September was Kinship Care month and also the first annual Kinship Symposium sponsored by the Northern Virginia Kinship Group. And like all other awareness months, it is more than that to those 2.7 million children that are cared for by relatives and close family friends.
What is kinship care? Child Welfare Information Gateway defines it as “the care of children by relatives or, in some jurisdictions, close family friends (often referred to as fictive kin).” There are certainly benefits of kinship care: children placed in kinship care maintain a family connection and a sense of belonging and self-worth. And there are also challenges. Those challenges include complicated family relationships, a lack of resources and legal services, accessing medical care and enrolling children in school, as well as general anxiety over social services and systems that should be helping the child. (Heidi Redlich, Director of Kinship Care Policy, ABA Center on Children and the Law.)
When service providers are more aware of the challenges and how to effectively tackle them head on with the family, then the child has an even greater chance of thriving within the kinship care situation and their chances of entering foster care are reduced. According to Dr. Joseph Crumbley, LCSW, service providers should address the following with the families:
- Child Rearing Practices
- Stress Management/Physical Limitations
- Bonding and Attachment
- Anger and Resentment
- Morbidity and Mortality
This is definitely an area in which a greater understanding is developing and those who work with children and advocate on behalf of children need greater exposure. Laws are changing as we realize the lack of financial support and legal rights these families have. Families that are trying to do right for children.
At our Advocacy Day on November 17th, we will be talking about kinship care in Virginia. To register to attend, please go to https://co.clickandpledge.com/advanced/default.aspx?wid=113088
– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager