September 2015 has been declared as Kinship Appreciation Month in Ohio. Fulton County Job and Family Services is celebrating with them. “Kinship” refers to relatives or close friends who are caregivers of children when the children’s own parents are not able to care for them.
This can include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and older siblings. It can also include friends, neighbors, coaches, Sunday school teachers, etc., according to KinshipOhio. Nearly one hundred thousand Ohio grandparents are raising their grandchildren according to the 2010 Census. In 2012, it was reported that there were 354 grandparents raising grandchildren in Fulton County.
According to KinshipOhio, kinship families are unique because the caregivers were not necessarily planning to raise the children in their care, but have agreed to do so. There are costs associated with caregiver which include the cost of child care, clothing, groceries, school fees/activities, etc. These costs, especially when unexpected, can create both financial and emotional strain.
Kinship families are more likely to have a higher level of knowledge and interaction with the birth parents. Research has indicated that kinship caregivers can have good outcomes including more regular school attendance, better grades and fewer community problems than others in unrelated foster care.
Kinship can be a temporary, or a more permanent arrangement. There are many resources available to those in a kinship situation. The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services offers a Kinship Permanency Incentive Program which provides time-limited incentive payments to families caring for their kin.
“Kinship placements benefit the children as it affords a certain level of stability. We value our kinship placements and continue to promote this as an alternative to foster care,” notes Amy Metz-Simon, Executive Director of Fulton County Job and Family Services. To date in 2015, Fulton County has 19 children being supported by this incentive. Visit https://jfs.ohio.gov/ocf/kinship_care.stm for more information on this program.
There are also a wide variety of statewide policies and supports at www.kinshipohio.org that can be found on the KinshipOhio website. Locally, Fulton County Children Services is dedicated to assisting kinship families who are caring for a relative child. They are able to assist families with community referrals, as well as determine eligibility for KPI funds and other resources such as food stamps, Medicaid, cash assistance (OWF), Children Services, Child Support, etc. Jessica Pacer is the Fulton County Kinship Navigator and can be reached at 419-337-0010 or toll free at 1-800-344-3575.