Earlier this week, representatives from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) visited Beech Acres Parenting Center to explore and better understand the successes of our Kinship Connections program.

Kinship Connections

Kinship Connections at Beech Acres Parenting Center was established to address the growing needs of grandparents and other relatives who find themselves caring for a loved one’s child unexpectedly due to unforeseen or unfortunate circumstances. In Ohio, over 200,000 children are being cared for in homes primarily by their grandparents or another relative. The growing opioid epidemic has exacerbated this issue. Kinship Connections, funded by the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund and the Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren and Clinton Counties, is designed to assist families in Southwest Ohio by helping them navigate complex paperwork, connecting them with valuable resources, and building camaraderie among families experiencing similar circumstances.

Government Accountability Office Research

The Government Accountability Office had the following questions and research objectives during their visit:
1. What is known about the trends in the number of grandparents and other older relatives raising children, and factors related to these trends?
2. What are the key challenges that these older relative caregivers face, and how do selected state and local officials report addressing these challenges?
3. To what extent has HHS supported state efforts to adopt recent federal initiatives targeted to older relative caregivers?

Our Solution for Ohio

Beech Acres Parenting Center has carefully followed trends in this arena, adjusting our program to meet the needs of the community as they evolve. Local agencies such as Hamilton County Jobs and Family Services (HCJFS) and government officials including County Commissioner Denise Driehaus, and Moira Weir and Chandra Mathews-Smith at HCJFS are aware of our efforts. They have a vested interest and are having conversations with Beech Acres Parenting Center.

Key challenges include resources, financial, legal, and basic needs. Kinship Caregivers are also challenged with the emotional trauma associated with what brought the children into their care as well in addition to the standard challenges of parenting that all parents face. Kinship Connections is based in Natural Strength Parenting™, Beech Acres Parenting Center’s unique approach to parenting that combines intentionality, character strengths, and mindfulness, which empowers Kinship providers to address these challenges effectively. Kinship Connections also incorporates proven approaches such as Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) to provide comprehensive support to these families.

The Health and Human Services Family First Prevention Act will support care for families like the those served in Kinship. The Act will fund services to allow children that are at risk for foster care placement to stay with their relatives and loved ones.

Seeing An Impact

During the visit, GAO officials were able to observe a well-attended kinship meeting where caregivers were able to hear about available resources, connect and share their experiences and stories with each other, and participate in a self-care activity based in mindfulness. They also visited with Kinship Manager Dawn Merritt and her entire team to understand how they are implementing the program and having a positive effect on the families and communities that they work with every day.

To learn more about our Kinship Connections at Beech Acres Parenting Center, please visit our website.