Report Urges State Agencies to Address Growing Kinship Care Needs

A new report finds that more American children are living under kinship care with relatives or family friends instead of their parents, than a decade ago. The report, published by Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT project , entitled “Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families”, found that approximately 2.7 million children are currently living with people other than their parents, an arrangement also known as kinship care. The report also found that about 9 percent of the nation’s youth will live under care of an extended family member for at least three months at some point in their childhood. The authors of the report claim that kinship care needs to be addressed by both community and government programs, as many times family members or friends that assume parental responsibilities are hampered by limited income and the legal inability to obtain basic medical services or authorize medical consent for the children in their care. According to the report, kinship care guardians are very likely to be poor, single, older, less educated and/or unemployed and are often unfamiliar with federal assistance programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Opening slide to DCANP Sustainability Meetings

One Agency’s Budget Struggles Typical of Nation

Alabama’s only agency designated to prevent child abuse and neglect, among the many juvenile justice departments around the nation grappling with a smaller budget, will serve nearly half the number of kids in 2012 as they did in 2011. The Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention (DCANP) is preparing to cut 74 community-based programs around the state when the new budget takes effect October 1. The cuts bring the total number of programs to just 101 for FY 2012, compared to 227 funded in FY 2005. The reduction in services represents roughly 14,000 kids that will no longer have access to community-based prevention programs.

“I’m really concerned with the burden of the system as a whole,” says Kelley Parris-Barnes, director of the DCANP. “When you take the community-level programs out you don’t have the capacity in the state to do it.”

The DCANP doesn’t deliver services directly.

The Continuing Problem of Child Poverty in the South

If you are a child in the United States living in poverty you probably live in the South. According to U.S. census data from 2009 (the last year data are available) the 10 states with the highest rates of child poverty were all in the South. All 10 states had child poverty rates more than 20 percent. In Mississippi, one out of every three children lives in poverty.

A look at teen birth rates reveals a similar cluster. The South is home to all 13 states with the most teen births.

For those who have watched Southern society for many years, the problem is as much cultural as it is economic.

According to Dr. Harvey Jackson, an expert on Southern history and Eminent Scholar in history at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, the statistics are not surprising.

“There are more children in poverty because there are more adults in poverty,” Jackson said. “This is a region of the country in which adults are poor and yet adults continue to have children even though they are poor.”

The problem is social, he says, especially concerning teen births.

“There are real cultural attitudes [in the South] that have to do with large families and premarital sex,” Jackson said. “And it is less condemned in certain communities in the South, particularly among the poor.

KIDS COUNT: Georgia Ranks Near Bottom of States Due to Increased Poverty

For the third year in a row, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book ranked Georgia 42nd overall. The KIDS COUNT report ranks states by measuring the health and safety of children using a variety of indicators. Georgia ranked in the bottom half of all indicators nationally. The study found 37 percent of Georgia children lived in a single-parent household in 2009, a 1 percent increase from the year before, ranking Georgia 41st in the nation in this category. Georgia saw increases in almost every measurement including:

Children living in poverty (+2 percent)
Children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment (+4 percent)
Teens aged 16-19 not in school and not working (+1 percent)
Teen deaths from all causes (+2 percent)

Only two measurements improved: The teen birth rate declined across all age groups and the number of teens aged 16 to 19 not in high school, who have not graduated fell by one percent.

KIDS COUNT: Significant Decline in Children’s Economic Well Being Over Past Decade

There has been a significant decline in economic well being for low-income children and families in the last decade, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS COUNT Data Book.

Among the findings, the official child poverty rate, a conservative measure of economic hardship according to the report, increased 18 percent between 2000 and 2009. The increase represents 2.4 million more children now living below the federal poverty line, returning to roughly the same levels as the early 1990’s.

“In 2009, 42 percent of our nation’s children, or 31 million, lived in families with incomes below twice the federal poverty line or $43,512/year for a family of four, a minimum needed for most families to make ends meet,” Laura Speer, associate director for Policy Reform and Data at the Casey Foundation, said in a press release. “The recent recession has wiped out many of the economic gains for children that occurred in the late 1990’s.”

Children’s Agencies Push for Data Driven Progress, Common Goals at Statewide Conference

Georgia ranks near the bottom on almost every index of child well-being charted by KIDS COUNT, the annual survey that tracks children and families in all 50 states.  While the state has made progress on issues like child deaths, teen pregnancy and high school graduation rates, Georgia sits at #42. So when 500 people who provide services for children got together this week at the Georgia Conference on Children and Families, they had plenty to talk about. Leaders of the largest state agencies and non-profits who guide child policy came together in front of a full house on Wednesday to send a message about sharing common goals and measuring progress with data. “We have to work together by developing outcomes we agree to and track,” said Normer Adams, executive director of the Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children. “Child welfare has changed so much over the years it really needed a break from the past. We have moved away from the model of child rescue to the model of family restoration. It’s more informed by research and outcomes than in the past. What we know from research is that children are best cared for by their families.”

KIDS COUNT: 22% of Georgia Kids Live in Poverty

New Data from KIDS COUNT shows more children are living in poverty across the country, while the poverty rate for children in Georgia stands at 22%.   The updated numbers include data from the U.S. Census bureau.  You can look up states, cities and for the first time congressional districts. “These numbers should be a major wakeup call,” said Laura Beavers, national KIDS COUNT coordinator at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “The economic success of America’s children and families, now more than ever, depends on the financial stability of the communities they live in.”

Among other things, the database includes a survey of teenage risky behaviors from 2007-2008.  Here’s what they report from Georgia:

7% engaged in binge drinking
5% used marijuana
4% use other illicit drugs