Kinship caregiving is becoming more common for children in Texas and across the country. There are a number of factors that have led to the placement of kids with grandparents, aunts, uncles and other extended family members. Compared to foster homes, children generally have better outcomes and stronger support when placed within family networks. While some of these situations are formalized through the state’s child custody system, many informal kinship care agreements also exist outside state documentation.

Across the country, the opioid epidemic has been responsible for a significant rise in the number of children being placed with grandparents or other extended family members. One study indicated that there has been a 9 percent rise in the number of kids being raised by their grandparents in the past decade. Now, another situation could affect the number of kids in kinship care — the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies. Deportations rose 9 percent in June 2018 compared to one year before, and many deported parents have children who are American citizens. These kids may remain behind with grandparents or other family members to protect them from persecution or allow them to enjoy better opportunities.

According to one study, there are around 5 million kids in the United States living with at least one parent who is an undocumented immigrant. Almost 80 percent of those children are U.S. citizens. If their parents face deportation, close and loving family members are frequently the choice to care for the children.

However, these guardians may hesitate to formalize their child custody arrangements or seek social services for the children. They may worry about their own immigration status or about losing access to the kids. A family law attorney can help a parent in a complex situation plan for their future and address extended-family custody agreements.