Help for Caregivers Parenting Someone Else's Child

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Robin, a single grandmother, was faced with the unexpected need to request custody of her six-year-old grandson. While she had been his primary caregiver for many years, she said, the responsibility of taking on full-time parenting felt overwhelming. She had so many questions. What legal help was available? Could the county assist with resources for child support? How could her grandson adjust to his new situation? How could she support him through this difficult transition?

With help from an attorney, the school district, county and Kinship Family Support Services at Lutheran Social Service, she tackled each matter one step at a time.

“For myself, being part of (LSS) Kinship Caregivers and connecting with other grandparents like me was reassuring to know that I am not alone,” Robin shared. “The resource fairs, support groups and workshops are fabulous because they provide the tools and resources that we grandparents may not have been aware of to help us be more successful in providing for and raising our grandchildren to be healthy, happy adults.”

There is a big need in the Twin Cities for services to these unique families, called kinship families. Currently, there are over 90,000 children in Minnesota being raised in a kinship family by family members or friends. Being a kinship caregiver brings unique challenges because children may arrive unexpectedly in the home and may present with a variety of physical, emotional and/or behavioral needs based on the circumstances they may have experienced.

Kinship Family Support Services
Kinship caregivers may not know who to turn to access resources or what assistance they can find in the community and through government benefits.  Kinship Family Support Services provides vital information and supports to kinship caregivers.  By calling the LSS Kinship Warmline at 651.917.4640, family support specialists connect caregivers to legal options, financial resources, support and educational groups, workshops to help caregivers care for themselves and the children, and Family Circle Conferences that help develop caregiving plans for children.

How You Can Help
You might have a co-worker, friend or relative who is suddenly caring for a child(ren) while the parent addresses health issues, mental health concerns, addiction or other concerns which leave them unavailable to consistently parent.  To be helpful, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

  1. Try to come “alongside” the caregiver, offer support and encouragement, not judgment.
  2. Offer concrete help for breaks, such as “We are going to the zoo on Friday, would your Charlie like to join us?”
  3. Help the caregiver reach out for community resources, as finances can become very stressed.
  4. Offer to accompany and support caregivers to legal and other program/service appointments.
  5. Let caregivers know about LSS Kinship Family Support Services.

To help kinship families connect to other families and resources, a third annual Kinship Caregiver Resource Fair will be held on Saturday October 29, 2016 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at The Center for Changing Lives, 2400 Park Avenue South, Minneapolis. This will be a wonderful opportunity for kinship caregivers to rejuvenate, celebrate, learn and gain community.

For more information about Kinship Caregivers or to RSVP for the annual Kinship Caregiver Resource Fair, visit, call 651.917.4640 or 877.917.4640 or email Another helpful resource for older adults is the Senior Linkage Line which can be reached by calling 800.333.2433 or visiting