Kinship Care: Caring for Yourself
Support Kinship Youth
The November 2023 National Adoption Month campaign, "Empowering Youth: Finding Points of Connection," will raise awareness about the importance of professionals and communities in building relationships with youth who are in foster and kinship care to create tools to keep and form lifelong connections that will support and affirm youth as they explore who they are holistically. As families and communities plan to build protective environments for their youth and prevent substance use, check out the tools to help youth feel valued and loved in your community.
Visit Children’s Bureau (CB) | The Administration for Children and Families (hhs.gov)
Kinship Care Defined
Do you know what kinship care is? Do the terms referring to you as a caregiver confuse you? Kinship care is when relatives step up to raise children when their parents can’t care for them for the time being. The Annie E. Casey Foundation shares that today, more than 2.5 million children are in kinship care in our country. If you were raised by a grandparent, an aunt or a close friend, you were raised under kinship care. Compared to children in the general foster care population, kids in kinship care tend to be:
- Better able to adjust to their new environment;
- Less likely to experience school disruptions;
- Less likely to experience behavioral and mental health problems;
- More stable — they move less than kids in nonfamily foster care settings and have lower rates of re-abuse;
- More likely to stay with their siblings and maintain lifelong connections to family.
Importantly, kinship care also helps to minimize trauma for children as well as preserve their cultural identity and connections to their communities.
- Five Ways to Help Kinship Caregivers Now
- Coping with the Unique Challenges of Kinship Care (a four-part video training series) Training Series: Coping With the Unique Challenges of Kinship Care - The Annie E. Casey Foundation (aecf.org)
Learn more on Kinship Care - The Annie E. Casey Foundation (aecf.org)
Aging Network Services and Supports for Kin/Grandfamily Caregivers
While many kin/grandfamily caregivers experience great satisfaction and pride in taking on the kinship role, doing so can also be stressful and bring about challenges. About 66 percent of grandparent caregivers are age 55 or older and almost half are no longer in the work force. These retired and older caregivers likely experience financial strain, challenges in making their homes childfriendly, and feelings of social isolation from their peers who are no longer raising children. Generations United has identified services to help through the Aging Network. Contact your local AAA or Title VI program to explore partnerships with them or to learn more about specific services that can help the kinship/grandfamilies you serve.
Visit: www.gu.org for more self-care information.
Resources for You
The "Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network: A National Technical Assistance Center" uses the terms “grandfamilies” and “kinship families” interchangeably to refer to families in which grandparents, other adult family members, or close family friends are raising children, with no parents in the home. The parents are not caring for their children for many reasons, including parental substance use, incarceration, military deployment, severe disability, deportation, teenage pregnancy, or death. At least 2.6 million children are being raised in these families across the United States.
To access the resources and information available, check out: Who Are Grandfamilies and Kinship Families? - Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network (gksnetwork.org).
It is reported there are 2.6 million children in the US who living in homes headed by a grandparent, other adult family members, or close family friend without a parent present. These occur both inside and outside of the child welfare system. These families include approximately 30% of children in foster care being raised in kinship families. Even in the best kinship family situations, self-care is vital. For health, physically and mentally, take a look at the tips offered by Generations United and Humana. With many of the “grandfamilies” generated by chaos and substance misuse in the child’s environment, setting an example by self-care is a strength to success of the kinship family.
If you live in the chaos of substance use in your family, One Day at a Time in Al-Anon reminds us that arguments are useless against a sickness. “I pray to remember, every day, every hour, and especially in times of crisis, that hostile behavior on my part will only add fuel to a fire that could destroy us both.” As a grandparent or another person providing kinship care, you need to take care of yourself to provide the best care and support to your "littles" and their parents.
Are you a family leader with lived experience as a primary caregiver of a child, youth, or young adult with mental health or substance use needs due to use or parental use? Are you working in a role that fosters and supports family engagement in agency practice and policy decisions? This may be as a foster parent, kinship caregiver, or as your work focus. If so, are you interested in connecting with other family leaders working in similar roles to expand and enhance your skills and knowledge? The Family-Run Executive Director Leadership Association (FREDLA) offers a peer networking group to share experiences, innovative and effective practices, skills and knowledge, solution to barriers and challenges, and key information supporting your role as family leaders.
The Family Exchange is a Monthly Peer Networking Group for Family Leaders Who Foster and Support Family Engagement. The group is facilitated by experienced family leaders from the Family-Run Executive Director Leadership Association (FREDLA) who foster peer connections; provide access to resources and technical assistance; and support participants to further family engagement within their agency, community, or state.
