By Lindsey Piercy.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 21, 2020) — More and more family members are providing safe homes to children of parents struggling with substance use disorder and mental health issues. For some, it’s a challenge with little help available.
From day care closures to remote learning, the COVID-19 pandemic has widened those support gaps.
“We — as a society — are reliant on kindship care. While systems often spend time focused on foster care, kinship care can be forgotten,” Jay Miller, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Social Work, said. “Communities must do more to support kin caregivers.”
There are immense benefits of kinship arrangements — a form of care that allows children to grow up in a family environment. Studies show these children have healthier behavioral and emotional outcomes. But emerging research also takes a closer look at the struggles relatives often face when caring for young family members.
Data suggests that kinship rates throughout the Commonwealth are among the highest in the country. In an effort to provide much needed support for these families, in March, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky launched the Kentucky Kinship Resource Center (KKRC).
Now, the college, in collaboration with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), is going a step further — launching the Kentucky Kinship Information, Navigation and Support Program (KY-KINS) housed in the KKRC.
The goal is to connect kinship caregivers from across the Commonwealth with an array of services designed to meet their unique needs.
“KY-KINS is designed to provide a strong social support network easily accessible by participants in times of need,” Missy Segress, director of centers and labs in the CoSW, said. “Through our innovative partnership with CHFS, we look to implement a program that will reduce the risk of placement instability among kinship providers and improve the quality of care provided.”
Additionally, families being served by KY-KINS will have access to innovative peer support and mentoring initiatives. Kinship Peer Supporters, who are caregivers themselves, undergo comprehensive training to provide the best support possible.
KY-KINS is based on the premise that by connecting kinship caregivers to a supportive network, the overall well-being of the entire family will improve, and the placement of children in the home will become safer and more stable.
Ultimately, young people need caregivers, and caregivers need support.
The KKRC, and now KY-KINS, aims to be that support — striving to ensure all current and prospective kinship caregivers are connected with resources and services they need.
“Kinship providers are an essential component of the child welfare system not only in Kentucky but across the nation,” Miller said. “KY-KINS is an innovative way to meet the needs of, and support, the caregivers, which is particularly vital during the COVID-19 pandemic.”