Elaine's Story

Elaine is typical of many people helped by the Neighborhood Center: she receives help from us, an in turn she is able to help others. Because of various family issues, she assumed care of her two great-nieces in New York City. Seeking a fresh start, they moved to the Utica area where she began to realize all the challenges she faced as a relative caring for children who need a home.

Thankfully, Elaine heard about the Kinship Care Management Program at The Neighborhood Center which provides advocacy, outreach and support to kinship caregivers in Oneida and Herkimer counties.

Left to right: Mary Garcia, NC staff;
Elaine and her niece Tameka

The girls attend Project AIM, another Center program that provides adult mentors who give youth opportunities to build self-confidence, reduce negative social behaviors and increase connectedness to self, home and community.
Elaine states that the Center has made a difference in her life and the life of her family by supporting them, helping her on her bad days (she is battling cancer), giving her information on local resources, helping them at Christmas time and providing a place to meet others who are struggling with issues just like hers. She believes that the groups the girls are participating in have helped them to see things differently. They are eager to come to Project AIM where they receive positive influence from people who care.

She feels it is important for them to keep coming because it helps them to feel comfortable in Utica, a city that they are still getting used to. She feels that it just “works for us.” It would make her feel sad if the program was no longer available. She feels that people need this program to understand the help they can get while taking care of someone else’s children. Describing the Neighborhood Center she relates that it is “unique, positive, wonderful, excellent and fast service”.

Elaine said program staff should be recognized for the job they do-they are always positive and never negative. She said coming to the Neighborhood Center is “like going to church on Sunday, it makes me feel good for the week”.
She said she always feels welcome at the Center and wishes more people would take advantage of the services and supports that are offered.

My name is Louise and I am writing this letter in reference to the Kinship Care Management Outreach & Support Program. I feel so blessed to have found this program because it has helped me to deal with the situations that have arisen in my life. I lost my daughter three years ago and I now am raising her three children. I must say that the road has been hard and I am now dealing with everyday challenges. I am currently 53 years old, disabled, not working and raising three adolescents. It is not easy when doors keep closing in my face and I can’t get the help that I desperately need. I have issues buying clothing for all of the children due to my limited income and it is hard just scraping by each day. Since I have found Kinship Care Management I am finally getting my life back on track especially by utilizing the Support Groups that Kinship Care Management offers me. The Support Groups help me to get by, by giving me support to deal with my daily walk in life. The program offers resources that will help to keep food on the table and clothes on my grandchildren’s backs. As grandparents we do not get any kind of help to take care of our grandchildren and we are not recognized for who we are or what we do. Thank God for Kinship Care Management because this program has been long over-due and is truly needed in every city. I thank the Kinship Care Management for everything the program has to offer and for caring about me and my grandchildren.
~ Louise C. Utica, NY (Grandmother) 12/14/10

I became the caregiver for my granddaughter upon my daughter’s death. It is sometimes a little difficult because of my health, and my granddaughter’s behavioral problems. The Kinship Care Management Support Group has helped me by offering the support of other caregivers. The Kinship Care Management program staff has assisted me with information and resources that I needed. A future need that I would like to see addressed is the lack of respite in this community. As a grandparent raising a grandchild I feel as if we need a little respite. We have also enjoyed the Family Fun Days events offered through program. The Family Fun Days help the children to understand that there are others in the same or similar situations as them. I feel we as caregivers also save the state of New York millions of dollars and this program is much needed and should be given further funding to continue and expand. Thank you for this program.
~ Michele G. Utica, NY (Grandmother) 12/10/10

This letter is to thank the Kinship Care Management Outreach & Support Program located in Utica, NY. I heard about this program from another agency in the community where we take our granddaughter for services. I went online and got some phone numbers in the Utica/Rome area and after a few more phone calls; I made contact with the staff of the Kinship Care Management Program. We are grandparents of a 2 ? year old little girl, we had been in and out of court for over a year and had been involved with the Social Services Department and were looking for a Support Group with other grandparents in the same situation. We made contact with Kinship Care Management program staff and after the phone call the staff came to our home and gave us some paperwork to turn into the Social Service Department for financial assistance. The Kinship Care Management staff even helped us fill out the lengthy and complicated DSS forms and they also made a number of follow up calls to see how we were progressing. We are so pleased with the Kinship Care Management Program and what they have done for us when we were in the most need of help. I only wish that Kinship Care Management could be given more financial support so they can reach out to more people like us who are now caring for their grandchildren. From what I have heard and seen there are a growing number of others like us as grandparents who are now rearing their grandchildren. We need this Kinship Caregivers Group so they can reach out to others who are struggling to raise their grandchildren. Once again, a heartfelt thank you!
~ Roger & Debbie P Rome, NY (Grandparents) 12/11/10

