Thursday, June 26, 2008


I’m wrestling with an issue regarding kinship care. This week significant legislation passed the House of Representatives in support of kinship care families. House Resolution 6307 called Fostering Connections to Success specifically addresses concerns to kinship foster care families that include funding, services for children aging out of foster care, training for social service workers on the specifics of the funds, and other issues that have been of real concern to relative foster care providers. See an analysis of the bill at . The next step for this critical piece of legislation is the U.S. Senate.

I strongly support this critical child welfare step to assist kinship care families that are in the child welfare system. What I am wrestling with is the struggles facing the majority of kinship care providers, those who are not in the child welfare system, who are caring for children in their family full time against some terrific odds with little or no help at all.

Approximately fifteen percent of children in kinship care are living with relatives because they have been the victims of child abuse or neglect and placed by the child welfare system with approved and willing relatives, most in Relative Foster Care. All the other relative caregivers in our country have willingly taken children through request of the parents or some other source not in the child welfare system, including military or incarcerated parents. These families struggle with many of the same issues as their colleagues – obtaining guardianship, lack of health insurance protection, working with schools and medical systems, extreme costs involved with raising children in today’s world including child care. Most of the voluntary caregivers (60%) are grandparents who accepted their role of parenting again out of love for the children and a sense of duty to protect the children. One fourth of these grandparent providers are living below the poverty level. I am wrestling with the issue of how our society can address the concerns faced by the families who are not in the child welfare system. Any thoughts about this?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kids Central, Inc A Strong Kinship Resource Center Model

As a result of the publication of the book, A Kinship Guide to Rescuing Children for Grandparents and Other Relatives As Parents, I have had the opportunity to speak with a variety of groups. The audiences vary from professionals who work with kinship families, to kinship families themselves, to general bookstore visitors.

Kinship care is multicultural and as traditional for as long as we have walked the earth together. Perhaps that is why our society has an apathetic attitude about kinship care. Yet today’s caregivers, millions of them, are faced with extreme difficulties in their effort to secure the children.

The best way to strengthen families and thereby strengthen communities is to establish Kinship Care Resource Centers (KCRC) in accessible geographic areas. These Resource Centers can be satellites of a larger central group such as a University Extension Department, an aging service, Social Service Agencey, or a family oriented organization such as a YMCA. The KCRC should have just a few critical ingredients – someone who is accessible to families (a paid coordinator who knows the issues and who knows the community) and a structure that will ensure the life of the center in the long term as families grow up and new families come in.

The third section of A Kinship Guide is like a book within a book - step by step ways to establish a Comprehensive Kinship Care Resource Center in the local community, activities that strengthen the Center’s service to families and ways to secure the service in communities.

Kids Central, Inc in Ocala, Florida serves children in many ways from placement services for child maltreatment to age-out services to those young people who age out of foster care but still need a launching transition to their adult life. One impressive area of Kids Central, Inc is the significant outreach to kinship families. In a recent phone call, one staffer told me they just established five more kinship groups in the rural areas. The groups start with an eight week curriculum called Second Time Around that covers many of the basic concerns facing new kinship families. The groups also meet together for support and to break that sense of feeling alone in the task. Families in the groups have a strong link to the kinship care specialist in Ocala for specific needs. Kids Central, Inc is a great model for community support of kinship families. For more information check online