In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I am continuing my blog series on the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect.
When parents are unable to care for their children, for various reasons, family members and friends often step up and step in to help the children while their parents seek the support they need. These are the kinship families.
Kinship care refers to the care and protection of a child by relatives, stepparents, or other close relationships (also called fictive kin). According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, across the nation 4 percent of kids – more than 2.65 million children – are in kinship care. In 2020 in Idaho, there were 10,819 grandparents responsible for their grandchildren under 18 years old. This does not count for the thousands of children living with relatives informally.
Relatives (or fictive kin) are the preferred placement for children who must be removed from their birth parents for safety reasons. Because of their close relationship to the children and the family, they support and maintain the child's family connections and cultural traditions in ways others might not.
So how do the children in kinship care feel about their caregivers? We know thanks to an annual Department of Health and Welfare event called the “My Family. My Story.” art and expression contest for the children and caregivers of kinship families. I want to share a few of those entries from 2021 with you (with minor edits for clarity):
“My new family is amazing. I love them so much. The best thing about them is that they are fun. It was hard at first, but I realized that I do not need to worry. They are amazing.
Haylin, Age 8
“Hi, my name is Kaycee, and I have a very unique family. My grandma, she makes sure that I have things I want. She believes in me and supports me and what I want to do when I get older. My sisters and brother, they are my world. We might fight sometimes, but I still love them. My grandma, she makes sure that I know that I am beautiful inside and out, and I love her for that.
“I don’t have to wish upon a star because all of my dreams have come true.
The stories are both heart-wrenching and heartwarming. I hope you will take the time to read them. It will help you understand what simply having a warm and loving home means to the children in kinship care.
Kinship families, who continue to open their hearts and homes to Idaho children when their parents are unable to do so, have my sincerest appreciation. Idaho is grateful for them.
How to report child abuse, neglect, or abandonment
In Idaho, we receive nearly 23,000 reports of child abuse, neglect, and abandonment each year. To report suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment call:
- Statewide: 855-552-KIDS (5437)
- Treasure Valley: 208-334-KIDS (5437)
- 2-1-1 or local law enforcement
I hope you all have a safe and healthy weekend.