Kinship Program Makes Strides in Supporting Adoption For Children in Broward County
Between 2019 and 2020, there were more than 2,000 children in foster care in Broward County. While some of their basic needs are met within the system, these children face an exorbitant amount of obstacles that can greatly affect their stability and development into adulthood. Statistics show that 63% are likely to have at least one diagnosis of a mental health problem, compared to 46% of the general population, 30% of youths in Broward County that age out of foster care will experience homelessness and 65% are arrested by age 25.
In honor of National Adoption Month, we’re highlighting some of the extraordinary work being done through Legal Aid Service of Broward County’s Kinship Program, which strives to provide free legal assistance and counsel to help keep thousands of children in the custody of family or relative caregivers and out of the foster system. Thus, reducing the statistics. Kinship placements not only provide long-term stability and invaluable benefits to the well-being of children unable to be cared for by their biological parents, but also contribute much-needed relief for the strained, tax-funded foster services system.
Currently, it is estimated that approximately 50,000 children live under the care of relatives in Broward County. Through the Kinship Program funded by the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, Legal Aid Service of Broward County serves about 300 families, accounting for more than 500 children per year – and growing.
The program provides free legal services to ensure these children in kinship families have access to an adult who can legally make decisions in matters such as physical and mental healthcare, educational services or custody. These include legal assessment and referrals to education, public benefits, immigration services and any other resources that can support a stable home placement, comprehensive legal representation in obtaining temporary custody, comprehensive legal representation in adoption proceedings and more.
Under our current service model, beyond just legal services, participating kinship families also have access to vital social services and case management provided by our community partners. While we support clients on all legal needs, our partners Kids in Distress, Harmony Development Center, Memorial Healthcare Systems and Mental Health America provide a complete scope of services to ensure families are supported in their journey as next-of-kin caregivers or adopters.
Learn more about how Legal Aid Service of Broward County is helping keep families together HERE.