September is Kinship Care Month in New York State! This month is an opportunity to recognize the commitment of thousands of kin—relatives or close family friends—across the state who step in to care for children when their parents are unable to do so. While the number of kin becoming formal foster parents has increased—currently about 25% of all foster care placements—most often children living with kin are not in approved foster homes.   

Children live with kin for many of the same reasons that lead to placement in foster care with non-relatives, namely neglect, parental substance abuse or mental health issues, physical abuse and other safety concerns.  Because of this, children often arrive to a relative’s home having experienced trauma.

Kin provide safe, stable homes for the children who come into their care, and enable them to stay connected to their culture and family tradition. That connection has been shown to minimize the trauma to the child and result in better outcomes, including improved mental and behavioral health.

At the Schuyler Center, we have long worked, through partnership with the NYS Kinship Navigator, to ensure that kinship families are provided with the supports they need to care for their children. In our work as co-lead of the CHAMPS-NY campaign, we are continuing that work, and advancing policy and practice change to better support kinship families, including through increased awareness of the benefits associated with becoming approved relative foster homes, should that be in the best interest of the child and their family.

CHAMPS builds on research that shows loving, supportive families—whether birth, kin, foster or adoptive—are critical to the healthy development of all children. And here in New York, we believe it is critical that all those families—birth, foster, kinship and adoptive—are supported so that children remain safe and find stability and permanency in their family.

This September, as always, let us take a moment to thank the kinship caregivers in our communities and commit, as a state, to do our best to ensure they receive the support they need.

For additional information on benefits and services available to kinship families, visit the NYS Kinship Navigator website or call their toll-free helpline at 877-454-6463.

To learn more about the CHAMPS-NY campaign, visit their website.