Each year in September, we celebrate National Kinship Care Month. Kinship care, refers to caregiver grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, adult siblings and even family friends. In the United States, there are more than 2.7 million children living with relatives. In California alone, there are roughly 19,111 children in kinship care. Oftentimes, when a child enters foster care, child welfare agencies will first turn to that child’s relatives for placement. This is done in an attempt to help the child maintain important connections with his or her family. In honor of National Kinship Care Month, this is the perfect time to celebrate and support all of the kinship families out there who have stepped forward when a child’s birth parents are unable to care for them.

Here are 5 Things to Know About Kinship Care during National Kinship Care Month:

1. There are two types of kinship care
There is informal kinship care as well as formal kinship care. Some children may be placed with their relatives privately (informal kinship care), while others are formally placed in kinship care by a child welfare agency (public kinship care or kinship foster care).

2. Relatives are usually given preference in foster care placements
Child welfare agencies attempt to place children with biological relatives whenever possible. This is done in the child’s best interest to help ease the transition of being removed from their home and their parents. Research suggests that children in kinship care are often better able to adjust to their new environment, less likely to experience school or behavioral problems, and less likely to be moved than children in non-relative foster homes.

3. Kinship care is a lot more common than you think
An estimated 2.7 million children — 4 percent of all children in the U.S. — are being raised by grandparents or other relatives. Nearly 25% of children in foster care are placed with relatives, and it’s estimated that many more are being raised by grandparents or other relatives outside of the foster system.

4. There are resources available to kinship caregivers
Kinship caregivers are usually eligible for financial assistance through the state and are eligible for additional assistance to support them with services like therapy, counseling, respite care and more. If you are currently raising a grandchild, niece, nephew or other relative in your home, contact us to learn more about these services, and take advantage of the resources that are available to you!

5. Kinship families need help and support
With so many children being raised by relatives other than their biological parents, chances are you may know someone in your own community who is currently raising a child in kinship care. Like anyone raising a child, these caregivers deal with the same kind of emotional, financial and physical stress — but it’s often amplified because of the unique situation their child is in.

The next time you speak with a kinship caregiver, take the time to offer them support in whatever way you can. Perhaps cook them a meal, or offer childcare services so they can have an evening to themselves. Alternatively you can always help kinship caregivers with your monetary donations. Your donations will help assure that our kinship families have what they need to feel secure and supported.