own child. Caregivers may be hesitant to pursue legal custody of children in their care if they want to maintain relationships with the child’s biological parent, or if they view the arrangement as temporary.

Grandfamilies face obstacles not encountered by biological parents such as obtaining medical and educational services for the children in their care and securing affordable housing in which they can live with the children. Many of the public assistance benefits available to birth parents and foster families are not available to kinship caregivers even if the child was receiving assistance in the parent’s home. Some states offer “subsidized guardianship” payments for kinship families with children placed through children services agencies or foster care agencies, although these payments are substantially less than payments that non-relative foster families receive.

Financial issues are common for many older grandparents and great-grandparents who are living on fixed incomes, Social Security or disability payments, who did not plan to raise children late in life, or who are raising children with demanding educational or medical needs. The prevalence of these financial issues has led to a high rate of food insecurity, job loss and home foreclosure in families who support additional children without adequate financial and service assistance. The obstacles can be even greater in “informal” care arrangements, where the relative caregiver lacks a legal relationship (such as legal custody or guardianship) with the child.

Abandonment Part 1

Abandonment is a common, often unconscious, trauma issue in adoptees. However, there are many variations. When parents divorce and when one or both of the original parents of a child re-marry, it is not uncommon that the parental relationship of either the mother or the father suffers. More often it is the father, in my case in the mid-1970s, I was the absentee parent though I never thought of myself as having abandoned my precious daughter, she may have had experiences of that because at times I was not accessible to contact due to the partner I was living with.

Today’s story isn’t my own but another one where the abandonment behavior was even more extreme and where the original mother is considering adoption because her daughter wants a sibling (and many times after my divorce, my daughter did express to me the same desire for a sibling). In her case, her dad remarried a woman with a daughter from another marriage and then they had a daughter together. A yours, mine and ours family. Quite a bit later in time, I conceived and gave birth to two sons with my current, second husband. Here’s that story from a woman who has joined my adoption community.

I’m a 38 year old married woman with 2 children. 20 year old female stepdaughter and 14 year old bio daughter who is not my husbands. I had a hysterectomy 4 years ago and was devastated. My hubby and I don’t have any children together. I was invited to join this group because we have seriously been considering adopting. I wanted to learn as much as possible before starting the path.

Here’s my realization and questions. My 14 year old is amazing. Her bio dad and I had a great relationship until he met his now wife. Once she came into the picture his relationship with his daughter started to change. He saw her less and less, skipped visits, ignored me, etc.. then one day when she was 9 he served me papers and wanted to sever his custody. I was shocked. I didn’t understand. His daughter loves him. We never had any issues, I didn’t even ask him to ever pay a dime in child support. I have only just wanted them to have a relationship. There was no talking to him or his wife. They made up their minds. I refused to sign off.

They wanted my hubby to adopt my daughter and even though my hubby would do it in a heartbeat I refused. I wanted my daughter to be able to go to him one day and have the right to know why he gave her up. So I have full legal and physical custody and he has waived all visitation. I told my beautiful 9 year old girl that her daddy just needs a break from being a dad. That he has a lot of work and I’m sure he will see her soon. Yes I lied. I was hoping he’d come to his senses. So far he hasn’t.

During this time I have really tried to foster a relationship between his parents and my daughter. Also his sister and her kids. I WANT my daughter to have a relationship with her family. They really don’t know why he did this other than to say that his wife doesn’t want kids, did not like that her husband and I were on friendly terms (I am happily married, just wanted a good relationship with my ex for the sake of my daughter), and gave him an ultimatum… his daughter or her. He chose wrong.

Over the years the relationship with his parents has gotten strained. I have to be the one to reach out to them. They always mail birthday and Christmas gifts but don’t ever ask to see her. I offer to drive her to their house and pick her up, really everything to keep peace and give her a good relationship with them. She’s 14 now and hasn’t seen her dad since she was 9. She does know the truth behind his abandonment now.

We have been through YEARS of therapy. A suicide attempt, partial hospitalization, etc… she has a lot of issues in regards to this. We work on it every day and let her know how much we love her and that she is not worthless. She just doesn’t know/understand why her dad would do this to her.

Anyway, that’s my back story. So here is my other situation. I want to adopt. I want to be able to give a loving home to a child who may not have one currently. I’m not delusional in thinking that adopting is this sunshine and rainbows situation where there wouldn’t be trauma and issues. Seeing how my daughter has suffered with abandonment I have some insight.

Yes, I know it would be different because my daughter still has one bio parent where an adopted child possibly wouldn’t. I’m also completely open to having an open adoption where the child would have a relationship with their parents. I’m not going to lie to you all and say there isn’t a selfish component here. Yes, I DO want a child. I have grieved over the loss of being able to have any more children biologically. I just feel that we have a lot of love and support to offer.

I am going to leave it here for today and not go into her questions or the responses because this is long enough.

The Fallacy of Temporary Care

My maternal grandmother and I both share a sad fact – we sought temporary care for our daughter – only to see that need for financial support and an inability to provide adequately for the basic needs of our child turn into a permanent situation.

My grandmother walked into a trap when in total desperation she took my mom to Porter Leath Orphanage for temporary care.  That is a staff member of the orphanage holding my mom in the photo above.  Georgia Tann got her hooks into my mom and was never going to let her go until she was placed with a repeat, paying customer.

In my case, I took my daughter to her paternal grandmother for temporary care while I tried to boost my financial foundation.  However, her dad remarried a woman with a child and then they had another child together.  I was not inclined to interrupt a situation that I could not better in my own circumstances.

Do I regret leaving her ?  Absolutely.  I knew nothing about the trauma separating a child from their natural mother causes.  My parents were both adoptees – that meant they had been separated from their own mothers.  I simply lacked the knowledge or understanding to know that I might be causing any kind of harm to the child I loved more than anyone else in the world.

The reality is – for both my maternal grandmother and for my own self – we lost physical (in my grandmother’s case – legal) custody of our children.  Nothing changes reality but I can and do share what I have learned about the implications.