the country, more than six million children -- approximately
1 in 12 children -- are living in households headed by grandparents
or other relatives. The District of Columbia has
more than 113,000 children living in households headed by grandparents
or other relatives. In many of these households, grandparents
and other relatives are the primary caregivers (“kinship caregivers”)
for children whose parents cannot or will not care for them
due to substance abuse, illness and death, abuse and neglect,
economic hardship, incarceration, divorce, domestic violence,
and other family and community crises.
at the numbers.
The data below
show the numbers of grandparents who are living in households
with at least one grandchild under the age of 18, as well
as the numbers of grandparents who are the primary caregivers
for these grandchildren. These numbers were reported by the
2000 U.S. Census and are available for every place (as defined
by the U.S. Census Bureau) in the country, including cities,
towns, villages, and boroughs, on the U.S. Census website.*
Living in Households with One or More Own Grandchildren
Responsible for Meeting the Basic Needs of Grandchildren
are taken from the U.S. Census Bureau Table DP-2. Profile
Selected Social Characteristics: 2000.
Care Initiatives in Massachusetts
public and private agencies and grassroots coalitions of grandparents
and other relative caregivers have begun working together
to expand the services available to kinship caregivers who
are caring for children outside of the foster care system.
the major kinship care programs and supports are listed below.
Additional support groups can be found through the AARP Grandparent
Information Center Database. Call 1-800-424-3410, e-mail information
requests to firstname.lastname@example.org, or search AARP’s online kinship
care support group database at http://www.aarp.org/grandparents/searchsupport/.
state and national kinship care resources and supports
are available on the Generations United website at http://www.gu.org,
and GrandsPlace at http://www.grandsplace.org and
Grandparent Again at http://www.grandparentagain.com,
two websites coordinated by grandparents raising grandchildren.
Information: A Resource Guide for Massachusetts’ Grandparents
Raising their Grandchildren is available from the Massachusetts
Executive Offices of Elder Affairs and Health and Human Services.
This publication includes legal, financial, health, housing,
and child care information. Local support groups are also
listed. The guide is available online at http://www.800ageinfo.com
or by calling 1-800-AGEINFO (1-800-243-4636).
and Referrals for Kinship Care Families: The Massachusetts
Grandparent Resource Network is a statewide resource coalition
of support groups and public and private agencies. Regular
meetings provide a forum to share information and discuss
issues and concerns of kinship families. Contact: Sheila Donahue
King, Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs, at
(617) 222-7421 or Sheila.Donahue-King@state.ma.us.
and Outreach for Kinship Care Families: The GAP Resource
Network of Greater Lowell is run by Catholic Charities and
provides a network of grandparent support groups, a help-line,
a legal task force, a respite fund, workshops, and social
activities. This network also does special outreach to and
works with the Latino communities in the Lawrence and Lowell
areas. Contact: Rachelle Comtois at (978) 459-3242 or GAP_LOWELL@ccab.org.
as Advocates: Raising Our Children’s Children (ROCC) is
a group of grandparents and other relatives raising children
in the Boston area. ROCC provides support groups and social
activities for caregivers. The goal of the group is to teach
grandparents and other relative caregivers to advocate for
themselves. It also works with other agencies in the city
and state to encourage the provision of in-kind services to
serve the specific needs of kinship care families. Contact:
Harriet Jackson-Lyons at (617) 541-3561.
Group Network in Boston: From Roots to Wings is a program
that serves grandparents, other relatives raising children,
and the children in these families in the greater Boston area.
The program provides separate support groups for grandparents
and grandchildren facilitated by clinical social workers.
It also provides an intensive 15-week course on Effective
Black Parenting for grandparents. In addition to this course,
workshops and regular seminars are held to help teach grandparents
how to advocate for themselves and the children in their care.
Guest speakers are invited to speak on a variety of topics,
based on the needs and requests of the families. Contact:
Cheryl Harding, Founder and Executive Director, at (617) 287-1638.
and Supports for Kinship Care Families: The Women’s Service
Club in Boston offers a comprehensive Grandparents as Parents
program that has a support group and organizes a range of
activities for grandparents raising children. The program
also brings in expert speakers on issues facing kinship care
families. Contact: Edith Searcy at (617) 262-3935.
