Family comes together for 7 children
Todd is a Kinnect to Family Specialist in Hamilton County. He has been with the agency since 2008. Todd shared the story of a family he served during the pandemic. Three children came into foster care. Luke and Grace* were school-aged, and Hannah was an infant. It turned out that a fellow agency staff member was related to them, and she was able to help Todd start searching for family members. Todd contacted their grandmother, but she already had four young people living with her that were aunts and uncles to Luke, Grace, and Hannah. Todd also reached out to second cousins and a great-grandmother. Unfortunately, the grandmother was hospitalized with COVID, and she passed away. Then, the great-grandmother was also hospitalized with COVID. At that point, there were seven children in the same family who needed caregivers. The family took the initiative to gather for a family team meeting on their own and came up with a plan. The four siblings living with the grandmother went together to one caregiver, Luke and Grace went to live with one aunt, and Hannah went to live with another aunt. They are all doing well in their new homes. This illustrates something that Kinnect to Family Specialists encounter often: given resources, guidance, and time, families can solve their own problems.
OhioKAN received a call from a kinship caregiver who began caring for five nieces and nephews. She received help from the county but was still in desperate need of five twin mattresses and bedding. The same day, OhioKAN learned of a faith-based ministry that serves kinship families and connected the aunt with them. She reached out to them, and the ministry ordered five twin mattresses, pillows, and bedding for her nieces and nephews. The caregiver shared with OhioKAN that she had been feeling defeated at the prospect of getting five beds set up, but now she was excited and relieved. OhioKAN does a great job of connecting kinship and adoptive families with resources in their own community.
YCPRT team affirms youth's identity
The Youth Centered Permanency Roundtable (YCPRT) team from Athens County shared a success story about the way their agency affirmed a gender non-conforming youth who was in foster care. The youth was learning more about their gender identity and did not feel supported by their biological family when it came to using their pronouns and name.
The agency has a history of making youth who identify as LGBTQ+ feel comfortable and offering them a safe space to express their wishes. This case was no different. The youth’s caseworker, Maya, arrived late in the process. She quickly set out to build rapport with the youth.
At the initial Permanency Roundtable (PRT), the pre-meeting where staff set the YPCRT process in motion, Maya ensured that the YCPRT team was aware of the youth's gender identity and updated the team on their pronouns and name. During the YCPRT meetings, in which youth actively participate and drive the agenda, staff adjusted the forms wherever they could. While the youth’s birth name remains part of the SACWIS form, they explained to the youth that they would be adding their current name to the YCPRT forms and using that name and their pronouns.
This youth had a strong sense of self and knew what they wanted for their future. They were adamant that they did not want to reunify with their parents due to the trauma they previously experienced. They wanted to remain with their sibling, in the same foster home, and to be adopted by their foster family. The foster mother was a teacher at the siblings’ school and went through the process to become a foster parent in order to be their caregiver. She then went on to pursue adoption. From day one, the siblings knew that was what they wanted. The agency honored that, along with the youth’s pronouns and desired name. Their adoption was recently finalized, and both siblings now have a permanent family that accepts and celebrates their identity.
Boy reunited with his mom after years in custody
Geof Garver was a child welfare supervisor from 1994 until retiring in 2023. He was actively involved in the Youth-Centered Permanency Roundtables (YCPRT) program in Warren County since learning about it in 2018. One particular story stands out to Geof. The team was planning a YCPRT with a youth who had been in agency custody since the age of 8. He and his siblings needed to leave their parents due to violence in the home. He had older siblings who had aged out of foster care. The youth had bounced between foster homes, group homes, and residential treatment centers with serious challenges resulting from the trauma he experienced.
While planning for the YCPRT, the youth shared something that is common: he had reconnected with his mother via social media. His father, who had been the perpetrator of the violence, was deceased. The youth was afraid to share this, thinking the agency would not allow him to invite his mother as a support person. The agency, however, was happy to invite her.
“It was her first chance to see him in years. She was the perfect member of our table. She never missed a meeting even though she was working 2 or 3 jobs,” Geof said. “Her presence allowed him to speak freely, to talk about what was important to him, who his supports are, and what he wanted for his future.”
In the end, the agency was able to work with the court to go back and replace the permanent custody order that removed his mother’s parental rights and consider her as a caregiver. It has been several years, and the family is doing well.
