Thursday, October 22, 2009

Grandparents, Other Relatives As Parents: GET ORGANIZED!

Looking at that headline I think of the power of group organizing, but that is another topic. This blog is about the topic of individual kinship families getting organized in order to face the complex world of social and legal rules regarding the care of the children.

Kinship care families that are meeting and using the book, A Kinship Guide to Rescuing Children, for topic discussions may want to start with "Getting Organized" pages 1-7.
Tip: Try to get a local office supply store or other source to help with expenses of the following products for each member of the group-

Calendars with notation space, easily accessible for the family.
A small bound notebook, like a composition book, journal, or notebook calendar.
A folding file with separate compartments for important papers.
A 3 x 5 type of card that can be carried in a purse or wallet with frequent contact numbers.

Talking Points for the topic of Getting Organized:
We all copy an important telephone number on the back of an envelope, or stuff a receipt in the bottom of a bag. We all lose important papers that require a signature for one situation or another. But when it comes to Relative Care, these casual moments of forgetfulness can cause terrible stress. Many of the kinship caregivers in the group are likely to have a shoulda coulda story or two about misorganizing.

Four items are very valuable to a simpler task of getting organized for the sake of the children and their possible day in court:
A dated notebook log specifically of the kinship care. The log should contain dates of visitation, medical appointments and costs, court actions, social service visits, contact numbers and other items pertaining to the progression of the care, the health and well-being of the child, and other expectations. The log is not a personal journal and should not contain personal feelings about individuals or the situation. The log is often the best evidence in court of the child’s care and future.

Important Papers file. This valuable tool should contain important papers such as child's birth certificate, legal authorization papers for kinship care, child’s medical records, school records, social service records, social security cards, etc. all in separate areas of the folder. The advantage of a single folder for most important papers is the easy grab on the way to appointments. Guard this folder. Make copies to keep in another safe place. Clean the file every few weeks to make sure it is up to date. Participants in a Kinship Care group will have many good suggestions from their own experience to add to the discussion.

The contact card. A simple little card of basic information – social security numbers, contact names and numbers of case workers, etc. Keeping the card in a wallet provides quick and easy access. Kinship caregivers who use an electronic tool to keep track of such things know to keep the little device battery ready and backed up in another source.

The Family Calendar. Kinship families who have not had a child around for awhile find out quickly that a calendar helps keep everyone in the family on track for school events, appointments, and visitations. The calendar is also a good cross-reference for the Log.

Good luck at your meetings. More tips using A Kinship Guide to Rescuing Children in kinship care group meetings coming in future blogs. Keep the faith, take your vitamins.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kinship Groups use of A Kinship Guide to Rescuing Children

We have received some wonderful feedback regarding use of the book, A Kinship Guide to Rescuing Children for Grandparents and Other Relatives As Parents. The unique group use of the book has prompted us to develop a tip sheet of sorts on points to cover in various sessions. We will highlight these periodically in the blog and the newsletter on the website, . The newsletter, Kinship Care Notes, is published monthly online on the fourth page of the website.

Some things you should know about the book before you start using it in a group. A Kinship Guide focuses on helping families understand what they are up against outside the household – legal issues, social services, schools, medical, etc. There are some excellent in-the-home parenting books for special issues that kinship care providers face everyday. So many families were asking for some sort of guide to get through the maze of social services which is why we wrote the book with that focus.

Let’s imagine a group of kinship families wanting to get together just to talk things out and understand the problems facing them. Start with the logistics:
1. find a suitable place (a church, community center, coffee shop with a private room, senior center, ymca, someone’s living room)
2. get announcements out through local resources including posters and radio or access TV, local news sources – include time, place, and topic
3. bring snacks
4. child care is a tricky one – most groups begin with a friend of a friend or hire a teenager. I’m kind of picky on this one. For a casual initial gathering this may be okay. For get-togethers in a social service place such as a Senior Center or School, it may be necessary to hire a professional who is aware of the trauma many kinship children are experiencing. See page 173 of A Kinship Guide, the section is titled Quality Safe Child Care.
At the First Meeting
Get to know each other. Someone may be a facilitator to help with the initial sharing. Send a sign up sheet around for future contact – name, address, contact numbers including e-mail. The things a kinship group should know for future meetings also includes the topics the families are anxious to learn more about and the proportion of families that are volunteer kinship caregivers or placement caregivers. Some of the ways of dealing with public systems are affected by volunteer or placement.
Closing the First Meeting
The new kinship care group should be sure they have a contact sheet, suggestions on how to improve contact with other families (believe me, there are so many kinship care families in each community that really want to get together, but just don’t know how to begin – so many feel as if they are all alone in this daunting task). The group should also decide time, place for the next meeting and topic.
If groups are following the book (and for our next blog on this issue), I suggest Getting Organized is a great beginning. This is an interesting topic for groups. Someone could check the community for support for some items that everyone in the group to receive: a file folder, calendar, log book, and 3 x 5 cards. Stay tuned. We’ll have fun following A Kinship Guide to Rescuing Children with the next tips on Getting Organized.
In the meantime, thank you for all families and service providers for all you do for kinship care.