September is Kinship Care Awareness Month! Kinship care: when grandparents, aunts and uncles, other relatives, or close family friends, take care of children when they are separated from their parents for a variety of reasons and circumstances.
Currently there are close to three million children living with family and countless more that are without a formal arrangement. In Westchester county alone there are over seven thousand children who fall into this category. The greatest gift someone can give a child is love and security and kinship parents give children stability and support when their birth parents are unable. Many times, the responsibility and demands of caring for an additional child can prove challenging, add a pandemic to the mix and the stress can reach crisis proportions.
Mrs. Jones worked as a home health aide for a client who was hospitalized due to COVID. Unfortunately, that meant Mrs. Jones was unexpectedly laid off. The timing could not have been worse. Mrs. Jones and her husband had just adopted their two grandchildren ages 5 and 9 and also had twin 18-year-olds still living at home. At the time of the adoption, the Jones’ had to make a decision to grow their family to include their grandchildren or let them be placed in the foster care system. The decision was easy for Mrs. Jones, having her grandchildren live with her rather than some strangers was the best scenario she could foresee. Kinship care generally leads to much better outcomes for children in the short and long run.
The family depended on Mr. Jones to supplement the loss of income by working overtime, but due to the pandemic, overtime was not consistent, and they fell behind on their rent. Mrs. Jones was fearful that her family would become homeless and be out of options. Then the eviction notice was served. This is where Mrs. Jones met Katy E., Kinship Staff Attorney at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, who understood the urgency of the situation and immediately began reviewing the case. She quickly determined that Mrs. Jones’ rent was not within her means so Katy worked diligently with our partners at Section 8, The Department of Social Services (DSS) and other local service providers to adjust her current income status, to lower her monthly rent payments and to apply for emergency financial assistance programs. Katy also advocated to have repairs in the client’s apartment rectified by the landlord.
Katy continued to advocate on behalf of Mrs. Jones, several times in court. In the end, Mrs. Jones received financial assistance to pay her back rent through local grants and she is now paid up to date. Katy was able to negotiate the repairs with the landlord, renegotiate a favorable rent and any fees assigned. With the recertification of her Section 8 voucher, her rent was now affordable, and Mrs. Jones and her family’s habitability are now stable.
If you or someone you know is a Kinship Caregiver and needs assistance in civil matters in the Hudson Valley or you would like to help people like Mrs. Jones, please visit: