Saturday, March 10, 2007

Federal funding should offer more support for kinship care

Guest Commentary"
Foster care rules must change
Butts, Donna. Contra Costa Times, March 10, 2007.

The Times' story of the Hyland family (From foster care to forever family, Feb. 28) shows how important it is for foster children to stay connected with family. In Contra Costa County, 37 percent of children in foster care are living in the homes of grandparents and other relatives.

Many foster children find a permanent, loving home with relatives through legal guardianship. Families may seek this arrangement, for example, when a disabled parent who cannot care for her children still wants to remain connected to them. Other children may want to avoid the potential confusion of an adoption whereby grandma becomes mom, and mom becomes sister.

Yet, federal foster care funds cannot currently be used to support foster children living with relatives who choose to become legal guardians of children for whom reunification with their parents or adoption is not an option. If Congress provided support for these families by subsidizing legal guardianships, an estimated 20,000 children in foster care could leave the system for safe and stable homes rather than languishing in an already overloaded foster care system.

If there were greater flexibility in federal foster care funding regulations, more children like Jamie could look to a future with "No more visits from social workers."

- Donna Butts is executive director of Generations United in Washington, D.C.