In the United States today, more than 2.7 million children under the age of 18 are being raised by family members –
most often grandparents – because their biological parents are no longer able to provide care. State agencies increasingly
recognize the advantages of family care in helping children to heal from the stress and trauma of separation from their parents and to
restoring their sense of safety and well-being.
Arizona’s Children Association is one of the oldest and largest nonprofit child welfare and behavioral health agencies, serving at-risk children,
youth and families in all 15 Arizona counties. In 2010, they launched Arizona’s Kinship Support Services (AKSS) to provide comprehensive resources to
help caregivers navigate government benefit programs and obtain physical, emotional and cognitive health services for their children. AKSS sponsors guardianship
clinics for caregivers who need legal assistance, as well as access to adoption, tribal foster care and foster care licensing classes. They also host classes on
topics pertinent to raising children with histories of trauma, and peer support groups that enable caregivers to address feelings of loss, isolation and guilt that
often come when their plans for the future suddenly shift to raising a child full-time.
Equally important, AKSS partners with its “sister” program, Arizona Grandparent Ambassadors (AZGA), a growing advocacy, education and peer support network for grandparents
and other kinship caregivers raising children. AZGA trains kinship caregivers in speaking and lobbying skills to influence legislative policies that affect kinship families and other general
family and child programs.
“Kinship care is a significant part of the solution to the child welfare crisis in Arizona. AKSS steps in, with a family-centered, trauma-informed approach, to help families by connecting them
to available resources in the community and assisting caregivers to identify and remove barriers the family faces,” said Anna Loebe, Ed.D., Program Director for AKSS. “AKSS is now listed in
the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare, underscoring the effectiveness of our program.”