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Financial Assistance Guide for Kinship Care

Kinship care is when children are placed in the care of relatives instead of their parents. There are many reasons that children are displaced from their parents, including:

  • Neglect;
  • Physical or emotional abuse;
  • Drug or alcohol abuse;
  • Mental illness;
  • Inability to provide a stable home;
  • Medical neglect;
  • Death of a parent or parents;
  • The child was given up for adoption.

Child welfare practices prioritize placing the child with relatives when they are displaced from their parents. Nationally, the number of children living in foster care is growing, and nearly one-third of children in foster care are living with a relative. Studies show that children in kinship foster care have shown more positive behavioral development, mental health, and placement stability than children in nonkinship foster care. Other benefits of kinship care include:

  • Preserving a child’s cultural and community ties;
  • Reducing the risk of homelessness and criminal involvement;
  • Promoting sibling ties;
  • Increasing permanency for a child;
  • Minimizing trauma.

While there are many benefits to kinship care, there are also many obstacles that kinship caregivers must overcome. Legal issues, financial assistance, child welfare, and schooling are typical problems that caregivers can experience. This guide is designed to help kinship caregivers overcome these obstacles and provide the right care for the child in need.

Types of Kinship Care and Legal Issues

If you have become a kinship caregiver for a younger family member, you may have noticed that there are many types of kinship care. Depending on the child and parent scenario, there are different levels of involvement with the court and a child welfare agency. Kinship care can range from informal and voluntary with no court involvement, to formal adoption and guardianship.

Formal vs. Informal Kinship Care

Informal kinship care arrangements are made by family members with no court or state involvement. In these situations, the biological parents will retain legal custody and can take their children back at any point while the children live with another family member.

Parents who are ill or who leave for overseas might enter into this type of arrangement for the betterment of their children. Kinship caregivers may have difficulty obtaining health insurance or enrolling kids in school because they do not have access to the child’s legal documents.

In formal kinship care situations, children are placed in the State’s legal custody; the State then places the children with relatives. Both the relative and the child welfare agency are involved in making legal decisions about the children, including determining where they live, ensuring they get medical care, and enrolling them in school. The agency will also supervise any visits between the children and the biological parents. Additionally, kinship caregivers must be certified or approved as foster parents.

Voluntary Kinship Care

With voluntary kinship care, child welfare agencies are involved, but the State does not take legal custody of the children. Living arrangements for the children can either be set up through the court or by the child welfare agency alone. Often parents will volunteer to place their children with relatives to prevent the child welfare agency from pursuing court activity.

One scenario in which voluntary kinship care is ideal is if the parent is undergoing treatment for substance abuse or mental health issues and the child needs a safe environment to thrive in.

Temporary Guardianship vs. Guardianship

Guardianship allows a parent to choose who will take care of their child. With temporary guardianship, the kinship caregiver has legal, limited custody of the child. While the limit varies by state, the typical time limit of temporary guardianship is between 60 days and six months. Only the biological parent of the child can request this type of guardianship, and they must petition the court to end it. Temporary guardianship may be granted if:

  • A single parent is hospitalized;
  • Both parents have died;
  • Parents have refused to give children life-saving medical treatments;
  • The parent or guardian leaves the country for a short time;
  • The parents are temporarily unable to care for the child.

Permanent guardianship, on the other hand, can be mandated without the parent’s consent and typically lasts until the child turns 18 years of age. Permanent guardians are able to make the same decisions that parents can make and it is often hard to change status once it’s been granted.

Custody

If a caregiver wants custody over a child, they will have legal rights and responsibilities. Custody must be granted through the courts or through a signed petition from the biological parents. There are two types of custody that can be granted:

  • Physical custody: This type of custody refers to where the child lives. With physical custody, caregivers can feed, clothe, help the child with schooling, and take care of their medical needs.
  • Legal custody: This type of custody allows caregivers to make legal decisions about the children. Either a child welfare agency or a legal guardian may obtain legal custody and may enroll children in school, give permission for medical care, and give other legal consents.