I am a caregiver for my 4 grandchildren that I have now gotten custody of. During the past year or so their mother was not a responsible mother and their father got in legal trouble. I seen the children were having problems at their home. I went and spoke with their mother and realized the problems were far worse than I knew. Their mother, my daughter did agree to give the children to me until she was back on her feet. But once I took the children their mother was nowhere to be found. I went to Family Court to get legal custody of the children at which time their mother did not show up for any of the hearings. At that point the child protective worker referred me to the Kin and Kids Program. It was the best thing that ever happened to me and the kids. The Kin and Kids staff came out to the home and spoke to me and my grandchildren. Since we have been in the Kin and Kids program we have went on family outings with other kinship families and done things that we probably would have not done on our own due to the expense of caring for our four grandchildren. The program has been great! For a period of four months, when going to court nothing was being done the case was continually being post pone. Once I was connected with the Kin and Kids program they accompanied me to court to offer me support and explained things that I was unsure of. Now I can better explain myself. The support I received has been wonderful. During this transition there were some family conflicts with other family members as a result of strong feelings. The Kin and Kids program helped by offering and setting up a family meeting. The family meeting gave us an opportunity to work out the problems by discussing what was in the best interest of the children. The meeting also gave us a chance to be heard. Kin Kids have been a great help and support. As a caregiver I would give this program a great big 10 stars for their great work. Without this program I don’t know how I would have done taken on four children that could have been lost in the system. Thank you.
~ Sherry, (Maternal Grandmother) Oneida County 11/21//2011

In 2011, my 8 year old granddaughter was removed from her home by an out of county child welfare agency. My son called me for help and support. The labyrinthine journey through Family Court, Criminal Court, and Kinship Foster Care began! I contacted a worker in the Oneida County Child Welfare agency to enlist her aid and /or to get direction in facilitating communication between the out of county welfare agency and Oneida County to get my granddaughter out of emergency foster care. The Oneida County worker directed me to the Kin and Kids Outreach & Support Program. Since that traumatic day, Kin and Kids Outreach has been invaluable support for me. Kin and Kin Program staff came to my home with a folder of information. Although at the time I was overwhelmed and could not process much, they took the time to gain insight into what were needed and provided support, kindness and professionalism. I
have referred to the folder of information numerous times. It covered financial resources, agency contacts, as well as legal information and resources. I never knew there were so many resources available! To have this information all in one place was great! Kin and Kids role did not end with disseminating information. However, the program calls to check in monthly, and there are family events planned (picnics, canal cruise). And I’ve had on an occasion met with staff at their office, where I was again impressed with professionalism and knowledge in this highly specialized area. I recently heard the Kin and Kids staff speak at a Kinship dinner held at the school. Again I was impressed with the scope of
the assistance offered by the program!
~ Jean, (Maternal Grandmother) Oneida County 12/15/2011

A year ago I moved in with my mom to help raise my sisters’ children that my mom had been taking care of for four years. Kinship Care Management has been a huge support for us. They have helped us with everything from food for holiday meals, clothes for the always growing kids and finding other groups and programs for assisting families in need. I think the biggest thing they have helped our kids with is redefining and accepting our new family. The family activities that Kinship Care Management puts on, gets together so many families in similar situations, which I think is important to helping these kids feel a little more normal. Through these activities the kids can see that they are not the only ones who have lost their parents in one way or another. The kin caregivers are also given the chance to meet others in the same situation and create new friendships and find support from one another. I am eternally grateful for all the help Kinship Care Management have given us and for all of the amazing people they have brought into our lives.
~ Jamie (Uncle - Secondary Caregiver) Oneida County 12/21/2011

