Albany, N.Y. Today, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D, WF-Queens) announced the Relative Caregiver Bill with Senator Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) that would give second degree relatives of a child the opportunity to petition for custody if the parents are unable to provide care. Currently, tens of thousands of children in New York are being raised by aunts, uncles, and adult sibling, providing the children a solid foundation through a more stable home life.
Now more than ever, traditional family roles are being redefined by children who are often closest to their aunts, uncles, or great-grandparents, and situations in which second degree relatives often fill the primary guardians role, said Assemblywoman Rozic. A familial bond is what ultimately matters most, and this legislation is a great step forward in continuing to provide New York's children with healthy, safe, and productive environments.
Senator Golden said, Our great nation and State was built by working families - families that pulled together during difficult times and enjoyed the fruits of their labor during good times. Our social fabric is built on a strong family unit. This bill does one simple thing - offer the option of keeping families together. We should do everything possible to keep children with their families if those families provide a safe and secure environment. This is better for our taxpayers, and more importantly, for our children. That is why passage of this legislation is critical. It is my hope that the Senate will act on this bill quickly.
This is common-sense legislation that will help thousands of children attain a more stable home environment, says Anstiss Agnew, Executive Director of Forestdale, a foster care and family services organization in Queens. I applaud Assemblymember Rozic and Senator Golden for seeking to support kin caregivers.
The NYS KinCare Coalition estimates that up to 40 percent of all non-parent relatives raising children in New York are aunts, uncles, adult siblings and great-grandparents. The bill would give them the ability to seek guardianship or custody of children who have lived in their homes for at least two years continuously if the caregiver can prove the parent or parents voluntarily relinquished care and control of the child. This would reduce trauma and stress on both the caregivers and the children, while giving caregivers the legal right to access basic medical care and provide medical consent for the children and enroll them in school. The legislation allows these relatives to claim extraordinary circumstances under Domestic Relations Law §72 in order to apply to the courts for guardianship or custody.
Gerard Wallace, Director of the NYS Kinship Navigator and Co-Chair of the NYS KinCare Coalition, said: Just like children who are living with their grandparents, children living with aunts, uncles, and other relatives have experienced stress, trauma, and loss. To recover, they too need stable and loving homes. This bill provides stability to an estimated 60,000 homes where children live with relatives in New York State.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has reported that 153,000 children live in the care of a nonparent relative in New York.
Queens is a diverse borough with different types of families. This legislation would ensure that children continue to receive the love, attention, and resources from relatives that can provide for them, Rozic added.