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October 2005Vol. 6, No. 8Caring Communities for Kin Caregivers

Supporting kinship caregivers in the child welfare system often requires the services of a number of agencies, as well as collaboration among service providers. To ensure this kind of optimal support for kinship caregivers in its system, the Department of Family Services in Clark County, NV, has applied a systems of care (SOC) approach. This SOC approach is the foundation of Clark County's Caring Communities Demonstration Project to improve the safety, permanency, and well-being of children living with kin caregivers.

The Caring Communities Demonstration Project has six objectives:

  • Increase placements of children with kin when they must be removed from their homes
  • Increase the safety of children living with kin
  • Improve physical and mental health of children living with kin
  • Increase stability of placements with kin
  • Increase timely permanency of children living with kin
  • Increase the capacity of kin caregivers to care for children placed with them

The implementation of the SOC approach has been made easier by the location of the county's Family Services staff at five community-based Neighborhood Family Service Centers. These centers house workers from child protective services, adoption, foster care, Nevada Parents Encouraging Parents (PEP), Wraparound in Nevada, and other family-serving agencies, as well as specialists. The co-location of these staff from multiple agencies has facilitated the infusion of SOC principles of interagency collaboration, cultural competence, family involvement, strengths-based practice, community-based services, and accountability throughout the system. Trainings in SOC approaches have been provided to staff at these centers, and all centers have adopted SOC principles for practice.

One component of Caring Communities is the Kinship Connections Program, which is a mentoring program for kin caregivers operated by Nevada PEP. To facilitate the mentoring program, PEP hires current and former kin caregivers to recruit, train, and sustain the volunteer mentors who provide home-based support for new kin caregivers. In addition, PEP has produced a mentoring training manual for kin care volunteers, as well as a kinship family guide that lists family resources and how to access them.

While the Caring Communities program has faced some challenges, particularly in recruiting relative caregivers to serve as mentors and in having kinship families referred for mentoring, the program continues to move forward. Working with Nevada PEP and providing stipends for volunteers have proven helpful in gaining caregiver participation.

For more information about Clark County's Caring Communities Demonstration Project, contact:

Tiffany Hesser, Project Coordinator
Caring Communities
Clark County Family Services
701K N. Pecos Road
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Phone: 702.455.0775

Note: The Caring Communities Demonstration Project was funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90-CA-1717, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: 2003B2: Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.