TACFS hosted its first Kinship Symposium on February 15 at Southwest Key in Austin, Texas. About 40 staff from 26 child-placing agencies attended the symposium.
This event comes on the heels of the release of the first edition of the Kinship Manual written by several child-placing agencies (CPAs) who are members of TACFS, along with SSCCs, Casey Family Programs, and so many more.
Alliance staff opened the symposium with a primer on how child and family welfare has evolved toward the development of this important work.
“We don’t do this work alone. This is so many different voices that live this every day,” said Chelsy Alexander, TACFS Family Support Network Coordinator.
Introduction from a Kin-Friendly Child-Placing Agency
Dr. Valerie Jackson, CEO and founder of Monarch Family Services started her agency in 2014 as a kinship agency and an advocacy center.
She talked about her own experience as a case worker and clinician.
“I wanted to eliminate a problem I kept hearing.”
She’s seen youth in seven or eight homes before reaching permanency. The youth would say, “I want a family, I want to stop moving.”
The symposium also included a “Passion & Expertise” panel with representatives from Arms Wide Adoption Services, Lonestar Social Services, and Divinity Family Services. They discussed their unique approaches to supporting kinship and post-permanency in their communities.
In a “Myths & Facts” panel, CPAs discussed why kinship caregivers can be reluctant to get licensed. They may be reticent to cause strain on their relationships with the biological parents (their own relatives), they may distrust “the system,” and they may have trouble meeting what can be steep licensing standards.
One of the major takeaways was the importance of relationship-building when working with kinship caregivers. Meeting the caregivers where they are allows CPAs to build rapport in order to reach compliance and keep the family together.
“It really is about relationships and doing it together,” said Andi Harrison from Buckner International.
Highlight: Lived Experience Panel
The symposium included a lived experience panel with two kinship caregivers, Tasha and Beverly, who have both pursued foster care licensing. Beverly is a single parent, raising her six grandchildren and Tasha and her husband are on their way to adopting their nieces and nephew.
The panel started with the reminder that kinship caregivers think through all the things biological parents think about when they bring home a baby except
, they don’t have months to prepare. They must figure out how to do it within 24–48-hour time frame, sometimes less. They don’t have months to get their home ready. They must prepare a place for children, determine if their homes, cars, and lifestyles can accommodate bringing children in and make those decisions within a very short time frame.
Many kinship caregivers don’t even realize that they could or should get certified nor that they could receive financial and programmatic assistance.
“I should’ve been receiving payments for taking the children. I had to quit my job,” said Beverly. She worked a job overnight that she had to quit in order to take in her Grandchildren.
Both Tasha and Beverly took on their kin before starting the licensure process, which is a common occurrence.
Tasha explained that because they already had the kids when they started the licensure process, she and her husband had to take turns doing the 36 hours of “pre-service” training.
Part of what led them to pursue licensure was the realization of behavioral health issues facing the children they took in.
“I found out that my grandkids had trauma. I didn’t know anything about that,” Beverly said.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to keep them together,” said Tasha. “You don’t want to get to that point where you’re throwing in the towel.”
Both Tasha and Beverly found CPAs that assisted them with the trauma and behavioral issues, guided them through licensure, and continued to support their efforts to keep their families together.