Guest Blogger Jill Gaines, Kinship Navigator Kinship Connections

There are many people from every community, every ethnic group, every socioeconomic level, and every age group who fly under the radar while doing heroic deeds every day. Alongside the healthcare and essential workers, it is a time to recognize and honor Kinship heroes this Month for National Kinship Care Month.

Just like the superheroes in the stories, there is a part of kinship life that the public doesn’t see. We see the 77-year-old great-grandmother who opened her home to three of her great-grandchildren. What we do not see is how she works miracles trying to feed, clothe, and educate them on Social Security or a fixed income while at, or slightly below the poverty level.

We see a new retiree who was only supposed to take the children for two weeks continuing to care for his relatives now two years later. What we do not see is the depleted 401k account due to childcare expenses and summer camps now that he has had to return to work to meet the family’s needs. Retirement plans have been set aside indefinitely.

We see a young woman with five children in tow, buying a used van she doesn’t think she can afford. What we do not see if how her utility bills doubled when she took in her nieces and nephews. We do not see her sleeping on her couch so the children can have her bed, even though she has had two back surgeries.

Consider the relative who is fighting to keep a sibling group together so children that have been separated into various homes can stay bonded. She just found out that a foster family is seeking to adopt a sibling, resisting a family’s efforts to keep an older sibling in touch with his baby brother.
Yes! These heroes often must navigate child protective services and the legal system without adequate legal representation or financial support.

The struggle is real. Throughout these stories, we can see the courage, resilience, persistence, bravery, and love from kin-caregivers who are fighting for kids, their families and are changing lives every day. It’s amazing that they somehow handle their families doubling, and sometimes tripling, overnight. Through struggle they manage to smile and triumph in some way!

Still, many more heroes have done kinship care while fighting cancer, divorce, and being underemployed. Many had not received much, or any, help before as they struggled to navigate the complexities of the legal system, their lives, and numerous other priorities.

This month, the navigators and educators of Beech Acres Parenting Center’s Kinship Connections honor these heroes by standing in their corner, advocating for them, supporting them, and filling in the gaps caused by the instant changes that have happened within their families. Although the financial vouchers, referrals to agencies, food assistance, clothing referrals, tutoring, and other supports are all needed and appreciated, more still needs to be done.

These are some of the stories and voices of kin-caregivers! Please join in as we honor these unsung heroes. We will continue to assist them as they live and provide for children every day. Thank you, kin-caregivers, for taking care of your communities and your families!

“When I think of my experience with kinship, one word that comes to mind is resilient. I didn’t know what to expect from Kinship Connections, but this program has been a great experience for me and my family. The staff is very attentive and tremendously helpful. I really appreciate how they have stuck with me to assist me with my family’s needs. I wouldn’t have known about or received these resources if it wasn’t for this program. Thank you so much!” –T.W.