Caring For Our OwnKinship Program
Best practice standards have identified relatives as the preferred resource for children who must be removed from their birth parents. The reasoning is that it maintains the children's connections to their families while minimizing the trauma associated with the removal. Some practitioners consider kinship care as a type of family preservation service. Because of the research around the positive effects of kinship, many states are requiring kinship caregivers to comply with traditional foster care licensure. This practice ensures the safety and well-being of the children.
During focus groups, relative caregivers identified three common themes they face when caring for their relative. The common themes that emerged were:
- The relationship of kinship caregivers with the helping network.
- The relationship of kinship caregivers with the children in their care.
- The relationship of kinship caregivers with the birth parents of the children in their care.
Caring For Our Own Program is a nine week, 27 hour support group designed to provide kinship caregivers with assistance and ideas to help them work in partnership with the helping network, the children and the birth parents of the children. The program was updated in 2011 to include information on trauma and current federal guidelines for kinship care.
Through implementation of the Caring for Our Own Program, agencies can expect the following outcomes:
- Children living with kinship caregivers will have their needs for emotional support, physical, developmental and safety met.
- Kinship caregivers will help children who are placed in their care achieve permanency in the shortest time frame possible.
- The children's educational growth will be supported and enhanced through the kinship caregivers' partnership with the school system.
- Older adolescents will receive the educational and vocational services they need to achieve successful emancipation (independent living).
- Kinship caregivers will have an ongoing, informal social support network made up of other kinship caregivers.
Below provides a brief description of the 9 sessions of Caring For Our Own:
Meeting 1: Introduction to Caring for Our Own
Provides an opportunity for relative caregivers and leaders to get acquainted with each other, establish comfort and safety and provide the purpose, structure and desired outcomes of the program. The activities and discussions are designed so the caregivers develop a sense of connection to other participants and the facilitators.
Meeting 2: Assessing the Impact of the Children Living in my Home
Provides the participants with an opportunity to assess the immediate impact of having children live in their homes. This meeting will also assist caregivers in assessing their ability to meet the present needs of the children in their care.
Meeting 3: Looking at my Role in Achieving Permanency
Provides participants with an overview of reunification and adoption and identifies ways in which caregivers can support permanency planning. It will also continue to provide participants with the opportunity to assess the strengths and needs of the members of their immediate household and of their extended family members.
Meeting 4: Assessing the Strengths and Needs of the Children in my Care
Helps caregivers begin to focus on the needs of the children living in their homes and to identify the types of services they need to access to ensure stability in the childrenŐs overall growth and development.
Meeting 5: Building on the Strengths and Meeting the Needs of the Children in my Care
Continues to help caregivers examine the behaviors of the children living in their homes and to identify methods of managing those behaviors, as well as identifying and accessing needed services.
Meeting 6: Preparing Children and Youth for the Future
Assists caregivers in understanding their role and responsibilities in the education of the children in their care and in preparing youth for independent living.
Meeting 7: Understanding the Issues of Birth Parents
Provides an opportunity for caregivers to examine the challenges birth parents face. The meeting will give caregivers a better understanding of the transitional reactions for birth parents and how those interplay with caregiversŐ own transitional reactions. The meeting will also give caregivers an understanding of the nature of chemical dependence in birth parents and how this affects birth parentsŐ ability to assume the primary parenting role with their children. This meeting prepares caregivers to explore in Meeting 8 how they can work together with birth parents to meet childrenŐs needs and provide them with permanency.
Meeting 8: Working with Birth Parents to Achieve Permanency for Their Children
Examines how caregivers can redefine their relationship with birth parents in order to ensure childrenŐs physical safety and emotional well-being and support birth parentsŐ efforts to achieve permanency for their children.
Meeting 9: Networking and Moving Ahead
Provides participants with the opportunity to complete their assessment of their ability to meet the long-term needs of the children in their care. Participants will develop a family plan which will be shared with their caseworkers for the purpose of planning for the child. Participants have the opportunity to plan with each other for how they can remain in contact once the meetings end.