Since October of 2012, SaintA Caregiver Support specialists have been working to help ensure stability in out-of-home placements with relatives. The Caregiver Support Program is voluntary, but we understand that the first 30 days of having a child placed in someone’s home can be a challenging experience. So, our team (Allison Curtiss-Jaworski, Nikeyah Flagg, April Lowther, Michelle Lim, and Abigail Ribecky) has been diligently engaging caregivers and helping provide extra support they need during such a crucial time.
Working closely with Caregiver Support specialists, families can receive assistance with setting up day care, educational needs, completing kinship documentation and navigating programs and systems such as Food Share, child welfare and Children’s Court. Caregiver Support specialists connect caregivers with resources for extra-curricular activities, information on medical and mental health needs, and child development for the children in their care, all of which have a trauma informed approach.
Caregiver Support specialists strive to enhance the caregiver’s ability to be successful in managing the complexity of taking a child into their care. We’re really pleased that our relative caregivers continue to give feedback on our services, stating that they feel they have their own “go-to” person, they are validated for their commitment and struggles with these often unplanned and abrupt life changing circumstances, and are connected and educated on other supportive resources in their community.
Caregiver Support specialists also provide emotional support to our relative caregivers. Recently one of our specialists had her first meeting with a newly assigned family at a local Burn Clinic. The caregivers, also relatives to the family, had just taken placement of their great-nephew and great niece. The great nephew had significant burns to his feet and ankles, and the caregivers spent many sleepless nights comforting the child as he cried out in pain. He required weekly appointments at the hospital, and the caregivers were required to learn a significant amount of burn care information in a short amount of time.
When the Caregiver Support specialist first met with the family, she was impressed with how dedicated and committed this family was to their great-nephew. This particular appointment was very challenging for all involved, as the child was crying when the nurse changed his bandages. Despite daily administration of pain medication, it still did not take away all of his pain. Also, the biological father (who was not involved in the injuries) was there, and it was the family’s first meeting with the father for many years.
At one point, the great-aunt became overwhelmed and had to leave the room while her husband and the father stayed in the room. Holding back tears of her own, the Caregiver Support specialist met with the great-aunt, comforted her and acknowledged how difficult what she was going through must be. The great-aunt expressed gratitude to the specialist and thanked the specialist for being present during such an emotionally draining day.
The Caregiver Support program hopes to continue fostering caring connections such as this one. We also plan to implement a relative support group, and we are excited to develop even more services to support families. Look for updates in the future.
If you have any questions about the Caregiver Support program, please contact Family Services Supervisor Laura Flowers at (414) 604-5743.
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