Is your grandchild, niece, or nephew in your care full time? Are you a neighbor, teacher, coach, or friend who wants to help a child who cannot live safely at home and is involved with your local Department of Social Services? Northern Rivers Kinship Care services are here for you.
“Kinship care” is what New York state calls the full-time care, nurture, and protection of children by relatives or significant adults when children cannot safely stay in their own home with their birth parents. Children come into kinship care for reasons including parental incarceration, death, mental or physical illness, substance abuse, and neglect and abuse of children by parents.
In situations like these, children traditionally have been placed in foster homes. In recent years, the industry has realized that placing these children in the care of someone they already know and trust and by maintaining family, cultural, or community ties, children simply do better. While the term may be new, kinship care is the oldest form of family preservation and an important safety net for children whose parents are either unable or unwilling to care for them. Also, when a child is placed with a relative or someone they know, the birth parents may feel less stress and, in turn, can begin to address their own needs, knowing that their children are in a safe, trusted place.
Northern Rivers Family of Services certifies kinship foster parents and works to support the kinship parents and child(ren) they are caring for. Through Northern Rivers’ Foster Care program, kinship foster parents are assigned a permanency care manager who is assigned to the youth’s case to provide ongoing support. The kinship foster parent also receives a stipend designated for the child’s needs, and the child’s medical, dental, and mental health needs are covered as well.
In order for Northern Rivers to certify the kinship foster parent(s) and for the kinship foster parent to receive the aforementioned services, certain requirements must be met:
- The child needs to be in the custody of the Department of Social Services
- The identified kinship parent(s) needs to be referred to Northern Rivers by the appropriate Department of Social Services
- The identified kinship parent(s) need to agree to follow the steps to become an Approved Relative Home, which includes the successful completion of:
- background checks
- physician’s exam
- Northern Rivers’ kinship care training and certification
- home study plan development
- home safety review
Following are a few examples of how Northern Rivers has served kinship families:
My husband and I are parents of three boys, ages 13, 11, and 7. I’ve known Sarah since elementary school, and we’re still friends to this day. She’s had her ups and downs, and last year it became clear that Sarah’s 16-year-old, Christina, could no longer stay safely at home with her mother. She went to one foster home, then another, and neither was a good fit. We knew we had to help, so we reached out to Sarah’s and Christina’s Department of Social Services caseworker. The caseworker introduced us to Northern Rivers, and with the support of the Northern Rivers Kinship Care team we have had an inspiring 15 months with Christina in our home. Not every day was easy, but every day brought about healing and growth. Now Christina is nearing 18 and ready to head out on her own, and we’ll always be here to support her.
My wife and I are both in our third year as teachers; she teaches middle school English, and I’ve got a lively class of first graders in my special education school. Last year, I got to know Matthew. I knew Matthew was enrolled in a residential care program, and I wanted to make sure he had the extra support he needed to succeed in my class. He really opened up during the school year, and by the time the end of the year rolled around, my wife and I decided that we wanted to continue supporting Matthew. When he was approved to step down to foster care, we worked with his caseworker to become approved Kinship Care providers. Working with Northern Rivers was a no-brainer; the 24/7/365 support they give us means we’re never alone and help us meet Matthew’s complex needs.
- At 58, I was spending more time daydreaming about retirement than anything. But my son began to struggle as a single parent, and my granddaughter Tonya needed the loving support the rest of her family could provide. I was proud of my son for admitting he couldn’t provide the care she needed, and when I brought him to a meeting with his county worker I learned about the supportive Kinship Care program. My granddaughter hasn’t had the easiest childhood, and there are times when I don’t know how best to help her heal. That’s where Northern Rivers comes in. They answer my questions, connect me with resources, and remind me that I can do this.