According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1999 more than 3.9 million children in America were being raised in homes maintained by one or more grandparent. Census 2000 data revealed that only about 6.4 percent of these children (250,000) had the benefit of the services and support that public agencies offer foster parents.
The Edgewood Center for Children and Families is a neighborhood family assistance and health center in San Francisco. In 1995, Edgewood created a "Kinship Support Network," a public/private collaboration to fill the gaps in public social services for kin caregivers—grandparents and other relatives who were caregivers—and the children for whom they cared. In 1997, the California legislature enacted a measure (AB 1193) to replicate Edgewood's kinship support network model in other California counties with many dependent children placed with kin caregivers. Seventeen counties qualified.
Through a grant that same year, Edgewood added a health team to its kinship support network services. When funding for the health team ended in 2000, RWJF provided an unsolicited grant for Edgewood to reestablish the health team and help create comparable health teams in the 17 counties.
The Edgewood health team served 126 adult kin caregivers and 238 children through its own project and obtained funding to sustain this portion of the project—though at a reduced level—when the RWJF grant ended.
Project staff developed a replicable health-team model for use by kinship support networks established throughout California. However, shortfalls in funding at potential replication projects, among other factors, limited implementation of health teams to one county in addition to San Francisco.
Questionnaires administered by project staff to 126 kin caregivers at Edgewood in 2001–2004 revealed the following:
Most caregivers' children ranked significantly below national norms for comparable children on overall health, and significantly above national norms on disruption of routine family activities and limiting the personal time of caregivers. The children's health did not improve despite the health team's interventions during the program; their disruptive behavior grew worse.
Most caregivers reported physical and mental health that ranked significantly below national norms for women ages 55–64. Many had chronic illnesses. Respondents' reported health did not improve during the program.
Of 45 caregivers completing questionnaires at the start and the close of their participation in the project, most indicated significant reductions in the frequency of their need for socio-economic and tangible supports.