Lots of kids in Washington, D.C. don’t have a traditional, two-parent family. Out-of-wedlock births, high crime, high incarceration rates, poverty, and greater extended-family involvement in the black community are all contributing causes. Many of these kids end up being raised by their grandparents. All things being equal, this is much better for the kids than being shunted into the foster care system.
With all that, why not give the grandparents some extra money to help with those expenses?
The D.C. Council is considering a bill that would provide a monthly stipend to adults raising their grandchildren if they meet income and other requirements. If the legislation passes next month, advocates for the elderly and experts say, the District would be among only a handful of jurisdictions in the country to establish a subsidy for caregivers who are not part of the foster care system.
Kids stay out of foster care, grandparents get some financial help. The city would have spent the money on foster parents anyway. What could be wrong with that?
According to the 2000 Census, 8,100 people in the District are raising grandchildren. The reasons range from a parent’s unexpected death to issues involving drugs or mental illness.
The D.C. office of AARP, the main force behind the bill, convened a grandparents focus group in 2003, published a report and has lobbied council members for more than a year.
The first reason to be skeptical is that the AARP, those same extortionists who are busy mugging young workers for Social Security and Medicare entitlements, are the driving force behind the bill. Senior citizens are the richest demographic in the nation; they don’t need extra handouts via taxes. But let’s suspend judgment until we get to the real kicker.
Under the bill, sponsored by council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), the stipend would equal what the city provides to a long-term permanent guardian of a foster child: about $718 to $791 per month per child, depending on the youngster’s age and the amount of other public benefits received. The grandparent would have to have legal custody of the child, submit to a background check and meet other requirements, such as having an income of no more than $16,090 a year in a household of three.
Supporters say the cost of the subsidy would be much less than what the city winds up paying when a grandparent cannot afford to raise a child, who then must be placed in foster care, which can cost up to $80,000 a year, according to the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency.
The District has about 2,700 foster children in its care, while roughly 16,700 children live in grandparent-headed households, the agency said.
Aha! This bill isn’t about helping grandparents struggling to raise their grandkids; it just does that by accident. This bill is about making those grandparents into foster parents, with all of the bureaucratic red tape that implies. It’s also about expanding the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency‘s control to more than six times as many children’s lives.
We’re used to D.C. government grabbing land for stadiums or trying to grab Federal disaster relief money, but trying to grab control over the lives of 16,700 kids and their grandparents goes too far. There’s something very wrong with paying grandparents to take care of their grandkids.