Kinship caregivers may have both or only one type of custody. For instance, the State may retain legal custody while relatives may have physical custody.

Adoption

If a child is not going to return to their parents, adoption is a common option for kinship caregivers. Adoption gives the child a sense of permanency as well as keeps them with their biological family. The adoption process is a bit more involved, as the prospective adoptive parents must meet state requirements, even if they have been kinship caregivers for the child already. Although worthwhile, the adoption process is expensive, which is something the caregivers must consider.

There are many types of adoption, however, kinship caregivers may only deal with private and public adoption. Private adoption consists of an attorney acting as a liaison between both parties and is usually faster because there are fewer requirements for adoptive parents.

Public adoptions are conducted through adoption agencies which must abide by state-mandated guidelines, making the process longer and more complicated. However, adoptive parents have more access to resources such as counseling and parenting classes when they adopt through agencies.

Fostering

If children are placed in foster care, biological family and kinship placement are preferred. Social workers try to find family members or close family friends to place the child with. These caregivers must comply with guidelines put forth by judges and social workers that are in the child’s best interest. These guidelines include:

  • Financial stability;
  • Living space for each child;
  • Home inspections;
  • Background checks;
  • Training attendance.

It’s important to note that each state and county will have different guidelines to abide by, so if a family member wishes to enter into a kinship foster care situation, they must check with their local social services department.

Kinship Financial Support Options

Financial responsibility typically falls to the kinship caregiver. However, many new caregivers could find themselves caught in financial hardships as many kinship arrangements are typically sudden. The average cost of raising a child in the United States is about $233,610, which caregivers might not account for when opting to care for the child. These additional costs include:

  • Housing and housing-related bills;
  • Clothes;
  • Grocery bills;
  • School supplies.

Additionally, most kinship caregivers are grandparents who live on Social Security and other retirement benefits and may need to look elsewhere for additional income. There are a variety of benefits that kinship families are entitled to but might not be aware of.

Guardian and Adoption Subsidies

After obtaining legal guardianship, kinship caregivers can apply for guardianship subsidies which consist of cash payments. These payments help caregivers afford the new financial responsibilities of raising children.

In 2008, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act was passed, allowing states to use funds through the Federal Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to finance guardianship assistance programs (GAP). To receive these types of payments, the child often has to be in the custody of the state.

There are few states that allow caregivers to receive guardianship subsidies for children who do not enter the foster system. GAPs were created to help children who have been in foster care with a licensed relative providing care for at least six months or for those who cannot be reunited with their parents.

For the relative to receive payments, guardianship agreements must be in place before the court awards guardianship. Payments are made by the state with a monthly recurrence and end when the child turns 18.

Adoption subsidies are one-time or ongoing cash payments that may be available when a child is adopted through the foster care system. Most children adopted through foster care are considered to have “special needs” because they may have been exposed to childhood trauma and may need additional medical attention or mental health evaluation. The adoption subsidy was created to help cover the costs of medication, counseling, therapies, and specialists these children might need.

In some states, benefits also include:

  • Childcare;
  • Respite care;
  • Community-based rehabilitation.

Depending on the needs of the child adopted, the stipend the caregiver receives could be monthly, and last until the child turns 18. To receive an adoption subsidy, parents must make written requests to their regional Children and Family Services office.

Grants

In 2018, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) granted $18 million to states for Kinship Navigator programs. These programs help connect caregivers to benefits, counseling, and other assistance. However, more research is needed to create federal, evidence-based programs that can benefit kinship families.

Kinship families have other options for grants including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This program provides grant funds to states to assist families with financial assistance and supportive services. Some ways that the TANF program can help families include:

  • Monthly cash benefits to help meet the needs of the family and the children they are raising;
  • Short-term help to meet a need;
  • Access to other programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Medicaid.

