From the “Relatives Matter: Raising Kin, A Conference for Kinship Caregivers” organizing committee:
“Relatives Matter: Raising Kin, A Conference for Kinship Caregivers” takes place Saturday, September 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The EPICENTER at Edgewood, 1918 Pulaski Highway in Edgewood.
The conference, free of charge to participants and the first one of its kind to be held in Harford County, is for kinship caregivers. 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.
The purpose of the conference is to share resources and address issues unique to kinship caregivers while raising awareness in the community. Kinship families often face financial, emotional and educational challenges. According to U.S. Census data, kinship families are more likely to be poor, single, older, less educated and unemployed than families where at least one parent is present.
Letha Moszer, LCSW-C, MSW, a Salisbury University expert on family and childhood trauma and the conference’s keynote speaker, will discuss “The Experiences of a Child in Kinship Care: Trauma, Separation and Healing.” Participants will learn how trauma influences the development of behavior problems and the skills needed to address those challenges.
Following the keynote address, “Legal and Financial Choices for Kinship Caregivers” will be discussed by Adam Hyman, Esq., a Harford County Bar Foundation board member who serves as a family law practitioner, and Ann Cogan Smith, administrator of the Harford County Circuit Court Self Help Center.
Two breakout sessions follow. Lori Ginley from Partners for Success and Buck Hennigan, PPW, from Making a Difference will present a session titled “Navigating the Educational Needs.” Ginley and Hennigan will offer resources and advice on topics such as the types of services a child is entitled to receive (therapy, tutoring, recreation speech/occupational/physical therapy, specialized education, rehabilitative services and equipment), how services are obtained, who must make the referral and who is responsible for payment.
“Getting What You Need to be a Successful Kinship Caregiver” will be discussed by Wayne Steedman, Esq., an educational advocate for children with disabilities and a partner at Callegary & Steedman, P.A.; Anne Brown, leader of Grandparents Supporting Grandkids Support Group; and keynote speaker Moszer.
A resource and benefits fair will be held throughout the conference. In addition, free, on-site child care for registrants will be provided by the Edgewood High School National Honor Society.
Registration is requested by September 12 by visiting harfordcountybarfoundation.org or by calling the foundation at 410-836-0123.
The conference is presented by the Harford County Department of Social Services, Kinship Navigation, Harford County Circuit Court-Family Law; Harford County Bar Foundation; Office on Mental Health; HC Local Management Board and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
“The conference’s organizers want kinship caregivers to know they are not alone,” said Caity Lovett, Harford County Kinship Navigator and conference chair. “It’s a hidden problem in plain sight. Kinship caregiving is different from raising your own family because the caregivers are in a different point in their lives. There are different issues and different times. New challenges arise each day, and we want the caregivers to know there are resources available to help them and the children for whom they are caring.”
According to “The State of Grandfamilies in America: 2014,” nearly 1,600 grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren in Harford County. Of these, nearly 700 grandparents have held responsibility for their grandchildren for five or more years.
The majority of kinship families do not receive financial help or other benefits for which they are entitled. Many caregivers are unaware of the support that is available.
The Maryland Department of Social Services created a Kinship Navigation Program to increase the permanency and stability of kinship families. The Harford County Kinship Navigator provides information, referrals and follow-up to grandparents and other relative caregivers, helping to connect them with the benefits and services that the children and the caregivers need.
For more information on the Kinship Navigation Program, visit www.dhr.state.md.us and enter Kinship Navigation Program in the search field.