More than 200,000 children under 18 in Ohio live with grandparents or other relatives, an arrangement known as kinship care.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - September is Kinship Care Awareness Month and, in Ohio, advocates for family caregivers say they'd benefit from more assistance from the state and local governments.
Kinship caregivers are relatives or close family friends who step in to help raise a child when parents are no longer able to do so. In Ohio, about 100,000 grandparents currently are raising their grandchildren. Research has shown kinship care can be a more positive and stable relationship for young people than being in the foster-care system.
Dot Erickson-Anderson, a volunteer with the Ohio Family Care Association, said she wants to see more financial support for family kinship in Ohio, "so, just being conscious at the local level that we build more support structures for families, and that we look at at families not as a nuclear base, but as this extended family base, so that we can offer the support."
Earlier this year, Ohio created a stipend program for kinship caregivers in families who have open cases with child welfare to receive about $10 a day for six to nine months, which some advocates have said is still too low.
Rena and Tony Craver are foster parents living in Clermont County. Since 2004, they've cared for 26 children placed in their home. When the situation is safe, they've worked with kids to help them transition into being reunited with family members. Rena Craver said kinship connections for foster youths are important because they help kids build trust.
"What message we're sending is, is that your family is important to you, and therefore, it's important to us, and we're going to support you in any way that we can," she said. "Whether they go to live with a family member or do some form of kinship, we need to have more empathy for our kids and understand where they're coming from."
The Cravers will be recognized next week as one of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio's Families of the Year.