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Kinship care programs in crisis

JASMIN K. WILLIAMS Special to the AmNews | 4/3/2012, 1:40 p.m.

Attorney Gerard Wallace is the director of the New York State Kinship Navigator Program. He spoke exclusively with the AmNews. "Kinship families are grandparents, relatives and even family friends who are raising children as primary caregivers, about 250,000 children in New York State. Those children are not in foster care," said Wallace.

"There are only 6,000 children in foster care in New York State. While a lot of policy has been done on foster children, very little has been done on the population being raised by relatives. The causes for children coming to live with relatives outside of foster care are similar to the causes that children go into foster care: parental abuse and neglect, abandonment, mental illness, incarceration, military deployment, financial problems or needing to move to another state to work, but in general, the kinship population is a supplement to the formal child welfare population. It's much larger with very little support," he said.

"Those programs will now be reduced or eliminated next November because, right now, there is only $338,000 in the budget for them. Bottom line: Kinship programs have been cut drastically from $2.75 million down to $338,000, and here is a population that is gigantic as compared to foster care," said Wallace.

"What do these programs do? The Bronx has the Grandparents Apartments, a 50-unit apartment building for grandparents and relative caregivers only," Wallace added. "They lost funding last May and they are going to be out of their deficit funding in June. That program will have grandparents and children living in a building with no services. The National Committee for Grandparents and Children's Rights in Nassau and Suffolk counties lost funding last May, and that program has ceased operation. Other programs that have gone out of existence were in Buffalo, Albany, Binghamton and Rochester. There is still some programming in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, but there is no program in Manhattan."

For more information on kinship care, visit www.nysnavigator.org.