Report Shows 2.7 Million US Children Raised by Relatives and Family Friends

A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows an increase in children living with relatives or family friends, so-called “kinship care,” because their parents can no longer care for them. This year, 2.7 million children, about 4% of all US children, were raised in kinship care–an18% jump over the past decade. Circumstances leading to children kinship care include death, child abuse or neglect, military deployment, incarceration, or deportation.

The report, “Stepping up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families” [pdf], estimates that 9% of youths will live with extended family for at least three consecutive months at some point before age 18. In Massachusetts, 31,00 children (2%) are in kinship care, representing 18% of the state-supervised foster care population. Nationally, Mississippi and Kentucky have the highest rates of kinship care, at 7% and 6%, respectively. The report shows that kinship care families are more likely to be poor, less educated, and unemployed than in families where one parent is present (see a table outlining this data here). Kinship care is particularly prevalent in African-American families, where children are twice as likely to be raised in kinship care at some point.

Taking on parental responsibilities can be a substantial burden for relatives and family friends, adding emotional, legal, and financial challenges. The report outlines several recommendations for states and communities to assist families, like removing barriers in the child-welfare system and establishing laws and resources that bolster kinship families.

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Massachusetts Ranks #5 in ‘Kids Count’ Data

Kids Coutn Data CenterIn the 2010 Kids Count Data Book, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Massachusetts had the fifth-highest ranking for overall child well-being.

The Kids Count Data Book examines 10 key indicators of child well-being and found that since 2000, half of the indicators showed national improvement: the infant mortality rate, child death rate, teen death rate, teen birth rate, and the percent of teens who were not in school and not high school graduates.

Three indicators showed some worsening nationally, however: the percent of babies born with low birthweight, the child poverty rate, and the percent of children living in single-parent families. And even though the most current data available is from 2008, before the economic recession began, it shows that overall improvements in child well-being that began in the late 90s stalled in the years preceding the current downturn.

Massachusetts fell in the top 10% for seven of the 10 indicators and ranked second for infant mortality rate and the teen birth rate. In the indicator measuring the percent of children living in poverty (defined as an income below $21,834 for a family of four in 2008), Massachusetts saw a 14% decline since 2000. In contrast, the national rate rose 6%, which represents about 1 million more children living below the poverty line in 2008 than in 2000.

Across all of the indicators, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Vermont ranked highest and Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi ranked lowest.

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