In Arizona, there are more than 160,000 children living in homes that are headed by grandparents or other relatives.
Research indicates that children in kinship care experience greater stability than those in traditional foster care. Kinship care is when a child is raised by a family member who’s not their biological parent, typically because of concerns about safety.
Leslie Pemberton is the non-biological grandmother of two children. She recalls the day the children ended up in her care.
“I went to the door and the kids were here with a note, and the note said, ‘Take care of my kids please for 90 days.’ That’s pretty much, that was it. And they left,” she said. “The first couple nights that they were here, I’d wake up and Bella was standing over me, just staring at me. Well, she was there to make sure that I was still there and that I wasn’t leaving in the middle of the night.”
Parenting a child when you know their biological parents and their struggles requires layers of support.
Fadwa Elnabulsi, a kinship navigator for Arizona Children’s Association, runs a kinship support group in Tucson.
“They provide love, they provide stability, they provide permanency, they provide support,” Elnabulsi said.
The program provides support, laughter and a time to share.
Elnabulsi knows that programs like hers are a necessity.
There are currently more than 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S. The system has more children than available homes for placement.
Pemberton knows the road ahead for her family will be tough, but she wouldn't change it for the world.
“I love having the kids. I’m not going to lie, it gets very stressful sometimes, and I think, ‘What am I doing?’ But I love having them and helping them and seeing them grow,” she said.