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Kinship Family Support Services steps up for kin who care for children when their parents cannot

It’s the time of year when we take a moment—or a whole weekend—to honor the moms in our lives with our annual Mother’s Day celebrations.

 

In some families, though, a relative or non-relative may be performing the vital role of a parent, providing a home to children through formal or informal kinship care.

 

“Kin can be a best friend, a cousin, a mother or a daughter,” said Brandy Green, who works in Kinship Family Support Services at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

 

The number of adults providing care for a relative or non-related child has been rising in recent years due to a number of reasons, including substance abuse issues, mental health concerns, incarceration, and financial instability.

 

Kinship Family Support Services at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota can help those caregivers with free, ongoing guidance during a situation that is often  stressful.

 

Many of these caregiving kin first connect with these services by calling the LSS Kinship Warmline (651-917-4640 or toll-free at 877-917-4640) and talking to Green or one of her compassionate colleagues.

 

“It’s complicated. I talk to people in crisis. A child is in their care and they don’t know what to do. I’m their navigator and can point them in the right direction,” Green said. “I can explain benefits that might be available—housing, financial or legal resources. I can walk them through what kind of documentation they need for temporary or permanent custody.”

 

While inflation has stabilized, financial stress remains a pressing concern.

 

“Someone whose income is limited will need support with the expenses. Depending on the circumstances, there are financial benefits for them,” she said. “We talk about making sure the child has medical insurance; we can find providers if there are mental health concerns.”

 

Many times, caregivers agree to step in and take care of children when a need arises that makes a parent unavailable or unable to provide for them. Green stressed that it’s important for those people to follow established rules and procedures and fill out necessary forms so that the child and the caregiver are covered.

 

“You want to be legally responsible for the child. Without that, you can’t enroll the child in school. If a medical event comes up and the child has to be hospitalized, they can’t be released to your care,” Green explained.

 

Green understands that caring for kin can be “lonely” for caregivers, who often have not had children under their roof for many years. Lutheran Social Service provides them with peer support groups, where they can ask questions and share their experiences with other people providing care and tap into their wisdom and expertise as well.

 

Those groups are free and are available for caregivers to attend in person or online.

 

“I can help people find resources and also be a listening ear. I appreciate being there for men who are doing this; they are often fearful of the system and I can reassure them,” Green said.

 

If you or someone you know needs support or has questions about caring for a relative’s or non-relative’s child, you can call LSS Kinship Warmline at the toll-free number at 877-917-4640 or 651-917-4640. Someone answers the calls at those numbers between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday.

 

Outside of those hours, you can leave a voicemail and someone from Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota will return your call promptly.

 

You can also reach out with an email at warmline@lssmn.org

 

“I hear it a lot, I wish I would have heard about this sooner. It would have saved me a lot of time and trouble,” Green said. “A lot of people are not familiar with what we do and we want to get the word out.”

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