To qualify for this benefit, you must be:

  • Caring for a child under 19 years of age;
  • A U.S. citizen, a legal alien, or a permanent resident;
  • Under-employed, unemployed, or about to be unemployed.

There are two types of grants that caregivers are eligible for: child-only grants and family grants.

  • The child-only grant provides caregivers with a monthly cash benefit to help care for the child. The income may include child support payments or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The national average grant is about $8 per day for one child.
  • The family grant is awarded if the caregiver and family meet the state’s guidelines. This grant can address the caregiver’s needs as well as those of the child. The funding window is limited to no more than 60 months under federal law. Exceptions on time limits are made for caregivers over 60 years of age.

To apply for TANF, you must obtain the application information for your particular state.

Child Support

Although the child may be in a relative’s care, unless a court has terminated the parental rights, biological parents are typically financially responsible for the child. Child support payments can help relatives meet the financial needs of the child under their care. The amount of support received is based on the parents’ ability to pay and the needs of the child. Payments may also be used for specific benefits like health insurance and child care.

Each state determines how much child support must be paid by adhering to child support guidelines. Often states will calculate an amount based on the percentage of the parents’ income, including:

  • Wages;
  • Investments;
  • Pensions;
  • Retirement benefits;
  • Worker’s compensation;
  • Disability payments;
  • Unemployment benefits;
  • Veteran’s benefits;
  • Social Security benefits.

It’s important to note that if you’re a kinship caregiver and you are receiving TANF benefits, then you will be required to use child support payments to reimburse the state TANF agency. To receive child support, you have the following options:

  • Hire a private attorney;
  • Hire an attorney through local legal service offices;
  • File a child-support petition and represent yourself;
  • Apply for assistance with the state’s child support enforcement agency.

Foster Care Payments

If the children are involved in foster care, kinship caregivers may receive foster care payments to help assist in raising the child. However, some children might be ineligible for financial assistance if the relatives stepped in before the child entered foster care.

Foster care payments are typically larger than other forms of financial assistance and can multiply by the number of children a relative is caring for. Additionally, these payments are not typically considered taxable income.

However, it’s important to note that becoming a foster parent is not a lucrative side business and these payments should not be considered as income. In fact, to become a foster parent, you must first show that you are financially stable. The monthly stipends you receive from being a foster parent are administered to help pay for:

  • Food;
  • Clothing;
  • Transportation;
  • Daily needs.

To receive foster care payments, kinship caregivers must be licensed with the state they reside in. Then, they can apply for payments from their state’s child welfare agency.

Tax Benefits

There are also public benefits that can help assist kinship caregivers financially. Depending on the type of tax benefit, you may not need a formal legal relationship with the child you’re taking care of. The tax credits you’re allowed to receive without having a legal relationship include:

  • Child Tax Credit: Parents may claim their children as dependents on their tax forms to receive a larger tax refund. It is worth up to $2,000 for every qualifying child, however, the amount is determined by your total income.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit: This tax credit is a benefit for people with low-to-moderate income and can reduce the amount of taxes you owe and might include a refund. To claim this credit, you must file a tax return.
  • Child and dependent care credit: This tax credit allows caregivers to receive tax credits if you’ve paid for childcare or if you’ve cared for a relative who is disabled. People who qualify for this benefit may receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit that is then deducted from the tax balance owed.
  • Social Security disability benefits: Children who are under 18 years of age and have a disabled guardian or kinship caregiver are eligible for Social Security benefits. Additionally, disabled parents who have children with disabilities may also receive benefits. Typically, children qualify for 50% of their parents’ total benefits, however, that amount might be lowered if they are already receiving additional benefits.
  • Dependency exemptions: Kinship caregivers who claim dependents on their tax forms can qualify for dependency exemptions. This benefit lowers your adjusted gross income which also lowers the taxes that you owe.

