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Kinship Caregivers: Foster Care’s Unsung Heroes


May is National Foster Care Month! This signifies a special time to acknowledge children in the foster care system, as well as the caregivers, policymakers, advocates, and anyone else who makes it possible for these children to find a safe space to live while their parents are unable to care for them. Kinship caregivers—adults who know a child personally and choose to take them in when the child’s parent is unable to care for them any longer – are the unsung heroes of the foster care system. 

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Kinship care differs from foster care by emphasizing the importance of maintaining prior connections for the child’s well-being. Unlike in traditional foster care where placement is with unrelated individuals or families, kinship caregivers are usually grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, or other relatives who step in to provide care. However, these caregivers can be also be non-relatives who have a relationship with the child, including close family friends, teachers, or neighbors.  

Placing a child with an adult they already know can offer a variety of benefits. There is already a relationship between the child and the adult, so the child can retain some sense of normalcy. Trust has usually already been established, so the change is much easier during an already stressful and traumatic time. It also can ease the transition and give the child a sense of permanence because they do not have to uproot their entire life. 

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If you’re thinking about kinship care, there are many considerations to take into account. Practically, you must be ready to care for a child, especially one that may have experienced trauma. Being a caregiver is a full-time job, so you have to be ready to take on all of the responsibilities that come with it. Being a kinship caregiver also means that you have a unique understanding of the family dynamics that the child is coming from. Considering their situation and your relationship with the family is crucial to ensuring that kinship care is right for both you and the child.   

There are many next steps you can take to support kinship care and foster care. If you are considering becoming a foster or kinship parent, the Children Services Hub at Action for Children can help! There are countless resources that they have access to and can provide, like a foster care roadmap, partnerships with kinship based programs like OhioKAN, and more. If you are already a foster or kinship parent, Action for Children has many programs that can benefit you. These include our Positive Parenting Program (Triple P), which supports caregivers on their parenting journeys, as well as our Mothers Matter and Father Up programs which are specifically geared towards helping their respective parties.  

Image Credit: Andy Dean Photography via Canva

If you want to support the foster care work this National Foster Care Month but don’t know if you’re ready to be a foster parent, there are plenty of other ways to do so. Donating to Action for Children can help ensure that our work for foster parents and children can continue. You can also educate yourself and others on the nuances of foster care by reading our related blog, How You Can Make A Difference Through Fostering. Whatever you choose to do, take action by taking a first step! 

Author: Shea McHugh, Advocacy Associate at Action for Children  
Contributors: Jennifer Aquino, Linnae Boyer, and Keith Wollenberg  

Action for Children’s foster, kinship, and adoption support services are an initiative of the Ohio Department of Children and Youth and are locally supported by Action for Children.  

Action for Children is the local child care resource and referral agency for central Ohio, and is committed to assuring quality early learning experiences for all children. Our services focus on transforming the lives of children by supporting the everyday heroes who most influence our children’s early growth; care givers, educators, parents, and guardians. Learn More.

Cover Image Credit: Gabe Pierce via Unsplash

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