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When Family Ties Turn Into Entanglements:
Relatives Raising Children

By Judy Paschalis

(Page 3 of 4)

Many relative caregivers are natural nurturers.  They are very happy to have the “pitter patter of little feet” in the house. 

The relatives may find they worry less about the children when they are living with them.  They know what the kids are doing, with whom and when.

Some simply enjoy children and enjoy participating in the activities that involve children – sports, scouts, coloring, reading stories, children’s movies, etc.The relatives may realize that they have special skills such as teaching, carpentry, music, cooking  and other talents that they can pass along to the children.

Because of their life experiences and maturity, they may be well-equipped to help a child grow in all ways, including spiritually.

On some level, the grandparents may feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are “making up” for the mistakes they made with their own children. They may feel that this is their chance to “do things right.”  They know that they are providing a safe, orderly, drug-free environment for their grandchildren.

And, happily, sometimes, the relatives see a change in the birth parents that leads to the children being able to live with their biological parents.

One Community’s Response

For the more than 6,000 families in Lucas County in northwestern Ohio, in which relatives are raising children, the Kinship Navigator Program exists to guide them to services.  The Program is sponsored by the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, Inc., located in Toledo, with funding from Lucas County Job & Family Services and the Family Caregiver Support Program. 

Most of the kinship famlies locally and throughout the nation are “informal” arrangements, meaning they have had no contact with the courts or any child-serving agency.  However, Lucas County Children Services does place many children with relatives.  Both the Kinship Navigator Program and Lucas County Children Services refer families to each other’s services as appropriate and both sponsor education and training programs for kinship families to which all families are referred.

The Kinship Navigator Program guides relatives to:

  • Financial assistance from Job & Family Services, regardless of the family’s income
  • Health care coverage for the children, regardless of the family’s income
  • Legal advice and counsel
  • Behavior counseling and parenting advice
  • Recreation and enrichment activities and programs
  • Education and support
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