A bill signed into law this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo extends kinship caregiver status to non-parent relatives and family friends who are raising children in New York. 

The bill affects nearly 200,000 children in the state, many of whom are Black and being raised mostly by grandparents, according to AARP New York. 

The measure comes after two decades of pushing by the organization, as well as NYS Kinship Navigator, the KinCare Coalition and other groups. AARP New York and the NAACP New York State Conference in a report released earlier this year highlighted the disparities for kinship families in the state. 

“The many grandparents and other kinship caregivers across New York have a hard enough job,” said NAACP New York State Conference President Hazel N. Dukes. “Their new legal standing should help ensure the children they love and care for, and their families, receive the benefits and services they need. The NAACP applauds this new and long overdue law.”

At the same time, the state budget earlier this year restored more than $2.5 million in funding for more than a dozen kinship programs that are spread aroun 25 counties in the state. 

The provision approved grants kinship caregiver status to step parents, godparents, neighbors and family friends who are acting as a parent to children whose own parents are unable to raise them. 

“Non-parent relatives and family friends who raise children perform heroic work, not only for their families but for society,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel.