Kinship Care Growing In Ohio

Jan 2, 2013

Kinship care arrangements are when caregivers take over full-time guidance of children temporarily or permanently when parents fall on hard times.

When the call came asking her to care for a relative's child, Heather Rouch of Perry County says she stepped up immediately. She planned to keep the child until the parents got on their feet, and she ended up also taking two of their other children into her home. Rouch says it became clear the kids had not been getting proper care and attention.

Denise Bell, a social worker for Clark County Job and Family Services, says Rouch did everything she could to help the county reunite the children with their parents. But after a year, they determined that might not be the best choice for the children, and Rouch became their legal guardian. Bell says the kids are flourishing today.  

Kinship care typically involves a relative of the child but can also be a close family friend, neighbor or coach. Clark County received a federal grant to build partnerships between public and private, community and faith-based groups to better serve the needs of kinship caregivers and families. Kristie Heckman supervises the county's kinship unit - and she says while there's still a time and place for foster care, a friend or relative's home can often be the best option for kids.

An estimated 100,000 children now are living in kinship-care situations around the state, an 18 percent increase in the past decade. There are several resources available including the website KinshipOhio. Franklin County Children Services also coordinates several programs that provide support and resources for kinship families.