The Kinship Navigator (KN) program provides information, referral, education and advocacy for kinship families across New York State. Our collaborations are based upon the Kinship Navigator’s three year federal Children’s Bureau grant, where the goal is to identify private (informal) kinship families and to connect them to the Kinship Navigator and local resources. In the five counties where the collaboration was implemented, KN and local departments of social services increased referrals by 600%, with many more kinship families connected to resources.
Now in its twelfth year of operations, the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) administered Kinship Navigator program seeks to implement the County Collaboration, via:
- Procedures that increase referrals from local departments of social services to kinship services;
- Educational opportunities for child welfare and temporary assistance staff to increase their understanding of the challenges faced by kinship families;
- Enhanced community outreach via coalition building;
- Increased identification and engagement with kinship care families; and
- Improved service utilization.
The project targets children in private and voluntary kinship care who are engaged by temporary assistance and child welfare staff. Of special note are children who are temporally “placed” by Child Protective Services and are not “removed” or subject to Article Ten proceedings.
KN addresses core needs in kinship families: access to temporary assistance non-parent (child only) grants, legal assistance, and specialized general services, including local kinship, health, mental health, and advocacy. Approved by OCFS, the collaboration between the local department and KN avoids foster care and improves outcomes for kinship families.
Collaborative outcomes include: establishment of sustained local networks; over 100 contacts with kinship families per county per annum; 500 referrals to services, including, but not limited to, kinship direct services, TANF non–parent grants, legal assistance, health and mental health services, and general services. The core element of the collaboration is the Permission to Contact Form that provides a referral procedure from department child welfare and public assistance staff to KN.