news story

Networks support caregivers

July 29, 2011

Taken from Vida en el Valle

REBECCA PLEVIN/Vida en el Valle

FRESNO -- When Teresa Hernández took in her son's three young children almost three years ago, caring and providing for them proved easy.

The children quickly started calling Hernández -- who had raised six children of her own -- Mami.

But the challenge, Hernández said, has been navigating the complicated adoption process. Her son moved out of the state and Hernández said the children are not safe with their mother

For grandparents and others, like Hernández, who are caring for the children of relatives or friends, a free, confidential phone service, available in English or Spanish, can provide referrals, information, support and guidance.

Through the California Kinship Navigator Program, caregivers -- including grandparents, aunts, uncles, family members and close family friends -- can receive information on child care, legal guardianship, housing, clothing, choosing summer camps and many other topics.

A unique aspect of the program is that callers speak with a "navigator," who also has experience raising the children of others. This creates a trusting bond, said Rochelle Ramírez, Navigator Program supervisor at the Edgewood Center for Children and Families in San Mateo County.

People who call in, she said, are "talking to a caregiver who has been there and who has done that."

The service is open to people across California, Ramírez said, but will likely have special value for families in San Joaquín Valley counties, where the rate of grandparents raising children is equal to or higher than the statewide rate.

Across California, 3.2 percent of children are in the care of grandparents, according to KidsData.org. That compares with Tulare County, where 4 percent of children are raised by grandparents, and Kings and Madera counties, where 4.4 percent are in the care of grandparents.

The service can be helpful for Spanish-speaking grandparents, who might have few other resources for help, Ramírez said.

"Our bilingual clientele has been slowing rising," she said. "The ones who are calling in are benefiting from the program. A lot of them call just for the emotional support."

Hernández said she's interested in learning more about the Kinship Navigator Program.

"I will call them," she said. "And because I'm very inquisitive, they can send me from one person to another, until I find the help I need."

Details: (800)-546-0047 or www.cakinship.org. Navigators are available to speak with callers Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Send e-mail to:

rplevin@vidaenelvalle.com

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