Fostering a Family Member: What Helped These Kinship Care Providers Raise Their Grandson

All names and other identifying information in this article have been changed to protect the identity of the child in foster care.

When the last of Greg and Josephine’s five children left home, they thought they were done raising their family. Then they learned their grandson, Tyler, needed a home since his parents could no longer care for him.

“We wanted our grandson to be with family — with people who already loved him,” says Josephine.

Greg adds, “We thought we could provide the best situation for him to grow and thrive.”

The couple worked with Children’s Home Society of North Carolina (CHS) and became licensed to provide kinship care. Kinship care allows family members or close friends (“fictive kin”) to provide temporary or permanent care to children whose parents are unable to care for them.

The organization has supported Greg and Josephine through every challenge, helping them to navigate behavioral issues and provide their grandson with structure in a warm, loving environment.

Benefits of kinship care

Providing relative foster care within a child’s home community increases their chance of success and happiness in the future. Studies show children who are kept close to their natural environment are better able to connect with others, including their peers and family members.

To receive a kinship care license, caregivers can take a specialized training course with CHS called Caring For Our Own. CHS is one of the few agencies in North Carolina that offers training like this. Caring For Our Own is the only state-approved curriculum specifically crafted for relative caregivers. Through this program, licensed kinship care providers receive monthly payments to help with the cost of care and support every step of the way. Additionally, each child in care has access to counseling services designed to help them adjust, heal, and grow in their new environment.

Increasing comfort and communication

Greg and Josephine worked together to help their grandson grow more comfortable in his new home. They made sure to do lots of activities together and encouraged him to ride his bike again.

Tyler also enjoyed getting to know the family dog, a little Chihuahua. “Those two together are just the best,” Josephine says with a smile. “But they’re also trouble.”

The couple knew there would be an adjustment period. At first, Tyler didn’t feel comfortable sharing his thoughts and feelings.

“We didn’t force him to share anything until he was ready,” says Greg. “It took a couple of months, but once he became more relaxed, he would tell us everything. [Josephine and I] would sit down together and listen to what was on [Tyler’s] mind.”

“It felt really good to start gaining his trust and feeling closer to him,” says Josephine. “When he became more open to talking about his feelings, it also helped us feel more comfortable around him.”

Providing discipline and structure

Greg and Josephine were challenged in other ways, like getting their grandson to accept household rules and eat foods other than chicken nuggets and fish sticks.

“We took the time to help him understand the reasons behind our rules,” Greg explains.

For example, they talked with him about the importance of structure and routine. Josephine says Tyler is getting the hang of doing chores like making his bed before school. He has even been willing to eat fruits and vegetables.

Structure and discipline are critical components of the couple’s strategy in caring for their grandson.

“We’ve noticed how setting boundaries has improved his behavior,” says Josephine. “We want him to be independent and be able to take care of himself in the future.”

Reaping rewards

For Greg and Josephine, the benefits of providing kinship care far outweigh the challenges. Raising their grandson has kept them busy during retirement and brought more joy to their everyday activities.

“Tyler wants to hang around me so much and do things with me,” says Greg. “He even reminds me when it’s time to get a haircut.”

“He keeps us busy and on our toes,” Josephine adds. “Tyler is a sweet little thing. There’s not a boring moment with him around. He always asks questions and wants to learn about different things.”

Greg and Josephine have also enjoyed supporting their grandson’s academic achievements.

“He’s doing really well in school and winning awards,” explains Greg. “Tyler always comes to me to check his homework, which shows he trusts me.”

Only a phone call away

From the start, CHS has supported Greg and Josephine in caring for Tyler. Whether the couple needs advice on behavioral issues or legal support, CHS is only a phone call away.

“Anything we need, they’re always there to give us a reliable answer,” Greg says. “In addition to helping us overcome challenges, they help us stay up to date on our classes needed for our kinship care licensing.”

Josephine emphasizes, “They’re always there when we need them. We couldn’t have done this without their ongoing support.”

Planning for the future

Greg and Josephine are focused on helping their grandson finish school and prepare for college. They are also in the process of adopting him.

“We just want him to be happy and healthy,” explains Josephine. “So, we take one day at a time; we can’t rush things. We work hard to get him what he needs.”

Greg and Josephine wholeheartedly recommend getting licensed to provide kinship care to others.

“Give it a shot,” says Greg. “You won’t be disappointed. It pays off in the end.”

Josephine adds, “Opening your home to a child makes you feel really good. It’s a challenge, but it’s well worth it.”

To learn more about kinship care, call CHS at 1-888-883-7414 or fill out an inquiry form.

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