It's hard to go home for the holidays when you've bounced from bed to bed never finding a permanent family.
That's what happens to kids like Andreah.
When she was 8 her mother's drug addiction forced her grandparents to tell their daughter she needed to move out. It broke their hearts to see the grandchildren they'd been caring for leave with her but they had no choice.
Andreah went from the stable environment her grandparents provided to land in over a dozen foster care placements. She later found out why they weren't able to keep her.
Money. They had all the love in their hearts but not the dollars in the bank. And it takes money to raise a child.
Generations United's new State of Grandfamilies Report, released today, offers a snapshot of grandparents, the children in their care and the hardships they face.
Currently 7.8 million children live in grandfamilies where grandparents or other relatives are the householders. Nearly one-third of children in all grandfamilies do not have their parents living with them. About 2.7 million grandparents are responsible for most of the basic needs of the grandchildren in their homes.
The number of youth in foster care who are raised by grandparents and other relatives increased in the past decade from 23 percent to 27 percent.
This is a good sign.
It means child welfare officials are working more aggressively to find relatives to take children when they come into custody.
Children fare well when they live with family.
They grow up feeling more connected to their roots, their family stories and cultural heritage. They experience far fewer placements than someone like Andreah. And they are more likely to keep brothers and sisters together.
After all, a kid can age out of a system but they don't age out of a family.
While the system has worked harder at finding family members, the number of young people in relative foster care is tiny compared to the number who are living in grandfamilies outside of the system.
For every one child in foster care with relatives, 23 are raised by relatives outside the system.
These relatives who step up save our country more than 4 billion dollars a year by keeping children out of the system.
Unfortunately, like Andreah's grandparents, they receive little to no support and often compromise their own long-term health and finances in doing so.
Grandfamilies deserve to be recognized, respected and supported.
What can you do? Here are a few ideas:
•Raise awareness about the successes of children and youth who are raised by grandparents or other relatives by sharing Grand Successes.
•Sign up to receive alerts from Generations United about grandfamilies' policies, resources, and news and use your knowledge to raise awareness of grandfamilies, their needs and strengths.
•Contact your elected officials. Tell them why they should support grandfamilies.
•Monitor your local paper for articles about grandfamilies and children and youth in foster care. Write letters to the editor about the importance of supporting children and youth who are raised in grandfamilies.
•Encourage community policies and business practices that give full family benefits and targeted support to grandfamilies. Some examples include:
- Promoting other policies that extend the definition of 'family' to include grandfamilies and other 'non-traditional' families. For example, ensuring that employee benefits extend to and include grandfamilies.
- Providing free or discounted admission to camps, parks, and entertainment events for grandfamilies.
- Offering free or low-cost space where grandfamily groups can hold support groups or informational meetings.
- Paying tribute to grandfamilies with city proclamations, awareness raising events, awards and other recognitions. Grandparents Day is one holiday to organize activities around.
- Connecting with local support programs. Ask how you can help. Many groups can use volunteers, fundraisers or donations of supplies.
Andreah was able to re-unite with her grandparents. She's gone on to have her own family. A family she can celebrate the holidays with.
In honor of Andreah and the millions of kids like her, let's vow to honor and support grandfamilies.
Every child deserves a family, a grand family.