January Topic: Family Voice in the Ever-Changing Environment; Next Session: Wednesday, January 25, 2023 at CT 2:00 – 3:30
Managing Your Emotions
As a grandparent or kinship caregiver, your life has changed. Taking care of your mental health is a key component to managing your daily health, both physical and mental health. Practice self-care, seek a support group and be aware of he needs of your "little" charges along with you needs. Check out the extensive information on the Illinois Department on Aging and the resources you may access. Knowing what is available to help your family through the days ahead in vital and will make this process a valued experience for all of you.
Racial Equity Toolkits
Check out the Toolkits offered by Generations United. The Racial Equity Toolkits are designed to give resources and tips to child welfare agencies, other government agencies, and nonprofit organizations, so they can better serve all "grandfamilies"/kinship families. Generations United has produced a toolkit for American Indian and Alaska Native families, Black families, and Latino families.
Grandparents, be sure to check out the resources for families in these times of stress. With winter approaching, housing is even more important. Keep you and your family safe especially if you are caring for little ones while their parents are unable. Visit: www.illinoishousinghelp.org.
Support for Families
September was National Recovery Month and Kinship Care Awareness Month. This year’s National Recovery Month theme, “Every person. Every family. Every community.” reminds us that no one is immune to the risks and impact of substance use disorders (SUDs), mental health issues and the impact of gambling. As a result, when parents can no longer care for their children, there is no one better matched to step in than grandparents, other adult kin, or close “family-like” friends. But providing that care can come at a cost to the caregivers’ own physical, mental, and financial health and well-being. To help, ACL released the first-ever National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers. It was developed through a collaboration of the Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Children and the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Act Family Caregiving Advisory Council. Find out more about the support developing nationally and the importance of being involved.
What is the most important thing in Hispanic culture?
Do you Know? PBS Kids invites you to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. Honoring family traditions is important to kids and grown-ups across backgrounds and cultures. Sharing special traditions can strengthen family bonds and create a sense of belonging to children and grown-ups. Traditions can help us connect with cultural or religious roots. They are often shared and passed on to others — sometimes through generations.
Family traditions can include activities, recipes, and acts of kindness. They can be done at any time to celebrate anything! Want to start a new tradition with your family? Make it simple and not stressful. Your new tradition can be daily, weekly, monthly, or set for special holidays. Involve your kids in making family traditions and then share them with other family members. The most important thing in Hispanic culture… Traditionally, respect for one's elders and authority figures is an essential aspect of Hispanic culture. Additionally, Hispanic culture places much importance on the concepts of self-respect, dignity, and pride.
The Lifeline Works
Are you or someone you know having thoughts of suicide or experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis? 988 connects you to compassionate, confidential support for free. 988 is the new three-digit dialing code for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. For years, the Lifeline – formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline –has answered tens of millions of calls and helped people overcome mental health-related distress. 988 is the same trusted resource. When you call, text, or chat 988, you’ll be quickly connected to trained crisis counselors who will listen to your concerns, provide support, and get you additional help if needed. There is HOPE. The Lifeline WORKS. You are not alone in crisis. Just call 988.
Grands Taking Care of Your Mental Health
Beginning July 16, 2022, 988 the new three-digit dialing code connecting people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, where compassionate, accessible care and support is available for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress—whether that is thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support. If you have questions regarding how this relates to other services or how to use the system.
Check out: 988 Frequently Asked Questions | SAMHSA.
If you are a grandparent or other kinship caregiver, Generations United has updated their state fact sheets that include resources for assistance on this journey. take a minute to do an assessment of your potential needs (or wishes) and review the Generations United information.
Grandfamilies are Great
Generations United has shared news addressing the issue of grandparents and other relatives raising grandchildren. “Grandfamilies” are families in which children live and are being raised by grandparents or other extended family members with whom they have a family-like relationship. That may include godparents and close family friends. The data shows approximately 7.8 million children across the country live in households headed by grandparents or other relatives. About 2.5 million grandparents report they are responsible for their grandchildren’s needs. In about a third of these homes neither of the children’s parents are in the home.
Despite facing many barriers, research shows that the children in "grandfamilies" thrive. Caregivers also experience benefits like an increased sense of purpose in life. Keep updated on grandfamilies news by signing up for their quarterly newsletter, The Grand Voice.
Visit and learn more about the new family generation. Grandfamilies - Generations United (gu.org). For additional information check out Relatives Raising Children/Extended Family Support - Loving Homes