A reader asks
Where can kinship caregivers find support?

We are struggling with raising our nephew, who is placed in our home. The child welfare agency has made some effort to support us, but it is not helping. We are completely overwhelmed and thinking about giving up. Help!

It shows great strength to reach out for help. It sounds like you’ve made it through some milestones but need additional assistance. Realizing you need more support is the first step towards getting it. I commend you for taking the initiative to maintain the placement and exploring ways to keep the youth connected to his family, friends, and community.

It’s important that kinship caregivers know where to get help when they need it. Reaching out to your agency is a great place to start, and I am happy to provide you with additional tips and suggestions for ways that you can address the immediate crisis and recover your strength so you can preserve your family and maintain this placement.

Advocate for Yourself
Kinship caregivers often feel they are under a microscope, afraid to say or do the wrong thing in the agency’s eyes. These feelings can keep kinship caregivers from speaking up when things are hard or asking for things they need. Please be honest and forthright about what is missing from your supports. You are the expert on your family. Many times, the agency doesn’t know what your needs are unless you voice them.

Respite is critical to maintaining a healthy placement, even when providing kinship care. No one can expend all the mental and emotional energy a placement requires without taking occasional breaks. While respite is not always immediately available, it is important to always tell your agency when you feel you need respite. Your agency can assist in accessing available resources and making appropriate arrangements.

In addition to allowing time for recharging, respite can also present you with an opportunity to grow your knowledge, so you are better prepared for when the child returns to your home. Perhaps a specific training would help you maintain this placement.

Make a Plan
Knowing exactly what action to take in a crisis can make all the difference. The next time you feel your stress level start to rise, what will you do to relieve that stress in a safe way? If one intervention doesn’t work, what’s the next one you will try? Taking the guess work out of crisis management can save valuable mental energy and make you more resilient in the moment.

Time Management
Even when you’re not actively in crisis, raising a child involved with the child welfare system involves many different meetings and activities. This can make even the simple act of planning your week overwhelming. Last minute additions can cause the whole schedule to come crashing down. That’s added stress you don’t need.

Be sure to advocate for yourself if your agency or the child’s agency is putting too much on your plate or is not informing you about important events until the last minute. Also, consider identifying some items on your schedule that aren’t as necessary as you once thought. Letting go of the less important things will give you more energy to manage the things that must get done and can result in lower stress levels.

Informal Supports
As it turns out, kinship caregivers are just people like everyone else! It’s important for you to take time out from the daily grind to get a coffee with a friend or have your neighbors over for dinner. Fellow foster parents and other kinship caregivers are an especially important source of support, as they know how this experience can feel. Use the community you’ve built for yourself to help prop you up when you are feeling low; ask for help when you need it. These people can often point you toward your own strengths and see solutions that you cannot.

We all want to do whatever we can to prevent children from experiencing a disruption in their living arrangement. Strengthening and supporting a child’s current placement is always important. Any change in placement will be traumatic, so any resources that can be provided as a preventive method and promote success are high priority.

Children’s Home Society of North Carolina offers educational programs and training through the Permanency Innovation Initiative (PII). Through this initiative, education and support are provided to families who are permanent placements or are likely to become permanent placements. These services provide families with a greater understanding of children and youth needs and behaviors and teach trauma-informed parenting strategies. To learn more about PII, please visit https://www.chsnc.org/educational-programs-and-training/.

Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) is offered in many ways, through a variety of providers. This program provides tools and strategies to assist families with caring for their own children, relative children, and children who are currently in the custody of a county child welfare agency. Triple P is offered to anyone providing care for children in their home. Triple P can be offered in group sessions, individually, or with a partner. Speak with your local Triple P provider to help determine which approach will work best for your family. Triple P serves youth of all ages.

To find a Triple P provider close to you, please visit https://www.triplep-parenting.com/nc-en/find-help/find-a-provider/. If you are unable to find a provider nearby, call 919/707-5601 for assistance. There are also online resources available to assist caregivers with additional supports. In addition, Triple P is offered to North Carolina parents as a free self-directed, online course (https://www.triplep-parenting.com/nc-en/find-help/triple-p-online/).

Online Resources
Other free online resources for caregivers include:

Please contact the child’s social worker for more information.

Response by the NC Division of Social Services. If you have a question about foster care or adoption in North Carolina you’d like answered in “A Reader Asks,” send it to us using the contact form here.