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Kinship Navigator Program Helps Caretakers, Provides Resources

Lucas County’s nationally recognized Kinship Navigator Program is a local resource initiative by the Department of Job and Family Services and the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio. The program guides grandparents and other relatives in Lucas County who are raising children in their extended families by connecting them with community resources, support groups and financial support. 

“The program helps to build and strengthen the resilience of the kinship family caregivers and just let them know they’re not alone,” Arcelia Armstrong, coordinator of the Kinship Navigator Program, said. 

Kinship Care is a term used to describe situations where grandparents or relatives take on the task of raising a child or children full-time when their biological parents are unable to do so. This can occur for a variety of reasons including death or chronic illness, abuse or neglect, substance abuse, incarceration, poverty and more.

The Lucas County Kinship Navigator program is currently serving more than 1,300 kinship caregivers in the area with information and referral services, legal assistance and educational resources. Kinship caregivers in Lucas County that are ages 18 and over and take on the responsibility of caring for a child full-time are eligible to receive financial assistance and health coverage for the children through Job & Family Services.

“Many caregivers are struggling financially and it is really important to link them with the services they need,” Marsha Rose, supervisor of the Kinship Navigator Program, said.  

These services are available regardless of the caregivers’ income or custody status, but other programs such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, Food Stamps and utility assistance may have income limitations. Children with disabilities may also be eligible for Social Security Income. 

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Educational outreach is an important part of the program’s resources to support kinship families. The opportunities provided through the program include educational programming for caregivers, a summer education series for families, a mental health series and quarterly kinship club meetings and support groups.

The program also offers support through special resource events made possible by donations from strong community partners. These resources include winter coats, school supplies, holiday meal assistance, Toledo Zoo memberships and tickets to Toledo Mud Hens and Walleye games.

The Kinship Navigator team works to provide meaningful connections with kinship families by keeping in contact with caregivers through follow-up meetings and ongoing support as familial situations and needs change. The program provides links to need-based resources such as clothing, food, furniture and baby items, and sends bi-weekly e-blasts and quarterly newsletters to keep caregivers up to date with resources and events. 

For more information about the resources provided through the Kinship Navigator Program, visit the The Are Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio website or call 419.382.0624.

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