Housing for Kinship Care Families: The GrandFamilies House
in Boston, Massachusetts, which opened in 1998, is the nation's
first housing facility specifically designed and built for
grandparents raising their grandchildren. GrandFamilies House
is a 26-unit apartment residence, offering 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom
apartments. The building includes universal design features,
like grab bars and child-safe electrical outlets. The building
also provides many support systems that help grandparents
to parent their grandchildren, including on-site preschool,
after-school programs for kids, and an intergenerational computer-learning
center. The GrandFamilies Section 8 Program, which serves
as a national demonstration project, provides federal rental
subsidies for grandparents raising grandchildren. The program
offers grandparents ages 50 and over tenant-based Section
8 vouchers, and provides housing search, placement, and stabilization
services to grandfamilies in the Greater Boston area. Contact:
Stephanie Chacker, Director of Housing Services, Boston Aging
Concerns - Young and Old United, at (617) 266-2257 ext. 203
Care Information and Activities: The Consortium of Councils
on Aging in Brockton has support groups, a lending library,
a telephone warm-line, and social events and activities for
kinship care families. Local agencies are actively encouraged
to contribute free services to address these families’ needs.
The Consortium also offers several support groups known as
“Coffee and Conversation.” Contact: Lisa Storrs at (508) 223-2235.
Outreach and Support: The Grandparents as Parents program,
run through the Chicopee Council on Aging, serves kinship
care families in the Holyoke and Chicopee areas. The program
offers support groups and receives funding from The Brookdale
Foundation’s Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP) and the Massachusetts
Department of Elder Affairs to provide educational programs,
a quarterly newsletter, recreational activities, respite opportunities,
social events, a website, and a local resource guide for kinship
care families. It will soon begin Spanish-speaking support
groups through a grant from the local Area Agency on Aging.
Contact: Jim Leyden at (413) 533-7333 or visit http://www.gapp-wm.org.
for Kinship Care Families: The McInerney Parent Center,
a program of the Berkshire Center for Families and Children
(a United Way agency), in Pittsfield has a Grandparents Raising
Grandchildren program in collaboration with the Pittsfield
Senior Center. The program, which is partially funded by a
grant from the Children’s Trust Fund, offers regular support
group meetings including an activities group for children.
The group routinely invites speakers to the meetings who provide
information and referrals as needed. Contact: Susan Dawdy
at (413) 499-3356 or email@example.com.
in the Bourne and Cape Areas: The Bourne Council on Aging
runs a Grandparents as Parents program. The program
provides support groups, hosts parenting workshops in collaboration
with local schools, organizes intergenerational activities,
and operates a resource library for kinship care families.
Contact: Lois Carr at (508) 759-0653.
and Outreach to Kinship Families: Adoption Crossroads,
managed by Child and Family Services, Inc., through a contract
with the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS),
is a statewide program which provides post-adoption and post-guardianship
services to families. Any family, including kinship care families,
that has formally legalized an adoption or guardianship qualifies
for services. Services include information and referral, regional
response teams, support groups, parent liaisons, advocacy
and coordination, and respite and social activities. Services
can be accessed by calling 1-800-97-CARE4 (1-800-972-2734).
Contact: Sharon Silvia, Project Director, at 1-800-972-2734
for Kinship Caregivers Seeking Guardianship: The Volunteer
Lawyers Project (VLP) administers a volunteer legal assistance
program that was developed and piloted by the Massachusetts
Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. Volunteer lawyers assist
caregivers with uncontested petitions for guardianship and
adoption. They also have prepared training materials
both for the grandparents and other relatives as well as legal
training materials for lawyers in the private bar who have
begun to take guardianship and adoption cases pro bono.
Additionally, VLP provides community legal education to groups
of kinship caregivers. Contact: Lynn Girton, Chief Counsel,
Volunteer Lawyers Project, at (617) 423-0648 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
and Massachusetts’ Foster Care System
children in the care of the states are placed in foster care
with grandparents or other relatives. In Massachusetts,
the Department of Social Services (DSS) reports:
of children in kinship foster placements: As of December
31, 2001, the Massachusetts Department of Social Services
had a total of 10,682 children in out-of-home placements.
