Kin caregivers in New York City receive little government support, and are often left to navigate complex bureaucracies on their own, according to a survey released on June 24 at Fordham.

The survey, conducted by the NYC Kincare Task Force, gathered responses from 137 kin caregivers—people who are the main source of care for younger family members who are not their children.

It was released at a meeting of the task force held in conjunction with Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service.

Eighty-six percent of the respondents were unemployed and 75 percent were over the age of 60, said Amy Roehl, staff attorney of MFY Legal Services Inc., who presented the results in McMahon Hall on the Lincoln Center campus.

Peggy Lee (left), a grandparent caregiver, tells of her poor treatment by social workers. Also at the podium is Deborah Langosch, Ph.D., co-chair of the NYC Kincare Task Force. Photo by Angie Chen

This is a telling statistic, according to the task force, as caregivers who are senior citizens and those without jobs are more likely to have difficulty gaining assistance.

Survey participants were asked about their experiences with various service agencies, including the Human Resources Administration, New York City Housing Authority and Department of Education.

Barriers that guardians often face within service agencies include inadequate benefits, difficulty getting necessary help, and income limits that make them ineligible for assistance, the survey indicates.

That may help explain why roughly 250,000 children in New York City are being raised by kin caregivers, but only about 5,400 are part of the city’s foster care system, according to the task force. Those in foster care have access to a wide range of services, while others do not.

A major complaint listed by 46 percent of the respondents was dissatisfaction with service workers. Peggy Lee, a grandparent caregiver, offered reasons why.

“I applied for welfare, which was very complicated. Trying to work with the social workers in the center was not easy,” Lee said. “I dreaded going there, but when recertification time came, I had no choice. They talk to you as if you were not human. They answered as if they wanted to take your head off.”

Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, commissioner for the New York City Department of Aging, sympathized with the trials that grandparent caregivers face.

“I understand the responsibility of taking care of a child in your 60s. I understand the sheer exhaustion and I know that children are demanding. We want to be there for you and take care of you while you are taking care of your children.”

In addition to releasing the survey, the task force gave recommendations that agencies can follow to better assist kin caregivers. Recommendations range from providing caregivers with clear and concise information to reducing the time it takes to address issues that affect the quality of life and health of the family.

The recommendations have minimal financial impact on the service departments, but would have vast and indispensable beneficial outcomes, according to the task force.

The report, “Removing Barriers to Successful Kin Caregiving,” was funded by the AARP Foundation through a grant from the New York Life Foundation.