Meeting caregivers where they are: Kentucky Kinship Resource Center expands program

The KKRC programs will be offered to all kinship caregivers in Kentucky, regardless custodial status, including kinship foster situations.
Navigating the child welfare system as a kinship family

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 1, 2024) – The Kentucky Kinship Resource Center (KKRC) at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) is expanding, the College announced on July 1. The KKRC will now serve all caregivers, whether they have custody, are fostering, or are caretaking for a family member or friend’s child.

Across the nation, nearly 2.7 million young people are being raised by a relative. This care arrangement, referred to as kinship care, is necessary when parents are unable to safely care for children in their home. It is estimated that Kentucky has one of the highest rates of kinship care in the country. Kinship care also includes fictive kin care, which is a child being cared for by a close family friend.

To support kinship caregivers, the CoSW launched the KKRC in March of 2020. The KKRC provides a continuum of services to meet the unique needs of kinship providers across the Commonwealth, including one-on-one peer support, support groups, and online webinars and trainings.

“We conceptualized and launched KKRC for a singular purpose: to meet the needs of kin caregivers in Kentucky,” Jay Miller, dean of the CoSW, said. “This center was the first of its kind in our state, and we are extremely excited to be able to serve kinship caregivers in an innovative way.”

Prior to expansion, the KKRC programs offered services to individuals who were caring for children they may or may not have had custody of. Now, the KKRC programs will be offered to all kinship caregivers in Kentucky, regardless custodial status, including kinship foster situations.

“The KKRC 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 the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, we have implemented a program that reduces the risk of placement instability among kinship providers and improves the quality of care provided. With this program expansion, we are able to provide these services to even more families across the Commonwealth.”

Creating a safe, supportive community for kinship caregivers is one of the main goals at the KKRC and with the expansion, the foster care side of the kinship population will be integrated into the program, allowing for more resource sharing and community building.

“The relational dynamics and complexities of kinship care can be difficult for caregivers to navigate, regardless of whether a caregiver has custody or not,” Sheila Rentfrow, KKRC Director, said. “Being able to expand the kinship programs at the KKRC will provide opportunities for caregivers to connect with other kinship caregivers and receive vital support no matter where they are in their kinship journey.” 

The Peer Support Specialists and group facilitators, all of whom have lived experience as a kinship caregiver themselves, have played a large role in the success of the KKRC and will play an even bigger part in the expansion.

“Our peer supporters and small group facilitators have been amazing people to work with. They are passionate about using their lived experiences in kinship care to serve and connect kinship families with needed resources and assistance,” Rentfrow said. “With this type of expansion, we’ll be able to offer more support services, utilizing more program leaders with lived kinship experience, including hiring more peer supporters and small group leaders that will allow us to serve more of Kentucky’s kinship families.”

With more kinship-experienced program leaders, the KKRC will be able to provide an array of services to include more individualized peer support, a variety of small group experiences, and more training opportunities. This expansion will offer kinship families in Kentucky the ability to connect with more resources, support, and community as they navigate their unique kinship journey.

Reports have shown that the KKRC has increased caregiving capacity, reduced stress, and offered increased stability to Kentucky families. In 2023, the KKRC was nationally recognized and named “Parent Group of the Year” by the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC). The award is designed to honor parent associations and groups for their excellence in supporting adoptive, foster and kinship families. 

More recently, KY-KINS was approved to certify kinship peer supporters, in accordance with Kentucky law. The program is recognized as meeting state certification requirements — allowing KKRC to address critical workforce and behavioral health needs in Kentucky.

For many like Jessica Adkins, who in addition to being a kinship caregiver is a Certified Kinship Peer Supporter, programs like the KKRC can have a significant impact on kinship caregivers – and the young people in their care.   

“As a kinship caregiver, I wasn’t able to access programs like KKRC,” explained Adkins. “For many of our caregivers, it is such a relief to know they are not alone. To know that they are heard. To know that there is help. That is what the KKRC is all about.” 

To learn more about KKRC, or if you are a kin caregiver in need of support, email

For over 85 years, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky has been a leader in education. Our mission is clear: Through rigorous research, excellence in instruction, and steadfast service, the CoSW works to improve the human condition. Always, in all ways.

As the state’s flagship university, our mission is actualized through our deeds. Our faculty are renowned academicians dedicated to fostering the development of high-quality practitioners and researchers. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world.