This article was originally published in UKNow.
A program that aims to connect and support kinship caregivers from across the Commonwealth is expanding.
As of April 1, the Kentucky Kinship Information, Navigation and Support Program (KY-KINS) housed in the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky is available in the Southern Bluegrass Service Region and the Two Rivers Service Region.
Now, families in 62 Kentucky counties will be able to access the much-needed resource.
“Without question, Kentucky’s kinship providers need access to a diverse array of innovative services,” said Jay Miller, dean of the CoSW. “Expanding this program will allow our college to serve more of these caregivers — and in turn — positively impact the youth in their care.”
More and more family members are providing safe homes to children of parents struggling with substance use disorder and mental health issues.
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 state are among the highest in the country. In an effort to provide much needed support for these families, in March 2020, the CoSW launched the Kentucky Kinship Resource Center (KKRC).
In September of the same year, in collaboration with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), the college went a step further — launching the KY-KINS in the Salt River Trail Region and Cumberland Region.
The program was established with one critical goal in mind — 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 in a previous UKNow release. “Through our innovative partnership with CHFS, we have implemented 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 can 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.
This KY-KINS expansion aims to be that support by striving to ensure all current and prospective kinship caregivers are connected with resources and services they need.
“We are driven to serve in a manner that is consistent with the land-grant mission of the university,” Miller said. “We will continue to grow our programming until such time that every relative caregiver has access to the services they need.”