Additionally, if you are a grandparent or a senior caregiver, you may qualify for the federal tax credit for seniors and disabled taxpayers. Eligible taxpayers are those over 65 years of age and are within a certain income bracket.

Safeguarding Children’s Credit

Financial abuse is common in domestic violence situations. Violence in the home, whether it be physical, emotional, or sexual, is a common reason that children are taken away from their biological parents and are sent to live with a relative. Parents often have complete access to their children’s financials and may use these opportunities to exploit their children for personal profit. Examples of financial abuse include:

  • Opening a credit card in the child’s name and running up a balance;
  • Taking out a loan in the child’s name;
  • Using the child’s information to get a mortgage;
  • Cosigning on a loan and taking out more money than needed.

Parental financial abuse can severely impact a child’s future financial opportunities. If you discover signs of financial abuse, there are some steps to take to rectify the situation:

  • Document the situation;
  • Seek mediation from a third party;
  • Keep copies of financial records;
  • Transfer their assets to a separate account;
  • Change PINs and passwords;
  • Set up fraud alerts;
  • Begin a credit recovery process.

How to Recover From Financial Hardships

Often kinship caregivers are unprepared for the extra financial burden of raising another child. This can result in financial distress including:

  • High balances on credit cards;
  • Using credit to pay for everyday expenses;
  • Inability to pay off credit card debt on a month-to-month basis;
  • Using cash advance loans to pay for everyday expenses;
  • Late payments on monthly bills;
  • High debt-to-income ratio.

Financial stress can affect family life, including increased anxiety, depression, and strain in parental relationships. However, there are ways to recover from financial hardships. First, you’ll want to identify what needs the most attention. Typically, credit card debt is one of the most debilitating financial hardships a person can experience due to the high interest rates. Lingering credit card debt has the potential to hurt credit scores and cost more money in the long run. One way to get credit card debt under control is to avoid these bad credit card habits:

  • Not making more than the minimum payment;
  • Making late payments or missing payments;
  • Carrying a month-to-month balance;
  • Running the balance too high;
  • Not reading credit card statements;
  • Opening and closing multiple credit card accounts;
  • Paying unnecessary fees;
  • Using credit cards to pay off debt;
  • Not monitoring your credit score.

If you have a credit card, it’s important to know how to use it, including how to pay off debt and avoid overspending. You can talk to your credit card company to request a lower interest rate, negotiate your credit card debt, or transfer a balance to a credit card with a lower interest rate. Taking these steps will help repair your credit score which will help you access more financial opportunities in the future.

In addition to lowering your credit card debt, you can also refinance a mortgage to help lower the monthly payments. This helps families access more income, especially those who are living on a fixed income, like retired caregivers. Be sure to talk with a lender before refinancing your mortgage to discover if this is the right financial move.

Housing Options for Kinship Families

Becoming a kinship caregiver may mean that you need bigger living arrangements. For instance, if you are a senior caregiver, you may live in senior housing and might be unsure if your relative can move in with you. Or, you could be a  senior who lives on a fixed income and needs help paying your mortgage.

Additionally, low-income families might also have difficulty finding affordable housing to accommodate their growing family. Luckily, there are a few options to consider when deciding on the best course of action for housing:

  • Talk to the Public Housing Authority (PHA): Your local PHA can help find housing for families with lower income, seniors, and people with disabilities. Available housing could include apartments, duplexes, or a single-family home. Eligibility includes a household income that is 50% less than the area median income.
  • Use housing choice vouchers: These vouchers can help you rent privately owned houses. You can choose the type of home you want and are not limited to public housing. Typically, these rentals are safe while offering discounted rent or mortgage payment if the owner agrees. The home must be inspected and approved by the PHA.
  • Reverse your mortgage: A reverse mortgage can offer financial stability for people over the age of 62. This option allows individuals to receive a portion of their home equity paid back in the form of a loan. There are many pros and cons of a reverse mortgage; on the plus side,  this type of loan helps kinship caregivers afford daily necessities. Eligibility for a reverse mortgage is determined by your mortgage payment.
  • Use the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): This program helps people with low incomes pay their heating and cooling bills as well as some energy-related repairs. Eligibility for this program is determined by your household size as well as your yearly maximum income level.

