The Crack Crisis of the 1980’s and early 1990’s created a new challenge for South LA families. The political response – the War of Drugs – resulted in unforeseen levels of incarceration, the criminalization of black and brown communities, and the break-up of thousands of families. In LA County over 50,000 children were removed from their homes – South LA children accounted for 40% of all removals. The majority of these children were placed with relatives who had the love, but not the support and resources to provide for the needs of the children in their care. Without these heroic grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other families stepping up, many children would have lingered in unfamiliar homes for years.
Community Coalition learned of this issue from South LA social service providers who met many of these families at their doors requesting services. Following a study group to better understand the issue and speaking directly with relative caregivers themselves, Community Coalition joined caregivers and took up the fight for better awareness, resources and supports for caregivers and the children in their care.
“In 1993, I received a phone call from my son telling me he was incarcerated in Colorado. My grandson’s mother was a chronic drug user and the state deemed her unit to parent. I got the name of the social worker and went to a court hearing the next week. I have had Anthony ever since. He is my flesh and blood. That’s what family does. We take care of each other.”
—Mary Carraway, Relative Caregiver
For the past 15 years Community Coalition has been organizing relative caregivers in South Los Angeles to have a strong voice and to advocate for the needs and rights of all relative caregivers and their children through our Kinship in Action (KIA) program. KIA families have won significant and important victories including South LA’s first kinship center, $82 million for foster care reform (with $36 million dedicated to kinship support statewide), and being awarded a $3.5 million three-year grant to implement a pilot program that combines resource navigation, education, and leadership development for relative caregivers.
“I feel lucky to have found Community Coalition and others like me. So many other relative caregivers are struggling and have no support. Nothing. It is very easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed. I feel it is important for us relative caregivers to fight together to get more resource.”
—Amparo Remington, Relative Caregiver