Working With Kinship Guardians
There are a variety of reasons that lead to a child being raised by a family member. According to the American Academy of child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2016), factors may include increasing numbers of single parent families, deportation of parents due to immigration issues, the high rate of divorce, teenage pregnancies, incarceration of parents, substance abuse by parents, illness, disability or death of parents, and/or parental abuse or neglect.
Kinship Guardianship is the preferred option for placement as there is an increase across the nation to place children with kinship guardians. The benefits of a child being raised by a Kinship Guardians include:
- Minimizes trauma
- Improves children’s wellbeing
- Increases permanency for children
- Improves behavioral and mental health outcomes
- Promotes sibling ties
- Provides a bridge for older youth
- Preserves children’s cultural identity and community connections (Epstein, 2020)
Kinship Guardianship in New Mexico
Kinship Guardianship in on the rise. On a national level, for every one child in foster care with relatives, there are 19 children being raised by grandparents or other relatives outside of the foster care system (Generations United, 2020).
New Mexico is a high needs state. We rank 50th in education (US News and World Report, 2018) and 50th in child wellbeing (Anna E Casey Foundation, 2019). Substance abuse, incarceration, divorce, mental-health diagnoses and domestic violence. In New Mexico, 10.9% of grandparents are raising their grandchildren (Con Alma Health Foundation, 2017). This lack of parental involvement in New Mexican families was associated with substance abuse, incarceration, divorce, mental-health diagnoses, domestic violence and military deployment (Con Alma Health Foundation, 2017).
Grandparents Serving As Kinship Guardians
Grandparents make up a large percentage of kinship guardians. On a national level, there are 2.4 million grandparents are kinship guardians.
- 55% of them are in the workforce
- 19% of them live below the poverty line
- 25% of them have a disability
- 45% of them have provided care for 5 years or more
- 46% of them are over age 60 (Generations United, 2020)
In New Mexico, we see this trend reflected among our grandparents who are raising grandchildren. Unique factors for grandparents raising grandchildren in New Mexico include:
- More households with three and four generations are living under one roof.
- Hispanics make up 53 percent of New Mexico’s grandparents raising grandchildren.
- Native Americans represent 9 percent of New Mexico’s population and 20 percent of grandparents raising grandchildren.
- Native American grandparents have unique challenges in navigating two legal systems.
- In 2015, more than 26,200 grandparents in New Mexico were responsible for the grandchildren living with them, and almost 61 percent were younger than 60. (Con Alma Health Foundation, 2017)
Common Challenges for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
There are several challenges facing Kinship Guardians who have assumed the responsibility of raising their kin. Some of these challenges may include:
Financial Needs: Most of the time kinship guardians are called upon to serve as guardians in the time of a crisis, thus the kinship guardians have no time to make financial plans to add the children into their homes. Kinship Guardians may be on a tight budget already and adding additional family members to the family’s financial demands may be overwhelming.
Health Issues: Kinship Guardians may be dealing with their own health issues and/or the kin may have their own health issues.
Emotional Issues: The stress of dealing with the transition from living with the biological parent to their kinship guardian may be stressful for both the child(ren) and the guardian.
Social Isolation: With the addition of the children to the household, comes a change in lifestyle for the kinship guardian who are now assuming the caregiver role. This leads to the kinship guardians putting their social lives and connections on hold while they are dealing with the day-to-day activities in the children’s lives.
Legal Issues: Access to legal services may be a barrier to kinship guardian who are a fixed income or don’t have access to funds for unexpected legal fees.
Education Concerns: Having to maneuver the school system and the technology associated with the educational platforms may be overwhelming for the kinship guardians.
Tips For Helping Kinship Guardians
Access to Services: A high number of kinship guardians are not receiving financial, legal or mental-health services for the children. Connecting these guardians to services is crucial.
Self-care: The lives of the kinship guardians may have drastically changed socially. A common barrier for guardians is social isolation, as their primary focus is on the child’s life. Thus, it is essential to remind kinship guardians of the importance of self-care.
Resources For Kinship Guardians
Fostering Family has a multitude of services to provide support to Kinship Guardians. Please explore the Caregiver Resources section to learn more.
- American Acedemy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2016) Facts for Families: Grandparents raising grandchildren.
- Con Alma Report: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren 2017
- Con Alma Website (Reference to report)
- Epstein (2017) Kinship Care is Better for Children and Families
- Generations United (2020) Grandfamilies: Strengths and Challenges