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Grandparents' rights: kinship care fights for legislative change

Kinship care is a term coined to describe grandparents who are raising one or more grandchildren in their homes. There are a lot of them, and they are becoming more vocal in demanding legislative action to support their cause. It certainly appears that there is good reason, because statistics document that upwards of nine percent of all children will live with an extended family member for at least three continuous months before their 18th birthday.

Some 2.7 million children across our country have lived with grandparents, another extended family member or close family friends, and that alone is an increase of about 18 percent in just the last decade. Be that as it may, grandparents' rights still have a ways to go in Arizona and elsewhere as the group fights for visitation and the right to raise their children's offspring when circumstances warrant.

One grandparent realized her grandson had a need for her love when he was born with cocaine in his blood. Even though the child welfare agency in the state where the boy lived determined that the parents were not fit to raise the child, the grandmother still had to deplete her retirement savings of just about $100,000 to wage a 10-year battle to gain custody of the boy. She was ultimately successful.

Along her journey the grandmother learned about several grandparents' rights groups -- like Generations United -- that gave her important advice about benefits programs and other information. She now advocates that grandparents and other extended family members that are providing primary care for a child in the family should be granted the same status as foster care parents, thus enabling them to be entitled to benefits that currently pay foster parents an average of $700 monthly per covered child.

These are important issues in Arizona and elsewhere, and support for them may indicate a shift in priorities in our society to back the concept of grandparents' rights in appropriate circumstances. In truth, children raised in grandparent homes are said to profit from the stability and are more likely to say that they are loved. And that is certainly a very good thing.

Source: Huffington Post, "Kinship Care More Common, But Public Help Lags," Saki Knafo, May 23, 2012

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