Imagine getting a call that your relative is being or has been placed in the child welfare system because of reported neglect and abuse by the hands of someone you have held close to your heart. Now imagine being thrown into a whirlwind of meetings, classes, visits, and court dates. On top of managing heavy emotions, imagine now realizing the full scope of trauma that your niece, nephew, cousin, grandson, or granddaughter has faced. Imagine also adding a level of shame and guilt, all while trying to find a bed, lock boxes and fire extinguishers so that your home can “pass” a safety walkthrough.
According to The National Foster Parent Association – National Kinship Care Awareness Month (nfpaonline.org), “September is Kinship Care Month, recognizing relatives, members of tribes and clans, and non-related extended family members who provide round the clock protection and nurturing for their younger family members. The definition is inclusive and respectful of cultural values and ties of affection. Whether formally through child protective services or informally through family arrangements, kinship care aims to reduce the trauma of family separation and provide cultural and community ties. Within this definition there are two populations of kinship families:
- informal, where children live with grandparents or other relatives and are not in the custody of a public child welfare agency;
- formal, where children are in the care of a relative or non-related extended family member and in the custody of a public child welfare agency.
Whether informally arranged among family members or formally supported by the child welfare system, it is essential to affirm and support the considerable contributions of kinship caregivers.”
In my journey walking alongside Foster Parents, there is one group that has always had a special place in my heart, Kinship Parents. These parents bring a different set of emotions and perspective about the biological parents and/or caregivers that is eye opening and impacts any unconscious biases we may carry. There is often a tug-a-war of the heart as kinship parents do all they can, in the best interest of the child. Family gatherings and family reunions sometimes require an extra level of planning that Traditional Foster Parents won’t typically have to think about.
Kinship care is more common than we realize. Child welfare agencies are always attempting to place children with relatives, as long as it is in the best interest of the child. More and more children are being raised by grandparents or other relatives, inside and outside of the child welfare system.
Kinship parents need the same support that Traditional and Adoptive parents need. Let’s celebrate and support these parents by:
- providing meals
- offering childcare
- writing an encouraging note/sending a text
- send a gift card
- ask how they are doing and take time to listen!
We know that children are best raised by someone that they know. Lets celebrate all the kinship parents that have stepped up and are doing the work!