Did you know that across Rhode Island, about 14,000 children (6%) are living with grandparents and 4,500 (2%) are living with other non-parent relatives? This practice, spanning generations and cultures, is called “kinship care.” Following Children’s Friend’s strategic priority to align ourselves with the youngest and most vulnerable children in RI, the Volunteer Army Advocacy Team held a training on Saturday, March 30 on advocating for kinship caregivers. Nearly 30 Children’s Friend staff, partners, and families attended to share our collective knowledge about the importance of kinship care and to build the skills necessary to advocate for kinship families.
Every day, we at Children’s Friend work with dozens of families in kinship foster arrangements – both formal and informal – building on our 184-year history of advocating for families in need. Children in kinship care are particularly vulnerable because their well-being and development may be deeply impacted by separation from bio parent and accompanying traumas, as well as by intergenerational stressors.
During our training, grandparent caregivers, as well as Children’s Friend teachers and home visitors, told story after story of the intricate tapestry of connection and care necessary to make safe homes possible for kinship children. A grandparent moving across the country to be with her grandson, countless meetings with social service providers, the difficulty of navigating relationships with bio parents – all made clear that kinship families need access to an array of services and supports to reduce sources of stress in their lives, build core life skills, and foster responsive relationships. All too often, they face barriers to engaging these resources. We don’t know what the solution is right now – but we do know that our legislators need to be informed about kinship care so that they are prepared to make decisions that affect these families’ lives.
We invite you to join in this advocacy campaign, which includes direct contact with legislators as well as social media advocacy. Call, email, or meet with your legislators (look them up at vote.sos.ri.gov) and post on social media using #RIKinship4Kids.
Our message is: Across RI, over 18,500 children are living with grandparents, aunts and uncles, or close family friends as their primary caregivers and nurturers while their parents can’t care for them. This practice, spanning generations and cultures, is called “kinship care.” Kinship families are charged with providing love and care to some of the most vulnerable children in our state. We’re celebrating these unsung heroes and standing with them to ensure their needs are met! #RIKinship4Kids.
Stay tuned – this is just the beginning!
Health Project Coordinator