There are so many “days” these days.
Today, for example, is the U.S. Air Force’s birthday, National Cheeseburger Day and National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day.
(Tomorrow is Talk Like A Pirate Day, plus three more).
There are too many “awareness days” to bake cakes for them all but we wanted to light an inaugural candle for a new day the state wants us to add to today’s calendar: Relative Care Day.
The branding may lack the clever appeal of May the 4th and Pi Day but the people involved know their way around light sabers and math problems.
They are the family members who step in when parents can’t, and step up to the task of child raising.
Without them — our state, our system and our future suffers in more ways than we can count.
Relative Care Day in Lansing is a two-pronged celebration to both recognize the achievements of the grandparents, aunts and uncles and older siblings caring for children — and acknowledging many challenges they face.
Most of us know a grandparent or two struggling to keep up with toddling live-in grandchildren; an aunt in a battle of wills with her live-in teenage niece; relatives raising children who are all coping with the loss of parentage for whatever reason.
These “kinship” families also struggle with finances, bureaucratic and legal hurdles, mental health and other issues, according to Michele Corey, vice-president of Michigan’s Children, an advocacy group holding the event today at the Capitol from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The group is forwarding potential policy changes with the help of the Kinship Care Resource Center within the School of Social Work at Michigan State University and state legislators Kathy Crawford, R-Novi, and Frank Liberati, D-Allen Park.
These types of families are growing in number.
Right now, there are 13,000 children and youth in Michigan’s foster care system — a system constantly under the gun to find placements for kids. About 4,000 children and youth under the state’s care live with relatives.
Closer to home, 74 of 102 guardianships in place in Grand Traverse County in December 2016 involved grandparents and great-grandparents caring for children. DHHS figures show 60 percent of children adopted in Leelanau, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Antrim and Kalkaska counties were taken in by relatives in 2015.
But most relatives who take in their kin aren’t licensed foster parents, which cuts back on the support and limits what kind of long-term stability they can provide their charges — especially since many don’t want to terminate parental rights of their family members.
We were happy to learn that the state is getting better at recognizing the contributions these families make, and recently amended its policy this April to offer a subsidy to all relatives caring for children in foster care, whether they are licensed or not.
Thank you, relative caregivers.
You deserve a day of your own. Not quite all the “days” rise to the standard of greatness (yesterday was National Apple Dumpling Day, National IT Professionals Day and Monte Cristo Day) but you do.