When Kimberly and Todd’s niece and nephew needed a place to be loved, they didn’t hesitate to welcome them into their home. “My family was open and willing because we loved them and did not want to see them get lost in the system,” Kimberly said.

In Ohio, about 227,862 children under the age of 18 live with their grandparent(s) or other relatives. Often, these relatives are caring for these children unexpectedly and may not know where to turn for assistance, or that help is even available.

It was Kimberly and Todd’s desire for these kids to thrive that led them to find resources. “Understanding that the situations that are sometimes placed upon them can have long-term effects, we wanted to bridge that gap back by providing the resources to keep these children on a path to success.” Kim and Todd were connected to Beech Acres Parenting Center through a referral from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. “It was probably the best thing they could’ve ever done for us,” Kimberly said. “Beech Acres has helped us in so many ways.”

Kinship caregivers face many challenges when raising a loved one’s child. These are, of course, in addition to the regular challenges every parent faces. “Our own children are nine and a half years apart, and these children are nine and a half years younger than our youngest. So, our biggest challenge was starting all over again.” Starting all over again with toddlers was a big adjustment for Kimberly and Todd. Learning what has changed in the last ten years since they had raised their own young children proved to be more challenging than they anticipated. “Potty training all over again, dealing with the cost of diapers, worrying about naptimes, traveling with two toddlers; it was a huge adjustment to our household that proved to be much different than when we were raising our own at that age.”

Another challenge for kinship caregivers is navigating the complicated social services system in their state. Every state had its own rules, requirements, and laws surrounding kinship care. Fortunately, Ohio does provide valuable resources for these families, including a path to foster care and adoption. “Another challenge was learning all the ins and outs of the legal system,” Kimberly recalled. “When you are raising your own child, you just figure it out, but when you are dealing with kinship, there are different rules that you must abide by. We were clueless as to all of this and what resources were available to us to aid in their care. I never knew if I was missing something or if there was more that I should be doing.”

Jerri, a Beech Acres Parenting Center Family Specialist, connected with the family. “Jerri walked us through the initial paperwork, got to know us, and made us feel very at ease,” Kimberly said. Beech Acres helped this family with a wealth of resources, including vouchers for food, diapers, clothing, furniture, and other critical supplies for the children. Perhaps most impactful, Jerri was able to connect the family with childcare and even help find a grant to pay for it. “I couldn’t find childcare that was suitable for less than $2100 a month, which did not fit within our budget,” Kimberly said. “Jerri was able to secure a donation from a nonprofit that paid for his childcare for the summer. I will never forget her for this. She has truly been an angel, always on our side and fighting hard to understand our needs and respond accordingly.”

Welcoming a loved one’s child into your home can benefit both the child and the caregiver. Being able to be cared for by a relative reduces traumatic experiences for children in care and may experience improved mental health outcomes by preserving the child’s natural setting within their family of origin. But it can be challenging. Whether you’re a grandparent, aunt, uncle or another relative taking care of a loved one’s children full-time… we are here for you! “Taking in family members has become common, but it is definitely no easy task to take on extra family members,” Kimberly said. “We have been positively improved by working with Beech Acres.”