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When Family Ties Turn Into Entanglements:
Relatives Raising Children

By Judy Paschalis

(Page 2 of 4)

The situation quickly becomes bewildering because the grandparents, or other relatives, may not have legal papers that would entitle them to enroll children in school or obtain health care for the children.  Finding legal advice from an affordable attorney and also from an attorney who is well-versed in the law that is involved in kinship families is not easy.  These legal difficulties often drive relative caregivers “underground” and this is one of the main reasons that those who work with kinship families think there are far more kinship families than the research shows.

Finances also are an issue.  Financial assistance and health insurance for the children may be available from public agencies for the children; however, even with this assistance, many relatives find the extra people in the household really squeezes the budget, to say nothing of the crowding that may occur in the house itself.

But all these difficulties pale beside the stress that the family “entanglements” cause the caregiver and children. 

Caregivers have told the following:   the children’s birth mom will tell the five grandkids they don’t have to do what the grandmother says because she (the grandmother) is not their mom; the child’s birth mom will tell the child she’s coming to visit that afternoon, but never shows up; the children’s parents will threaten to call the public child serving agency and get the agency to “take” the kids if the caregivers don’t do what the birth parents say; the birth parents will refuse to cooperate with custody papers and, therefore, necessitate the caregivers hiring an attorney; and, on and on.

It certainly is true that some birth parents bow out of the picture and let the relative caregivers establish a stable home for their children.  But at the very least, most caregivers have stress connected with the very fact that it is adult members of their own families who are choosing not to care properly for the children.  And, of course, the relatives worry about the birth parents’ substance abuse, lack of employment, violence and all the numerous things that accompany dysfunction.

The Positives of Kinship Caregiving

Given all the above, is there anything positive about being a kinship family.  YES!

No doubt, grandparents and other relatives would prefer to have the birth parents taking good care of the children; but, since they are not, the grandparents often feel they have no other choice but to step in to do the parenting and it’s not all bad.

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