Five children remain in their community
Mary Lee is a Kinnect to Family Specialist in Lorain County. She has been with the agency for over 27 years. For the first 24 years, she was a caseworker because that is where her heart is. Then, she transitioned to serving as the Kinnect to Family Specialist. She shared the story of four boys who came into foster care. One boy, Anthony*, was on the autism spectrum and had a close relationship with a neighbor who lived in the same apartment complex. He saw her as a grandparent, and she was able to become his caregiver. Anthony was able to be with someone he loves and trusts and he remains in the same apartment community. There were no biological relatives who stood out as caregivers for his three brothers Gabriel, Elijah, and Samuel. Still, Mary Lee pushed forward. She identified a woman who was connected to the family through their faith community. The woman, Ivy, was willing to care for the three boys. Gabriel, Samuel, and Elijah are doing well with her. Ivy is maintaining great connections between the children and their parents. She also attends a kinship caregiver support group. And, as other Kinnect to Family Specialists have found, Mary Lee’s genogram benefited another family when a friend of Samuel’s needed to leave his home. He, too, came to live with Ivy. Five children are living with people with whom they share a connection, in their own community due to the Kinnect to Family work Mary Lee began.
OhioKAN received a call from an aunt who was caring for her baby nephew. She agreed to care for him for a short time, but it unexpectedly became a long-term situation. She needed help accessing medical benefits, childcare and food assistance. Because she did not have custody of him, she was unable to arrange a pediatric visit.
OhioKAN helped her file for temporary custody, which allowed her to get benefits in place and schedule a medical visit. OhioKAN also helped the aunt obtain copies of the baby’s birth certificate and Social Security card, which enabled her to receive Women Infants and Children benefits as well as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Child-Only Ohio Works First. Finally, OhioKAN also connected her with resources for childcare, clothing, and car seats. OhioKAN made all the difference for that family.
OhioKAN made a real difference for this family.
Roadmap serves family more than once
Holly is a Kinnect to Family Specialist in Cuyahoga County. She has been in that role for a year, after spending seven years in extended care. Before working in extended care, she did not realize the full weight of permanent custody. When she began working with those youth, she realized how important it was for children to achieve permanency, how challenging that goal can be to achieve, and how valuable it is to connect with extended family members. She loves that she can help youth achieve permanency in her new role. Holly shared a story about a family she was able to support that involved four children, Daniel, Joe, Mia, and Natalie*, who came into foster care. One parent had died unexpectedly, and the other was not able to care for them. Holly began developing the genogram. Their father’s cousin, who had two young children of her own, agreed to care for all four children. Unfortunately, this arrangement was not long-term and they needed to move to a different home. This is when Holly’s genogram and Roadmap to Family (the family support plan) came back into play. She had found many cousins on their mother’s side. The agency was able to go right back to the Roadmap Holly made and reach out to a maternal cousin who was willing to care for Joe and Mia, the older two. Daniel and Natalie returned to the foster home they were in before living with their father’s cousin, a familiar and loving environment. Their story continues to unfold and Holly’s genogram remains as a valuable asset for this family.
A grandmother raising three grandchildren reached out to OhioKAN for help. The grandfather had recently lost his job. The family’s only income was Social Security payments, and they were facing eviction during the winter. The grandmother was dealing with health issues that required hospitalization, including a recent fall.
OhioKAN helped the apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, but it was clear that this would not cover the immediate costs to avoid eviction. OhioKAN was able to cover the eviction expenses and verify with the landlord that this payment would keep the family in their home. The grandparents then created a sustainable financial plan for the family moving forward, with support from OhioKAN.
OhioKAN is honored to support kinship caregivers in creating action plans that work for them and the young people in their care.
Teens find a caregiver in their uncle
Lisa is a Kinnect to Family Specialist in Sandusky County. She loves that her work allows her to have a positive impact on the lives of families. In one situation, she was able to find caregivers for two adolescent girls within their own family network. Madison and Alexis* were living with their father’s cousin when their parents were unable to care for them. They were not adjusting well there, and the cousin was overwhelmed. She called the children services agency for help.
Lisa opened a Family in Need of Services (FINS) case and began prevention services by searching for kin. The search was tough, but she found a former uncle, Matt, on their mother’s side. Madison and Alexis remembered him and insisted that he was still their uncle even if he and their aunt were divorced. Lisa was not sure what to expect when she contacted him, but he wanted to be involved and so did his girlfriend who had behavioral health experience. Her additional support and experience would be useful in helping the girls heal from their trauma. The girls went to his house for an overnight visit and did not want to leave. They are now living with Uncle Matt and his girlfriend and they are thriving. These sisters have also been able to remain connected to the cousin they lived with before, who is a support to them.
