CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – REST, Inc., which provides “Resources to Empower, Support and Transform” Kinship Families is soon to be celebrating its one-year anniversary.
Established as a non-profit organization in late 2020, REST, Inc. was designated as a 501c3 tax-exempt charity in January 2021. Founder and CEO, Bobbie Johnson, stated that “2021 has been an absolute whirlwind”, noting that, since REST began, kinship families across three counties have been reached, receiving a connection to community services, educational and peer support programming, financial assistance, and much more.
“Today, in the United States, almost 3 million children live in grandparent-headed homes and over 1 million of these children have no parent present in the home, according to 2010 census data. This is a 22% increase from the 2000 census and we don’t know yet what the most recent census data will show us,” Johnson said. “Additionally, grandparents raising grandchildren are statistically more likely to live in poverty, receive public assistance, and more likely to have a disability or illness that precludes them from working.”
According to the updated Pennsylvania Fact Sheet posted online, nearly 300,000 children in PA are being raised in a home where a relative is head of household and over 235,000 of these relatives are grandparents.
Johnson clarifies that only a fraction of these caregivers is actually licensed foster kinship care providers – 6,242 according to state data – which means the majority of these caregivers are not receiving financial or other support, and, possibly, little court oversight. “In fact,” said Johnson, “data shows that for every one child in formal foster care, there are at least ten others being cared for by kinship caregivers.” Likewise, in Clearfield County, the number one reason for kinship placements is parental substance use and/or parental incarceration.
According to Johnson, Kinship Caregivers provide a safe, nurturing environment, while maintaining a connection for children to family history, siblings, and cultural traditions. While the strengths of a kinship family are there, many grandparents or other kinship caregivers do not know what services and supports may exist to help support them, and as often happens, these social services operate in silos, making navigation of these services even more challenging.
REST Inc., has been able to provide a link to these services while maintaining a core function of case management to help kinship families identify needs, set goals, and receive the supports they need.
In 2021, REST has provided family-specific case management for over 25 families while meeting the following milestones:
⦁ Provided several REST Comfort Boxes to Kinship Caregivers who assumed emergency custody of grandchildren;
⦁ Established a Kinship Support Group in Clearfield at which meets on a bi-weekly basis and utilizes an evidence-based curriculum;
⦁ Organized and offered an online Panel Discussion surrounding the Hidden Foster Care System in PA, which included an expert panel from Pennsylvania and South Carolina;
⦁ Co-sponsored a two-hour educational webinar with the CCAAA on “The Invitation to Change” to help family members who have a loved one struggling with substance use disorder;
⦁ Co-sponsored the first Sober Tailgate Party at the Clearfield Area High School to educate families on underage drinking;
⦁ Co-sponsored “An Evening of Remembrance and Hope” to bring healing to local families who have lost a loved one to overdose or other drug-related death;
⦁ Collaborated with the Dickinson Family Law Clinic at Penn State to develop a brochure explaining grandparent custodial rights in Pennsylvania and an advisory packet for kinship caregivers seeking custody and/or emergency custody of children;
⦁ Gained the support of the SkillsUSA Student Leadership group at the Clearfield County Career and Technology Center, who played a key role in hosting REST’s First Annual Kinship Christmas Party that served over 100 participants; and,
⦁ Provided gift cards, clothes, educational materials, technology, furniture, food, toys, beds, bedding, medical supplies, transportation, car seats, daycare, financial assistance, and more to area kinship families.
REST could not have accomplished so much during its first year without the support of our region, especially local organizations, churches, school administrative leaders, private donors, and grantors. “This community really knows how to love on those in need, and we at REST are extremely grateful for everything so many have done,” said Johnson. “The REST Board of Directors and myself are excited for what 2022 holds and just want to help as many kinship families as we can!”
Anyone interested in learning more about REST and kinship families is encouraged to visit their website and follow REST on Facebook. Kinship caregivers are encouraged to do the same but to also contact Bobbie @ 814-762-2933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
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