Resources, services to kinship caregivers information provided

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The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is partnering with Louisiana 211 to provide kinship caregivers easy access to information about resources and services available to help them and their families.

Grandparents, other relatives and “fictive kin” – those who are like family but not actually related to the children in their care – can dial 211 or text KINSHIPLA to 898-211, anytime 24/7, to find out about resources available in their area. Callers should identify themselves as providing care for a relative or fictive kin child and share what their needs are. All calls are toll-free and confidential, and language translation services are available.

About 65,000 Louisiana children live with relatives other than their parents, according to the AARP Grandparent Information Center, including 1,313 children in the state’s foster care system who live with relatives or fictive kin.

“Having a sense of belonging within their family is so important in helping children thrive, but there are often many challenges. Sometimes, extra support and services may be just what caregivers need,” DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters said. “We are happy to partner with Louisiana 211 to make it easier for caregivers throughout the state to access the resources they need to bridge the gaps and help these children succeed.”

“Louisiana 211 is eager to serve kinship caregivers throughout Louisiana and looks forward to receiving their calls,” said Sarah Berthelot, President and CEO of Louisiana Association of United Ways, which provides statewide coordination support to Louisiana 211. “If a caregiver needs to connect to available services to support their families and children, a simple call to 211 is a solid starting point, from anywhere in Louisiana, 24/7.”

The partnership with Louisiana 211 is part of DCFS’s Kinship Navigator Program, which the department has been working on for several months, to increase resources and information for kinship caregivers. The project is funded through a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families.

The effort thus far has included:

• focus group meetings and collaboration with Grandparents Raising Grandchildren to identify relative caregivers’ needs;

• development of brochures, webpages, a legal guide and online legal information training;

• purchase of portable fingerprint machines and printers to expedite background checks for relatives who may serve as placements;

• collaboration with Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home to develop and implement a kinship home study and support program; and

• identification of community resources within every region of the state willing to serve relative/kinship caregivers and compiling information into a resource guide to assist and support Louisiana 211.

Future efforts will include development of a Kinship Caregiver Guide/Resource Manual, identification of more community support organizations and launch of a Family Resource Center pilot program to better and more comprehensively meet the needs of informal kinship caregivers in order to reduce entries into the foster care system.

More information about DCFS’s Kinship Navigator Program can be found at www.dcfs. la.gov/kinship.