“My grandma is my mommy who chose me.” So says Ms. Shirley’s seven-year-old granddaughter who came to live with her six years ago when her birth parents could no longer care for her. Instead of going into the state child welfare system, the grandmother’s home was determined to be the best place for the seven-year-old to stay connected to her family, community, and culture.
Because her granddaughter is not connected to the child welfare system, Ms. Shirley has less access to formal resources and supports. This family is not unique in Washington state—more than 40,000 family members are raising a relative’s child, which we refer to that as “kinship care.” Luckily, Ms. Shirley connected to Catholic Community Services’ Kinship Program.
The Kinship Program includes the Kinship Navigator for King County as well as the King County Kinship Collaboration (KCKC). KCKC was formed to support kinship caregivers like Ms. Shirley. Thanks to support from Aging and Disability Services, KCKC has strengthened the network of supports available to kinship caregivers, especially those who have no involvement with the state’s child welfare system. Some of these supports include groups like the one that Ms. Shirley attends. A Kinship Navigator helps relatives with emergent needs and referrals, an overnight retreat just for kinship families, and other events, classes, and services for relatives.
KCKC engages in local, state and national advocacy. Caregivers are active in advocacy efforts regarding policies affecting their families. Recently, there has been good news about new policies that will support kinship families. At the national level, the Families First Prevention Services Act became law and will include more federal support for services for kinship families. At the state level, positive changes to Child Only TANF will be taking effect on July 1, 2018. When kinship caregivers apply for Child Only TANF, they will no longer have to provide information about their household income. Also, the monthly rate will be restored to pre-recession levels so families will see a bit of an increase in their monthly grants.
To hear another local kinship caregiver’s story, visit Refuge: Grandparents rescue grandkids from heroin crisis (KING 5 News, January 9, 2017).
For more information about kinship services at Catholic Community Services, click here.
Contributor Barb Taylor coordinates the King County Kinship Collaboration at Catholic Community Services.