What do Oprah Winfrey, President Barack Obama, and U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe have in common with 60,000 children in Arizona today? They were raised by their grandparents or other relatives for part of their childhoods. This practice, called kinship care, has been growing in Arizona and throughout the nation.
We are two of the Arizona grandparents who have stepped up to take care of our grandchildren when their parents can’t. We don’t expect all of these grandkids to grow up to be media superstars or elected to high office. But we are giving them love, healing and stability. We are keeping our families together and we do expect them to grow up with what they need to be healthy, productive residents of Arizona.
Frankly, a lot of grandparents who are lovingly taking on this commitment could use some help. They have accepted huge and expensive new responsibilities that weren’t expected or planned at a time in life when most grandparents are planning for retirement or already living it. So many grandparents we know personally are struggling with financial issues and health issues and they have nowhere to turn. If they fall into crisis, our whole community suffers.
That’s why we created the Arizona Grandparent Ambassadors. It is a support network of grandparents in communities across the state helping each other to keep our grandchildren safe, healthy, and thriving. We know that key policy and community action steps can go a long way to support our goals and help us to raise kids who will be successful adults.
A new report, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, highlights effective policies that states are already pursuing to help kinship families thrive. “Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families” identifies policies that make better use of federal resources and make existing support programs work better for kinship caregivers like us.
In the past, Arizona pioneered some successful policies designed for kinship caregivers. But many of these have been thrown away during the recent recession — a time when families needed help the most. This year, state Sen. Don Shooter wouldn’t even hold a public hearing on a proposal that would have helped struggling kinship families at a cost of less than $1 million.
Keeping families together and strong is a basic American value that is shared no matter your race, your political party, or where you live. We are proud and dedicated to raising our grandchildren. We want to work with elected leaders and community groups to help us do an even better job of raising the next generation for Arizona.
– Laura Jasso and Brenda Gloria