In Focus: Funding that helps families is in jeopardy

May 31, 2013 

What’s in a bed?

As a professional and a mother, the significance of my bed at the end of the day is indescribable. No matter what happens during the day, I can rely on the safety and security of my bed to rest my head and rejuvenate. Would young children have any different feelings about their own bed?

While raising my daughter, I witnessed firsthand how important her bed was. She found solace when things got rough by lying in her crib and stroking the sheets until she calmed down.

All children deserve a safe place to rest their head, to find comfort and to feel secure.

More than 40,000 children in our state are being raised by relatives or other suitable people because their biological parents are either unwilling or unable to care for them. This is known as kinship care. Many of these relatives are on fixed incomes and below the 200 percent poverty guidelines. They receive these children in their homes with only the clothes on their back. Many of the children have experienced severe abuse and neglect. They don’t have a safe home, reliable adults in their lives and no bed to crawl into at the end of their day.

Fortunately, these caregivers have access to the Kinship Care Support Program, which provides these relatives much-needed tools and resources so they can provide the care these children deserve.

One such grandmother shared a story of her 7-year-old grandson dancing around his bed with tears in his eyes, asking his grandma, “Is this my bed?” Another grandmother could not figure out where all of her granddaughter’s socks were going until she finally was able to replace her bed and discovered the socks were stuffed in the mattress to protect her from the springs. Her father had promised her a bed for several years but his money went to support his drug habit. Grandma learned about the Kinship Care Support Program and finally was able to purchase a bed. Beds are essential, but what about warm water? At anytime, I can go to my faucet and turn on the hot water. I can take a hot shower, bathe my children and wash their clothes. One grandmother had just gotten her two granddaughters after they were removed from their mother’s home. This grandmother found her way to the Kinship

Care Support Program. Her water heater had broken down a few weeks prior to our visit. She was warming water on the stove and pouring it into the bathtub to bathe her granddaughters. Through the program, we were able to provide a new water tank for this family.

Shopping for new clothes and school supplies is the highlight of fall. We carry these strong childhood memories even into our adult lives. Walking to school on that first day with those new shoes and the brand-new backpack on our backs marked a new milestone.

Do our kinship children deserve anything less?

The Kinship Care Support Program can provide relative families with the ability to provide such memories by ensuring kids are not returning to school in the same old clothes and empty backpacks.

For the past several years, the kinship program has been able to provide a back-to-school event where each child gets a backpack full of supplies. Once again, we witness children dancing around asking grandpa, asking, “Is this really mine?”

As the budget debate continues in Olympia, Kinship Care Support Program’s emergency funding is in jeopardy.

The Senate budget proposal eliminates the program entirely, cutting off a vital resource for families that cannot otherwise purchase beds, clothes, pay bills or continue to keep a roof over their heads. We cannot afford to fail these kinship families or the children they are caring for.

These are basic needs for all children, not easily measured but undeniably in their best interests. For kinship children, their well-being is the responsibility of all of us.

Please urge your senator and representatives to support these caregivers and continue to support their efforts in protecting, loving and nourishing these children whose parents are unwilling or unable to care for them. Mary Pleger is a Kinship Care Support Program coordinator in Yakima.

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