Of these children, 1,996 (18.7%) were placed with kin.
for kinship placements: State policy requires that kin
be considered first when an out-of-home placement is sought
for a child under the Department’s care (MA 110 CMR 7.101(2)).
for kinship foster parents: There is no separate licensing
program for kinship foster parents. Kin have to meet
the same licensing standards and requirements and receive
the same foster care payment rate as non-kin foster parents.
DSS is currently working with the state licensing board to
get a waiver on certain space requirements for kin, but it
has not yet been approved. Kin also are strongly encouraged
to participate in the same training as non-kinship foster
Subsidy: In addition to foster care payments and other
benefits available to kin raising children in the foster care
system, some states also have subsidized guardianship programs.
Massachusetts has a guardianship subsidy program for eligible
children in DSS custody for whom guardianship has been determined
to be the most appropriate permanent plan. Children
in this program are eligible for the same payments and medical
assistance as they were in foster care (Code of MA Regulations,
Volume 110, Secs. 7.300 – 7.303). Contact: Kathleen D’Entremont,
Adoption/Guardianship at (617) 748-2234 or kathleen.d’email@example.com.
care contact: Questions about kinship foster placements
should be directed to Patricia Autori at (617) 748-2263 or
and support for kinship foster parents: Kid’s Net, run
by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Children through a contract with DSS, is the state foster
parent association. The association advocates for and supports
parents caring for children who are or have been in placement
through DSS, including foster, kinship, and adoptive parents.
Kid’s Net also provides training opportunities specifically
designed for kinship foster parents. Contact: Jean Bellow,
Kid’s Net Director, at (617) 983-5813 or Jbellow@mspcc.org.
Care Resource Guide: The Massachusetts Department of Social
Services has developed a Foster/Adoptive Parent Resource Guide
in both English and Spanish that is distributed to all foster/adoptive
parents, including kinship caregivers. This comprehensive
guide provides an overview of the entire system within DSS.
It is also available at http://www.dsskids.org.
Families for Kids (MFFK) program of Children’s Services
of Roxbury, Inc. can provide flexible funding to remove barriers
to permanency for children in kinship families through its
Voucher Services Initiative. For families involved with the
Department of Social Services (DSS) wanting to make an adoption
or guardianship commitment to their children, vouchers can
fund such things as renovations, evaluations, travel expenses,
furniture and specialized camperships. MFFK is currently seeking
alternative funding sources in order to provide the same services
for kinship families not involved with the Department of Social
Services. Contact: Tinisha Hollis, Voucher Specialist, at
(617) 445-6655, ext. 302 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
for Massachusetts Kinship Care Families
by kinship caregivers are often eligible for a range of state
and federal programs. In most cases, kinship caregivers may
apply for these programs on a child’s behalf even though they
are not the child’s parents or legal guardians. Some
examples of these programs include:
Cash assistance may be available to children and their grandparents
and other relative caregivers through the Massachusetts Aid
to Families with Dependent Children program. Kinship
care families may also be eligible for food stamps to help
meet their children’s food and nutrition needs. For
more information about these programs, call 1-800-249-2007
or log on to http://www.state.ma.us/dta/index.htm.
insurance: Grandparents and other relative caregivers
may apply for free or low-cost health insurance on behalf
of the children they are raising through the MassHealth program.
In some cases, caregivers may also be eligible for free coverage
under Medicaid. For more information about how to apply
for MassHealth, call 1-800-841-2900 (TTY: 1-800-497-4648)
or log on to http://www.state.ma.us/dma/.
kinship caregivers find it difficult to obtain services their
children need, such as medical care or education. In addition
to the state’s child guardianship and custody laws, the following
law may be helpful to kinship caregivers1:
Guardianship (Mass Gen. L. ch. 201, § 2B): This law
allows a parent or legal custodian of a child to designate,
in writing, an adult person or persons to be appointed as
standby guardian(s) of a minor to take over the care of the
child if the parent is no longer able.