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August 8, 2006 > Kinship Program keeps families together

Kinship Program keeps families together

by Julie Grabowski

Today's families are an ever-changing dynamic where traditional ideas don't always apply. Many children are deprived of their parents through death, illness, prison time or other circumstances, leaving siblings, aunts and uncles, and most typically, grandparents, to step into parental roles in addition to their own responsibilities and circumstances.

Lincoln Child Center Kinship Support Services Program (KSSP) is a private, non-profit organization designed to work with relative caregivers living in Southern Alameda County. The program is a free resource for families needing information, assistance, and respite. Social worker and facilitator Raymond Carraway says they get questions ranging from diapers to legal guardianship. "Our goal is to provide comprehensive, coordinated, and culturally responsive and community based resources to support, strengthen, and enrich kin families." Keeping children with family is of obvious benefit to the child, and saves the government the problems and expense of placing them in foster care.

One of the program's primary services is a caregiver support group that meets every second and fourth week of the month at two locations: Tuesdays at KSSP's Hayward office at 22245 Main Street, Suite 102, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and Thursdays at the Seneca School in Fremont, 40950 Chapel Way, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The group serves as an open forum to discuss problems, concerns, or questions, and is also used for educational classes on topics suggested by KSSP or specifically chosen by the group. Childcare is free. KSSP also arranges free activities and learning groups for all family members, with opportunities to attend local city festivals or Oakland A's games; participate in fundraisers and overnighters; take CPR and first aid classes; or go on a movie outing. Such interaction forms bonds between people going through similar situations and eases the hard times. "The whole point is building up a community," says Carraway.

Gil and Beverely Johnson's daughter and three grandsons were living with them when the daughter died in March. They needed information on guardianship, and a neighbor told them about KSSP. "It's a daunting process to say the least," Gil Johnson says of the required twenty-five pages of online forms. But KSSP gave specific suggestions on how to fill them out, as well as information on medical questions and Cal Works.

Johnson says that being caregivers to 7-year-old twins and a 9-year-old is a challenge; they didn't think they would be raising children at this stage in life. He is 69, his wife 71. Both have vision impairments: Gil is completely blind and Beverely has only partial vision. Even so, they raised two daughters in a system of their own devising. They live within walking distance of shopping and the public transportation Gil takes to his job at the American Foundation for the Blind in San Francisco. Johnson says they plan to get more involved in the community side of KSSP once the legal issues are settled. His grandsons miss their mom and are angry over being left, but trust their grandparents and feel safe with them, and that is what KSSP wants every child to feel.

KSSP has provided services to over 400 families throughout Alameda County since their founding in 2001. They distribute a quarterly newsletter detailing information and activities. Interested families are asked to register with the program for statistical reasons and can participate as much or as little as they want. There are no set rules or guidelines for involvement. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information on KSSP or to register, call (510) 583-8026.

Lincoln Child Center
Kinship Support Services Program
22245 Main Street, Suite 102
(510) 583-8026

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