Caregivers should also note that if their relatives have been in state custody, the caregiver could become a foster parent to care for the child. However, this means the state will likely conduct a home inspection to ensure the child’s safety. Foster homes must comply with local and state zoning, building, and fire safety codes, and must adhere to the following checklist:

  • Protective gates on the stairs;
  • Covers on all electrical outlets that are within reach of children;
  • Secured windows, including locks and screens;
  • An accessible first-aid kit;
  • Smoke detectors must be installed on every floor of the home;
  • Carbon monoxide detectors must be installed in each bedroom area;
  • Secured firearms, out of reach of children;
  • Sufficient heating and cooling systems;
  • Safe furniture with child-proofed corners;
  • No lead paint.

Medical Obstacles for Kinship Caregivers

Kinship caregivers could encounter medical obstacles when trying to obtain health insurance for their relatives. One problem could be that the child is not covered under the caregiver’s health insurance plan. Another could be that the caregiver does not have legal custody over the child and therefore may have trouble obtaining medical consent.

Additionally, caregivers could be unprepared for the additional costs of medical treatment for the child or children. These issues can make it difficult for the child to receive the physical or mental treatment they need, and cause stress on the caregiver.

Physical and Mental Risks Associated With Kinship Care

Children who are displaced from their parents often suffer from physical and emotional trauma and might need extra medical treatment. While kinship care has proven to help displaced children with behavioral problems, both caregivers and children may need additional emotional support. Kinship caregivers could suffer a number of risks including:

  • Depression;
  • Premature mortality;
  • Stress;
  • Compromised immune systems;
  • Unintentional injuries such as falls;
  • Exacerbated chronic health conditions;
  • Possible verbal abuse from other family members.

Additionally, children who are in some type of foster care might also suffer from mental and physical trauma, including:

  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);
  • Behavioral and conduct problems;
  • Substance abuse;
  • Social struggles;
  • Learning disabilities;
  • Developmental delays;
  • Speech or other language problems.

While these problems can be overwhelming, kinship caregivers should focus on trying to give the child a stable home environment. When children feel safe and secure, they can develop naturally and successfully. Ways to create a stable environment include:

  • Try to address problems in a calm manner;
  • Allow them to indulge in playtime;
  • Read to the children;
  • Try to set good examples;
  • Stay positive;
  • Be consistent with rewards and discipline;
  • Be honest;
  • Display affection;
  • Create a structured routine;
  • Be patient as the child adapts to their new environment;
  • Ensure the child feels like they belong in the family.

Obtaining Medical Consent

As stated above, caregivers that do not have legal custody or guardianship may have trouble obtaining medical consent for the child’s treatment. Children under the age of 18 cannot legally consent to medical treatment, and typically the parents of the child have this right.

However, when children are displaced from their parents and are sent to live with a relative, caregivers may have to seek out the parents to obtain medical consent. When a caregiver has medical consent, they’re able to authorize medical treatment without delay. For the caregiver to obtain medical consent, caregivers and parents must sign a child medical consent form, which includes:

  • Names and addresses of consenting parents;
  • Names and birthdates of children involved;
  • Health information of children involved;
  • The temporary guardian’s identity;
  • Description of medical treatments;
  • A statement that there is no court order preventing the parent from giving consent;
  • Signatures of all involved parties.

It’s important to note that each state has different regulations regarding medical consent, so caregivers should research their local requirements.

Paying for Medical Care

Paying for medical care is often a forgotten aspect of caring for a child. Many health insurance plans may not cover children, or caregivers may not have any health insurance at all. There are many medical debt resources available for people who are having trouble paying their medical bills.

