As Foster Care Coordinators and/or a Kinship Care Coordinator, you play a pivotal role in supporting and empowering relative caregivers as they begin, or continue to adjust to their changing roles of transitioning from a child’s relative to a relative caregiver.

Relative caregivers are tasked with navigating the changing roles that impacts the child, or children they are caring for, the child’s birth parents, all the members of their family, as well as their extended family members.
 
This change in roles for all involved can be a confusing process and most likely will take time, patience, empathy, compassion, and renewed understanding on everyone’s part. You can assist the caregiver by providing a listening ear and connecting the caregiver to supportive resources.
 
A couple of ideas to consider could be connecting the caregiver to the Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center’s (FCARC’s) website:

  • Under the Resources Tab, there are numerous resources available specifically for relative caregivers.
  • FCARC also has a free lending library; in which families can access books, resource guides, tip sheets, and other helpful resources that families could have mailed to them at no charge and we provide a self-addressed, postage-paid envelope to have the materials returned to our lending library.
  • Relative caregivers can attend live webinars or view recorded webinars on a variety of parenting topics.
 
Relative caregivers and the children they care for will ultimately discover a natural flow and balance in their relationship with one another, and your support will be instrumental in the development of their relationship and connection with one another. Finding this new flow and balance will empower their connection and relationship, not only with the child they are caring for, but also will be beneficial for their relationship with the child’s extended family members. 
 
Titles and roles will undergo a change for relative caregivers. Whether they are a grandparent caring for a grandchild, an older sibling caring for a younger sibling, or an aunt caring for a niece or nephew; there will be a shift in their relationship when they transition from their relative status to primary caregiver. 
 
“Relative caregiving requires a huge shift in our thoughts, in our emotions, in our feelings, in our behaviors—everything that we do as a
relative caregiver requires a shift.”

---Ericka Copeland-Malone, Communication and Instruction Specialist with the Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership and a foster, adoptive, and relative caregiver
 
Keep in mind that shifts in roles and relationships can result in difficult or uncomfortable conversations or situations for your relative caregivers. You can provide guidance and support to your relative caregivers by:

  • Encouraging them to engage in open, honest, straightforward, and clear communication with the child and his parent(s) and other relatives
  • Helping them establish clear and consistent boundaries with the child they are caring for, as well as his birth family members and other extended family members
  • Providing them with the contact information for the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families and reminding them they can always ask to speak with one of our Resource Specialists for additional resources and
support services
 
And remember, not only can your families connect with our resource specialists, so can you! Contact a Resource Specialist at the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families if you have any questions, or are in need of additional ideas and resources. The Coalition is here to support you and your relative caregivers throughout their caregiving journey.