Just imagine, being a few years away from retirement, enjoying the benefits of life as a grandparent, aunt, uncle or godparent. As part of your weekly routine you pick the children up on Friday night for bonding, watching movies, reading bedtime stories and return them to their parents Sunday afternoon.
One evening as you prepare for the upcoming week, returning phone calls and planning time for work, with friends or for hobbies, there is a knock on the door. You open the door, and to your surprise, there stand several police officers with your grandchildren, niece, nephew or the neighbor’s children. One of the officers mentioned that if you do not take all of the children in your home at that moment, they would be placed in foster care. This can have tragic results, such as losing contact with the children, the siblings becoming separated from each other for months or even years before their biological parents regain custody. Instantly, the decision is made to take the children in, thus starting your life of parenting for the second time around.
Caregivers throughout the United States have always cared for children through formal and informal arrangements. Family caregiving roles have been in existence for centuries. According to aarp.org, there is an estimated 2.4 million caregivers in the United States. Approximately 1.6 million are grandparents and an average of 896,000 other caregivers such as aunt, uncle, older siblings and godparent. In addition, grandfacts.org mentioned that there is an estimated 25 million people who have the responsibility of caring for a loved one with little or no support or compensation.
When children initially come into the care of a relative, most are not aware of the vast amount of community resource services and other supports that are available to them. Kinship Services Network, a program of The Children’s Home provides, services in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. The Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County, The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, United Way of Suncoast, Eckerd Community Alternatives, Inc. and The Children’s Bureau fund this program. Kinship Services Network offers in-home supportive case management to help families navigate and link to the services they need, such as counseling, legal assistance, financial management, debt counseling and public benefits, respite care and emotional support. KSN offers monthly support groups and family activities throughout the county for both caregivers and the children in their care. Through educational sessions, hands on activities, food and fun, support groups provide the opportunity for a caregiver to meet other caregivers who are in similar situations.
Kinship can connect caregivers to much needed programs and supports. For more information, contact the referral line at 1-888-920-8761 or on the Web at www.childrenshome.org.
Gale Ingraham is project manager of Kinship Services Network of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco, which is based in Clearwater.