  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): CHIP provides low-cost health insurance for families that are not eligible for Medicaid. Each state offers a CHIP program and has its own rules for eligibility. To apply for CHIP, you can apply online or with your state’s CHIP agency.
  • Medicaid: Medicaid provides health coverage for eligible children, including those with disabilities, those with behavioral health needs, or those with income under the federal poverty level. Medicaid can help cover preventative care as well as additional benefits for children with disabilities.
  • Affordable, sliding scale, or free clinics: These types of clinics are ideal for people who have minimal or no health insurance. Sliding scale and free clinics will adjust your medical bills based on your income or provide discounted medical services for those who cannot qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. Additionally, many communities offer health centers that provide volunteer nurses in medically underserved areas.
  • Medical expense deductions: Some medical expenses may be tax-deductible, which can affect your adjusted gross income (AGI) or total income during the year. However, not all medical expenses are tax-deductible. These expenses must meet certain qualifications. Typically, medical expenses must be higher than 7.5% of your AGI to be tax-deductible.

Additionally, if a caregiver or a child needs access to other medical services, there are a variety of mental health and addiction recovery services, including:

  • Free clinics;
  • Medicare;
  • Medicaid;
  • Community mental health centers;
  • Pastoral counseling;
  • Self-help groups;
  • Mental health and substance abuse hotlines.

Education and Childcare Resources for Kinship Caregivers

When children are displaced from their parents, they will likely have to change schools. This inconsistency can affect their success in school, as children in foster care or kinship care often suffer from behavioral issues or have special needs. Additionally, kinship caregivers could find it difficult to afford childcare, or find child care that meets the needs of displaced children. Creating a stable environment, both in the home, in school, and in childcare can help children develop successfully.

Childcare Options and Finances

Kinship caregivers could find themselves in need of childcare, as many often have full-time jobs and do not have the option of flexible work hours or working from home. This makes caring for children difficult. Options for childcare include:

  • In-home care: Caregivers who have taken in infants or toddlers can benefit from in-home care. This option allows hired help to come to the house instead of children needing to be dropped off at a daycare facility, which is convenient for working kinship parents. Additionally, caregivers can pay this type of childcare provider by the hour, which might be more affordable than traditional daycare.
  • Family daycare: This type of childcare is typically offered in a person’s home and includes many activities for the child, including playtime, crafts, storytime, and nap time. Family daycare might be less expensive than traditional daycare and provides a family-focused care approach.
  • Preschools and child care centers: These centers are typically more structured than other daycare facilities to help children enter the school system successfully. Some centers could offer reduced prices for low-income families.
  • Head Start programs: These programs are offered to low-income families to help develop early reading and math skills in young children before they enter the school system. Education, health, nutrition, and social services are some of the perks of these programs.

To find childcare programs in your area, you can visit these websites to find accredited programs:

Additionally, each state offers a child care subsidy program that can help lower-income families pay for child care. Be sure to research the requirements for the program in your state to ensure you qualify for the subsidy.

Education Considerations

Similar to medical consent, according to the American Bar Association (ABA) caregivers may need educational consent to enroll a child in a new school. While it’s beneficial to keep a child in the same school they’ve been in to minimize transitions, some caregivers might live in a different school district than the child’s parents.

Additionally, the ABA states that most school districts require proof of guardianship or documentation of legal custody to prevent families from abusing the school system. Proof of residency is also a requirement to enroll children in a school. However, while these systems are in place to prevent people from taking advantage of children or the public school system, they can prevent children from attending school.

Some states have responded to these issues by creating consent laws that allow caregivers to complete an affidavit in court that they are the primary guardian. These affidavits allow the parents to retain most rights regarding the child and the ability to rescind the affidavits at any time. Lastly, states are developing ways to penalize caregivers who are taking advantage of school districts under consent laws; penalties may include repayment of tuition and other fines.

To err on the side of safety, kinship caregivers should try to obtain legal custody of their kin in order to successfully enroll them in school.

