More than 57,000 Kentucky children live in a household headed by a grandparent.
But a program designed to provide financial assistance to low income grandparents raising children was eliminated last December due to state budget cuts.
The Kentucky Family Caregiver Program was established in 2006 to aid grandparents who had taken over child rearing responsibilities from their children and were doing it on very little income.
The program's former coordinator, Emily Christian, tells 27 NEWSFIRST, "As an average, the income is from $600 to $1,200 a month, and they may have from 1 to 6 grandchildren to support on that income. If they were eligible, we could help them up to $750 a year, and the majority of that was for clothing and school supplies."
Peggy Elam was one of those grandparents who had learned to make that money go a long, long way and feels lost without it. She says, "Grandparents are very frugal. We've been around the block a few times. We clip coupons, we save, we look for sales, and that $750 a year per child furnished them with clothes for the entire year. There are children that if they didn't have this program, they would end up in foster care."
Unlike many grandparents who step in when their own children either die or become addicted to drugs or alcohol, Peggy took over child rearing responsilities to provide some stability when her daughter and her husband couldn't make ends meet after multiple layoffs and had to keep moving from one home to another. She says, "Once they are financially stable and are in a place where they know they're going to be, then they will come and take the children, but that could be 6 months from now or 6 years."
In the meantime, Peggy Elam needs the kind of services that were provided by the Kentucky Family Caregiver Program. She cautions, "Overall, the children are going to be the ones that suffer. When you look at ow much it will cost if the majority of these children go into foster care, the state has truly, truly hurt itself. And contrary to what a lot of people think, it's not a duplicate program. There's nothing else quite like it to help grandparents."
Vikki Franklin, spokesperson for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, says, "Our agency never doubted the value of the program, but under the current budgetary conditions, we had little choice but to discontinue it."