Nearly 50 caregivers and professionals attended “Relatives Matter: Raising Kin, A Conference for Kinship Caregivers,” the first-ever kinship caregivers conference in Harford County. It was held September 19 at The EPICENTER at Edgewood.
Kinship caregivers are relatives who assume the full-time care of a child whose parents are unable to do so for various reasons. Often, kinship caregivers are grandparents but could also be a non-relative adult who has a longstanding relationship with the child or family.
Keynote speaker Letha Moszer, LCSW-C, MSW, a Salisbury University expert on family and childhood trauma, spoke about the experiences of a child in kinship care by discussing trauma, separation and healing. She touched on the components of attachment and how each child may be affected differently through their experiences. She said there is effective treatment available that may aid in positive outcomes for the child and that the child can heal with proper treatment and support.
Other speakers discussed legal and financial choices for caregivers, educational needs, and how to be a successful kinship caregiver.
Organizers announced at the conference that proclamations were received from the County Executive’s Office and the Harford County Council declaring September Kinship Caregivers’ Month in Harford County. A citation from the Maryland General Assembly recognizing September as Kinship Caregivers’ Month in Harford County was also presented.
A resource and benefits fair was held and included representatives from Harford County’s Health Department, Local Management Board, Office on Aging and Department of Social Services: Kinship Care, Family Investment and Child Support Enforcement . Other exhibitors included the Maryland Coalition of Families, Birthright, Catholic Charities Early Head Start Program, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and SECAC-Special Education Citizen’s Advisory Committee.
The conference was presented by the Harford County Department of Social Services; Harford County Bar Foundation; Kinship Navigation; Harford County Circuit Court-Family Law; Office on Mental Health; HC Local Management Board and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
“The conference was an empowering day for all involved in kinship caregiving,” said Caity Lovett, Harford County Kinship navigator and conference chair. “Coming together to talk about challenges related to kinship caregiving allowed organizers to answer questions for caregivers and to connect them with resources in the community. The conference also allowed us to identify previously unknown needs of kinship caregivers. Kinship caregiving is growing in Harford County, and we need to increase public awareness to ensure positive outcomes for caregivers and their families.”
There were several sponsors of the conference. Gold sponsors were Harford County Bar Foundation; Harford County Community Outreach/Circuit Court for Harford County-Family Law; Harford County Department of Social Services; and Harford County Office on Aging. Silver sponsors were Harford County Local Management Board and Office on Mental Health/Core Service Agency of Harford County. Bronze sponsors were Bel Air United Methodist Church: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren; Birthright and Catholic Charities Early Head Start Program.
For more information on the Kinship Navigation Program, visit http://hckinshipnavigation.weebly.com.