After a tragedy, family makes a difference
Nicole is a Kinnect to Family Specialist in Cuyahoga County. She has been with her agency for 22 years and has been a Kinnect to Family Specialist since 2018. She shared the story of a family she served where two brothers, Caleb and Levi*, came into the care of the agency on an emergency basis. Their parents both died in a tragedy, and the police brought them to the hospital. Other family members were also there. Right away, everyone wanted the same thing: to get the children with family that night. It was a team effort. While the assigned caseworker was at the hospital, Nicole and her fellow Specialist, Kelly, set out to find a kinship caregiver. They checked the backgrounds of the aunts and uncles at the hospital. Unfortunately, none of them were able to care for the boys that night. The team began to dig deeper. One of the relatives mentioned a cousin who may be willing to support the boys. Nicole and her partner conducted background checks and completed paperwork, while the caseworker remained with the boys. When Caleb and Levi arrived at their cousin’s house that evening, she had a comfortable place ready for them to sleep. She created a calm environment for them to heal and thrive. Caleb and Levi now live with their cousin and her children, one of whom is their age, and the other one an older teen who serves as a role model. They live across the street from their new school. For two boys brought to the hospital by the police after a family tragedy, this team effort paid off. They were able to remain with their family, connected to their community and culture.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Rachel is a Kinnect to Family Specialist in Fairfield County. She is new to this role but has extensive children services experience. Rachel shared the story of three young children who came into foster care. The infant, Ella*, was in good health. Her brothers Carter and Liam were behind in their developmental milestones. Rachel reached out to many biological family members in a short amount of time. Finally, she contacted their great-grandmother, Mary, who wanted to be a caregiver, but she and her partner had some health limitations. Their house was not childproof. And, they needed beds, clothing, car seats, and activities for the children. Rachel began searching for supports. She located an aunt, a great-grandfather, and the sister of Mary’s partner. Together they came up with a plan to provide daily support and take them some weekends. Rachel got beds and car seats. OhioKAN provided a baby pool. The aunt takes Ella, Carter, and Liam swimming. In addition, their parents are able to visit, maintaining their bond. As a Kinnect to Family Specialist, Rachel has more time to dedicate directly to supporting families through family search and engagement. She spent about 20 hours working directly with this family, including a call for help when one of the children emptied the refrigerator onto the floor. She was able to provide support and put plans in place moving forward. With Rachel’s support and guidance, the family was able to come together and create their own solution. Now, these children are living with family and maintaining a relationship with their parents.
Dad becomes her greatest champion
Sarah is a Kinnect to Family Specialist with Franklin County Children Services. She has been with the agency for five years, starting out in intake. Through the creativity of her children services caseworker in high school, she spent time with a kinship caregiver. So, a job that involved going above and beyond to find creative care arrangements for kids really pulled at her heartstrings.
Sarah shared the story of an 8-year-old girl, Olivia, who moved to Franklin County with her mother and grandmother from another area of the state. She did not know anyone in the area. A couple of months after moving, she ended up entering foster care. Sarah set out to locate a caregiver within her family network, pursuing both sides of the family. Olivia had never met her father. Sarah set out to find him, searching hard because he had a common name. It took her a week and a half of searching, but she found him. He asked a lot of questions, but he did not hesitate: he wanted to be involved with Olivia. He especially wanted her to have a relationship with her younger half-brother. Olivia now lives with her father back in her home community, along with her half-brother as well as her step-mother and a step-sibling. She attends school with her siblings. She has a relationship with her paternal grandparents, who help with childcare. Her father has become her biggest advocate, calling agencies daily until he was able to arrange services to help her heal from her past trauma. For Olivia, being with family has made all the difference.
Friends help family get back on their feet
Monica is a Kinnect to Family Specialist in Allen County. She has been in this role for a year and has ten years of experience with the agency. She shared the story of two young children, William and Emma* who came into foster care. They were not adjusting well due to the trauma they experienced. Monica searched diligently for biological relatives. Kinnect to Family Specialists have the time to cast a wide net searching for kin and engaging them.
At first, a relative out of state seemed to be a good caregiver option. The Kinnect to Family Specialist always develops a backup caregiver. In this case, William and Emma’s father Jim gave Monica the name of a friend, Sean, who had always been supportive of him. Sean and his wife Amy were the backup caregivers. When the first caregiver option fell through, the children came to live with Sean and Amy, along with Jim. The couple has supported the whole family, helping Jim get back on his feet and taking William and Emma to a series of medical appointments. Having everyone together allowed William and Emma to remain bonded with their father. Recently, Jim was able to move into his own housing, and William and Emma are now doing overnight visits with him. Kinnect to Family Specialist partner with their agency staff to serve families, and it really paid off for these children and their dad.