Third annual kinship caregivers conference draws largest attendance to date
More than 100 people participated in “Relatives Matter: Helping You Help Your Family,” an annual conference for kinship caregivers, September 22 at The EPICENTER in Edgewood. This year’s attendance was the conference’s largest ever.
Kinship caregivers are relatives who assume the full-time care of a child whose parents are unable to do so for various reasons.
Shari Scher, president/founder of Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership, delivered the keynote address.
Citing research from “Incarcerated Parents and Their Children” as well as statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, Scher said 50 percent of children with an incarcerated mother live with their grandmothers.
In addition, about 15-20 percent of children entering the child welfare system have an incarcerated parent. Two percent of incarcerated fathers and 8-10 percent of incarcerated mothers have children in foster care, where the foster parent is not a relative.
Scher also said caregivers of children with parents in prison bear numerous burdens, including stigma and shame associated with having a family member in prison, increased financial strain, physical and emotional stress and lack of external resource. She explained that the mission of her organization is to assist children and their caregivers when they are impacted by the incarceration of a loved one and to raise community awareness of the needs of this population. A local organization of this type is Project S.E.E.K., an Inner County Outreach program that serves children with a parent in prison. More information may be found at innercountyoutreach.org.
Other highlights of the conference included presentations by experts on topics such as custody and adoption; financial resources available to kinship caregivers; resources available at Harford County Public Library; special education; reentry of a parent; and how kinship caregivers can care for themselves, so that they will be strong enough to care for the children. In addition, there were opportunities for one-on-one meetings with family law attorneys, financial investment advisors and special education consultants and advocates.
The conference screened a film titled, “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope,” which featured “ACEs” or Adverse Childhood Experiences, and its effects on the physical, mental and social well-being of children and adults.
A discussion after the screening focused on hope and resilience, including strategies kinship caregivers could use to promote resilience to ACEs. Lt. Veto Mentzell, a panelist at the post-screening and chair of the Harford County ACEs Steering Committee, reported on steps to be taken to acknowledge and reduce the effects of ACEs in the community.
“This year’s conference was our best to date. In addition to Harford County kinship caregivers, community partners and service organizations, folks came from Queen Anne’s, Frederick, Charles, Baltimore Washington and Cecil counties and from Baltimore City,” said Caity Lovett, navigator, Harford County Kinship Program and conference chair. “Those in attendance expressed gratitude for the shared information and resources available in Harford County while acknowledging there are gaps to be filled.”
The conference was sponsored by Office of Family Court Services; Department of Social Services Family Investment; Office of Drug Control Policy; Harford Community Action Agency; Inner County Outreach; Harford County Public Library; Family & Children Services; Local Management Board and Empowering Minds.
For more information on kinship caregiving, visit http://hckinshipnavigation.weebly.com.