Mary’s* journey navigating “the system” started years ago. She had left her son in the care of a babysitter and
after a few months, noticed a change in her son’s behavior. It’s a feeling every parent dreads – connecting the 
dots and realizing that the person you’ve entrusted your children’s health and safety to is the one that’s causing them harm. Investigations and a court case ensued along with therapy, and ended in the conviction of the 
predator. Fast forward a few years, and her son wanted to go to an overnight camp. Apprehensive about 
leaving him in someone else’s care, she eventually relented… and it happened again. This time it turned out 
that a camp counselor had been molesting campers and children that they babysat for across multiple states. 
These horrible acts left a lasting impression on her children and kicked off a cycle that  try as they might  was difficult to break. This began a cycle of inpatient, outpatient and family therapy. 
Kinship care is ultimately how Mary acquired custody of her granddaughter. 
Kinship care is when a child is removed from the custodial care of their biological parent and placed in the care of an individual that they already know. In many cases, this means that they go to live with a family member  a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. In other cases, when no family is willing or able, it could be a teacher, sports 
coach, or troop leader who becomes the kinship caregiver. The goal of kinship care is to keep the child in a 
familiar, safe environment while their case works its way through the system. Since the goal of the foster care system is almost always to reunify the biological parents with their children, keeping the children within their family circle helps make it a smoother transition into – and out of – care. 
Becoming a Kinship Caregiver
Due to circumstances beyond Mary’s daughter’s control, Mary began raising her first two grandchildren outside the realm of DCYF or any other outside agency. 
She and her daughter decided to approach the situation as co-parents. Rather than working their way through the system” or getting DCYF involved, they simply created a framework for how their co-parenting relationship would work and signed a notarized transfer of guardianship agreement. The children lived with Mary, but her daughter was able to see them, help raise them, and spend quality time with them. When a decision needed to be made about their schooling or medical care, Mary and her daughter had to agree, and both sign off on it. 
The school system the children were in was aware of the arrangement and supportive of both women’s efforts to provide the safest, most loving environment possible for the children. 
However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. As she explains it, when you get involved with kinship care it can be hard  you have a preexisting relationship with the biological parents. “You already have likes and dislikes about them, tolerances and boundaries for certain things.” When you’re trying to manage that pre-existing relationship (for better or for worse) and trying to raise children, it can be difficult. And then, of course, there are the 
reactions of other people. “You feel like you’re in a leper colony.” People start “dropping like flies” – the friends, family, and community you hoped to be able to rely on for support are suddenly disappearing. 
This child has encountered many mental health hospitalizations, and therapeutic servicing with multiple 
diagnoses. This has had a ripple effect within the family unit which includes the original family of cousins who are still with grandma. This child’s ability to remain connected to her community activities – friends, girl scouts, swimming at the Y have been lost – disrupted by her traumatic responses. This has also significantly impacted her educational opportunities and academic achievement. Because of RI ‘s limited resources to handle her 
highlevel needs, long term placements were researched, and she is currently residing out of state in a 
residential therapeutic placement. Mary travels back and forth three hours, twice a weekto engage in family 
therapy and visitation with her granddaughter. In addition, Mary also travels for family activities sponsored by the program. 
Mary’s granddaughter had been coming home for weekends and extended stays, including holidays. However, based on present behaviors, she is unable to do so. Mary continues her visits weekly and to engage in family visitations with her granddaughter so that the granddaughter knows her grandma remains by her side. “Two turtles together, slow and steady, we will win the race,” both claim as their mantra. 
Finding The Village and a Kinship Community 
Mary proudly admits that she sought therapy a number of times throughout the course of this journey, knowing that in order to take care of her grandchildren, she needed to also make her own well-being a priority. But, perhaps more importantly, she found a community of people who knew what she was going through so that she didn’t have to navigate it alone. 
About six months into being the primary caregiver for her grandchildren, Mary reached out to The Village. She was struggling to find resources for both her and the children.  
“It’s a situation where if you can lean on other people or hear what other people are going through and say to yourself, ‘well if they can do it, I can do it.’ Let me throw it out and say, ‘I need supportive information regarding this type of child. Has anybody come upon this? Can you give me referrals for doctors, therapists, etc., that 
you’ve encountered that you would feel good about referring?’ 
Mary continues to not only receive help as part of the Village, but also facilitates and co-facilitates support 
groups for them as well as offers one-on one peer mentoring.

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