Five years ago I took in my 5 grandkids, 4 which were struggling with mental health problems. I lost my job of 11 years within the first year as a result of how demanding these issues were and not being prepared for them. The kids were receiving counseling but I had no clue on how to help them or myself. It took me trying different programs and lots of phone calls before I found Kinship Care Management. I was amazed at how much they helped, first with finding me information for better understanding how to better my knowledge of the mental health aspect. Kinship Care Management also showed me different resources that were out there. Kinship Care Management has a fun day for the families which helped everyone see that they’re not alone in this. It’s a growing reality and without programs as great as this one, I know I would be struggling as would others. May Kinship Care Management continue to be there for all caregivers. My heartfelt thanks to the amazing staff
at Kinship Care Management for all they do. Thank you for caring,
~ Ann, (Kinship Foster Grandmother) Oneida County 12/21/2011

Judy has custody of a niece and a nephew – and has had them since they were infants.  Judy has used the Rome Behavioral Health Service for her niece and nephew for several years.  She has also been involved with the Kinship Care Management Program since 8/2013.  Judy is a deeply devoted person to her niece and nephew.  She is involved with their school programming, mental health needs and tries to involve them with community activities as well.  While Judy has multiple health issues of her own she always puts others needs first.  She is a highly creative person and her house is always full of charm and things that she has created – basically from nothing.  What I admire most about Judy is she is always trying – she never gives up – she is a strong and caring person and does everything from the heart. Judy’s story is certainly more involved than this – but this is the current situation. 

Judy relates that the Kinship Care Management Program has been very helpful over the past several years.  They have been good at listening to all of the issues and concerns that she has and helping her access services that have helped the children.  She has also benefited from having access to the Clothing Closet and the personal care items that we stock.  She has participated in Operation Sunshine at Christmas so that the children can have a brighter Christmas.  She and her family have participated in several of the Family Fun Events where we have lots of fun.  Judy has said that she doesn’t know what she would do without the Kinship Care Management Program to be there for her, her family and the children.

Tiera’s Story (4/11/17)
Tiera lives with her great nephew, Zy’ier in Utica.  Tiera took Zy’ier in as her niece had left Zy’ier at a friend’s house for 3 weeks.  When the friend called CPS Tiera agreed to take in Zy’ier.  Tiera states “The Neighborhood Center Kinship Care Management program has been a great help.  My nephew and I are very thankful for our Outreach Worker, Alaphia Edmonds.  She is an amazing help.  My nephew and I would like to thank her for all her hard work”.  Ms Edmonds has helped Tiera in trying to obtain a job as well as support her through the process at the local DSS for financial assistance.  And, due to financial stress Tiera was able to be helped at Christmas time with presents for Zy’ier.  Tiera has expressed her appreciation for Ms. Edmonds help through these difficult months.

Carol’s Story (4/11/17)
Carol lives with her great nephew in Utica.  Carol has had custody of her great nephew since September 2016 since he and his mother were not able to get along well.  Carol speaks highly of her Outreach Worker, Alaphia Edmonds.  She states that Ms Edmonds “works hard to assist me with my great nephew.  The Kinship Care Management Program found resources for me for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  They are helping me to find a summer job for my nephew.  I appreciate this help because I just don’t have the time.  I appreciate all that she does for me.”  Carol also appreciates The Neighborhood Center Behavioral Health Clinic that her great nephew has been attending.  He has done a 360 – meaning that he has made improvement at school and home. 

Christa’s Story (4/11/17)
Christa states that The Neighborhood Center Kinship Care Management Program has been a great help to my family in many ways.  They have helped me with a recent transition in my life and helped me to keep a positive outlook on things.  If one thing doesn’t work one way they help me find another solution to the issue.  It really helps when you have a support team behind you helping you along because, everyone can use a little help.  Christa has been with the program since September of 2016.  She currently has custody of a family friend’s little girl.  Christa has been helped to obtain the Non-Parent Caregiver grant from the local DSS – and because she has an unusual case it has taken longer.  Christa is very grateful for the assistance she received at Christmas time for the children in her care (she is also taking care of 2 stepchildren). 

Kathy’s Story (4/11/17)
Kathy currently has custody of her 3 grandchildren.  She has had custody of them for a few years now.  Kathy and her grandchildren attended Family Preservation Day in February of this year (2017).  She relates that the children had a great deal of fun on this day.  They participated in planting flower seeds, coloring a birdfeeder, and playing cooperative games with the Peacemaker Program.  They were also treated to lunch on this date.  Kathy appreciated the opportunity to participate.

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