It is becoming increasingly more common for children to grow up in the care of relatives other than their parents. This is especially true for states such as Florida, where this type of guardianship accounts for 40 percent of the children in foster care. Some critics argue that the state should increase assistance to children in these situations because the financial and emotional challenges faced by these children are significantly worse than other children.
This situation can be problematic for many of these children since these extended-family guardians tend to be more impoverished and less educated than the average parent. These parents are also more likely to be elderly and unemployed. Nearly eight percent of all children living in America reside with their grandparents as head of the household. This is approximately 5.8 million children; however many of these children also have one or both of their parents also living in the household along with the grandparents.
Luckily, many of these kinship families are eligible for federal aide, through the Fostering Connections Act of 2008, for children who are transferred from foster care to legal kinship care families. Many kinship families may also apply for federal aid through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. However, many kinship parents are unaware of their eligibility for these programs and fail to apply for aid.
Along with the financial challenges encountered by many Florida kinship families, there are a variety of other common issues faced by this type of guardianship. Most of these types of arrangements are informal and were created outside of the formal legal system. Many times, the guardians even lack the legal authority to enroll a child in school or obtain medical care, which is one reason a more formally established guardianship role through an attorney can be desirable.