We know intuitively – and from the data – that to thrive, children need a stable, loving, permanent family. When children enter foster care, those who are placed with family are more likely to experience stability: they are moved around less, spend less time out of their homes, experience less trauma, are more likely to stay in their community of origin and more likely to stay with their siblings. This results in better mental and behavioral health, increased permanency, and stronger ties with their community and culture.

When a child enters foster care, the first goal is always to reunify that child with their family. However, when reunification is not an option, establishing permanency for that child within a safe, stable, caring home is imperative.  And that safety and stability can often be found with relatives or “fictive kin” with whom the child already has a close, positive relationship.  In order to ensure that more children in foster care in New York State are able to find permanency with kin, we are working with our CHAMPS partners to strengthen kin-based permanency options, including KinGAP. KinGAP (the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program) allows children who are in foster care with a relative to enter a stable guardianship with that relative. Because KinGAP does not involve terminating parental rights, it enables children to leave the foster care system and enter a stable family environment in as little as six months.  Because of the nature of this permanency arrangement, KinGAP also makes it more possible for children to maintain important positive relationships they have with their families of origin. Finally, KinGAP supports families with a stipend, akin to the adoption subsidy, to help relatives provide for the child[ren] in their care.

This is why we are advocating for New York to strengthen KinGAP by funding it through an open-ended funding stream outside of the foster care block grant, akin to the adoption subsidy. By reforming KinGAP funding to reflect that it is a permanency option, the State will enable its counties to make KinGAP an option for more kinship families, and will allow more children to exit foster care in a timely manner to permanency with kin.

In addition to our efforts to strengthen KinGAP, we are working with our CHAMPS partners to urge New York State to create a Kinship Firewall, to encourage counties first exhaust all options to place children with kin before placing them in other foster care settings. We are also supporting the creation of a Foster Care Ombudsman to advocate for and inform foster parents, including recommending improvements to the foster care system, which will improve long-term outcomes.

In 2020, we are eager to continue our work with CHAMPS and many other partners to strengthen New York families.