Written by Alicia Dentler, Community Resource Specialist for KVC Kansas
In 2012, my husband and I received a phone call that turned our lives upside down. The caller let us know that our 2½ year old nephew had been taken into protective custody and asked if we would be willing to take him into our home for an undetermined amount of time. We of course said yes. Suddenly, we were thrust into parenting and the child welfare system – court dates, case plans, CASA workers, attorneys, parental visits, daycare, child rearing, a huge amount of mixed emotions and complicated family dynamics to navigate. That was 5½ years ago.
The judge terminated our nephews’ parents custodial rights, so we chose to adopt him. The road has been long, rewarding, challenging and lonely. Families do not announce when they are raising a family member’s child, so it is hard to connect with others who can relate to what you and your family are experiencing. There is so much to know and understand about the legal process, resources, supports and parenting a child who has experienced trauma. It feels overwhelming most days.
Thankfully, I shared my experience with KVC Kansas and they listened to the unique challenges and struggles we experienced. When I shared that I wanted to help other kinship families, they hired me and sent me to a Children’s Alliance training to become a ‘Caring for Our Own’ facilitator, a support group specifically designed for kinship caregivers.
A grant awarded to the Kansas Family Advisory Network (KFAN) helped to fund the Caring for Our Own group in Kansas. The groups held in the Kansas City metro area are facilitated by me and an amazing woman named Julie Lane. Julie has been a foster parent for over 11 years. We have held groups in Lenexa, Kansas City, Overland Park and are now finishing a group in Topeka. Each group meets one night a week from 6-8pm for 9 weeks. We work hard to provide childcare, because we know that finding childcare can be a big obstacle for families. The group covers the legal system, kinship caregiver rights, trauma, parenting, navigating family conflict, identifying resources to help your family thrive and much more. Even more important: those that attend, myself included, get to experience a feeling of being understood. We know we are not alone and find connections that help us along in the kinship caregiver journey.
Leading these support groups has been an amazing experience. If you are a kinship caregiver for a child who is or was in foster care and you would like to participate in a Caring For Our Own group, please contact Julie Lane at email@example.com or Alicia Dentler, LMFT at firstname.lastname@example.org