College Scholarships for Adopted Youth

Kinship families may need financial assistance for college. Luckily, there are many scholarships available for adopted youth:

Tips for Kinship Caregivers

As relatives take on a new parenting role, the transition can be difficult for both the caregiver and the child. New caregivers might find themselves giving up certain things, such as:

  • Family time;
  • Leisure time;
  • Traveling;
  • Other aspects of independence.

Additionally, a child displaced from their parents may experience feelings of abandonment, trauma, and other mental health issues that make it tough for the child to form new relationships. These stressors affect how caregivers interact with children, spouses, other family members, and friends. It’s important that caregivers take time for themselves to ensure they are functioning at their best.

Take Care of Yourself

As a caregiver, you may be overcome with a variety of feelings, including:

  • Guilt;
  • Anger;
  • Resentment;
  • Stress;
  • Worry;
  • Grief.

These feelings, coupled with the physical and financial demands of raising children, can be overwhelming, so it’s important to take time to indulge in self-care. To be an adequate caretaker, you must ensure that all your needs are met as well as those of the child. Examples of taking care of yourself include:

  • Eating nutritious meals;
  • Exercising regularly;
  • Sleeping adequately;
  • Making time for relaxation;
  • Letting kids help out around the house;
  • Pursuing professional help, such as family therapy;
  • Creating a routine for you and the children;
  • Practicing deep breathing exercises;
  • Writing in a journal.

Kinship care can be sudden and unexpected. Caring for children often means that your needs become neglected. However, it’s important to look after your physical and mental health to ensure you are in the best shape to care for children.

Reach Out for Support

Kinship caregivers can find relief by engaging in support groups with other caregivers. People who seek out the support of other individuals are typically more successful than those who isolate themselves and try to deal with hardships on their own. Other benefits of support groups include:

  • Feeling less lonely;
  • Becoming empowered and more in control;
  • Improving coping skills;
  • Talking openly and honestly;
  • Reducing stress and anxiety;
  • Developing a clear understanding of the situation;
  • Obtaining practical advice;
  • Comparing resources.

If you decide to seek out a support group, there are many ways to find one:

  • Ask a doctor or healthcare provider to recommend a support group;
  • Check newspapers or phonebooks for local listings;
  • Contact community centers, libraries, and religious centers;
  • Ask others who are in the same situation;
  • Search online for local groups;
  • Contact a state or national organization.

Encourage Open Communication

Caregivers and children may feel a variety of feelings and need time to process their new living situation. Additionally, children may have a lot of questions about what has happened and need an adult they can trust and confide in. To encourage open communication, caregivers should consider the following:

  • Plan regular times to talk with the child without distractions;
  • Encourage the child to talk about their feelings and listen without judgment;
  • Help the child identify their emotions;
  • Learn coping skills for different emotions;
  • Determine how much information the child can handle;
  • Never lie to the child or twist facts.

It is important to remember that caregivers don’t need to have all the answers, however, by establishing an open dialogue with the child, they can start to initiate trust and confidence.

Establish Contact With Parents if Possible

Continuing contact with the child’s parents can be healthy, especially if the kinship arrangement is only temporary. There are many ways to keep in contact with the parents, including:

  • Meeting in person;
  • Phone calls;
  • Video calls;
  • Snail mail;
  • Email.

When scheduling these visits, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t let your feelings get in the way;
  • Avoid saying critical things about the parent in front of the child;
  • Don’t make the child feel guilty for wanting to see their parent;
  • Try to make the parent feel like they are a part of the child’s life;
  • Make the visits part of a routine;
  • Know how the child feels about contact with their parents;
  • Help the child deal with visits that don’t go as planned or that do not meet their expectations.

Kinship care, while overwhelming, can be rewarding for both the caregiver and the child. By using the resources laid out in this guide, you’ll be able to help ensure physical, emotional, mental, and financial stability for the child as well as yourself.

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