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Grandparents raising grandchildren (GRG), is a growing issue all over the country. Kinship survival in KY , is very real and it has already reached epidemic numbers. There are so many of us but there are so few answers to our extensive list of questions, fears, worries and doubts. Suddenly our reality changes and we are no longer pushing towards promotions or retirement. Now we are wondering who will watch the kids while we go to work, will this be temporary, will our child do what is necessary to get their kids back? Below I will share some tips that I wish I had known in the beginning. Also read KINSHIP CARE CRISIS
Do This First
*If you can afford an attorney get one. A private attorney can be costly, if not in the budget find a family attorney and ask for a free consultation or check with Legal aid.
*Keeping social services out of it you will save you a ton of stress. However, if social services bring the kids to you, they are there until a permanent decision is made on custody. This phase will last six months to a year and you can expect frequent home visits from a social worker. You may feel defensive at times. It often feels like you are the one being investigated, even though you have stepped up to help.
Look out for #1
*Many people will offer their opinions on what will happen in the process; it is widespread belief that social services want to keep the children together and with family. Popular belief is that you will be compensated for the children’s care, unfortunately neither of these are guaranteed.
*Learn your states laws. Be proactive and know what services are available to you, also remember the social worker works for the state, not you.
*A family court judge will make the actual decisions based on reports from the social worker and any other worker he/she assigns.
*The judge may assign a volunteer from CASA and a guardian ad litem, to speak for the child/children in court. Counseling and a number of other servies may be ordered and have to be followed.
Health and Wellbeing
Your health and wellbeing are extremely important through this process. Seek counseling for yourself, talk therapy is extremely helpful in these high stress situations.
Support groups have provided the most helpful therapeutic support for me and many others. You can find them on Facebook, schools, community centers, and networking at GRG functions.
Hearing the struggles and successes of others is the single most thing that grounded me in my toughest times. I am not alone; you are not alone!
National and local organizations can be found in an internet search, however,your most pressing questions will not be answered there. Resources are all over the place and are hard to find if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. Here a few suggestions that I hope will help you, they may vary by state:
*Cabinet for Health and Family Services: In KY, the following services can be applied for at these offices or online at : http://benefind.ky.gov
•KTAP, a monthly stipend based on the children’s income and Medicaid as long as you cooperate with the child support division.
•Childcare assistance is now provided at no cost to kinship families regardless of income for atleast 12 months and kinship payments are now available under very strict and limited guidelines.
•Snap (food stamps), based off your income.
County and Grant Services
•Area on Aging Office, KIPDA: A voucher program that will help with yearly necessities on a first come first served basis, limited to grants provided by the government. Only families who do not qualify for Kinship payments are eligible for this program. Information on resources and support groups are provided also.
•Public Schools: In KY, Family Resource Coordinators placed in the schools are there to help the families and children and have a multitude of resources. For example, our coordinator has helped with uniforms, food, emergency monetary assistance, counseling, Christmas and Thanksgiving baskets, gifts and scholarships to summer camps. Reach out to the school counselor if your school does not have a Family Resource officer.
Family Medical Leave ACT, FMLA, taken intermittently or at once, meaning you can take your leave in hourly increments. If you have a strict attendance policy and are needing to miss work to take care of appointments, court, etc., this will protect your job. Be sure your company qualifies under the Federal law.
•First Steps- Each state has a first steps program although it may be called something else. It is a federally mandated infant-tot program and evaluates and works with children from infancy to three years old.
Judge Appointed Services
•Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)- appointed by a family court judge to work with the child and report back to the judge regarding permanency.
•Guardian Ad Litem, (GAL)- appointed by a family court judge to be the child’s attorney representative.
This is not an exhaustive list, but a start, to help you navigate the complicated child welfare system.
Take Time For Yourself
Doing an internet search will bring up lots of valuable information. Educate yourself on matters that will affect your family, as it is extremely important. You are the greatest advocate for your child. Do not trust that a state agency or volunteer will have yours or your child’s best interest, and never believe hear say, most of the time it is not true. Social workers are grossly overworked and may miss giving you vital details or information.
Take time for yourself and enjoy the unconditional love you are going to receive from your kinship child.
Grandmother Guardian and Child and Family Advocate
Most states have kinship care or grandparent raising grandchildren guides and can be found online.
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