Answering Kinship Caregivers’ Top 7 Questions

May 12, 2022 | 7 min read

So you’ve found yourself in a unique and new parenting role. You’ve stepped up and helped to care for your friend or family member’s child while they cannot.  Chances are you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed about this transition. But, we’re here to help answer the burning questions you have as you welcome the latest addition to your family.

Here are the top 7 questions we’ve gotten from kinship caregivers:

1. I’m now taking care of my loved ones’ child. What are my first steps?

Take a deep breath.

It may seem overwhelming or stressful taking care of someone else’s child, but there’s no need to talk yourself into a fit. There’s a reason you’re the one that’s stepping into this significant role, and it’s not by accident. Maybe you’ve already raised children yourself, or maybe this will be your first time stepping up as a parent. Either way, you’ve already demonstrated your ability and commitment to caring for your loved ones’ child.

The first thing you should do is make the child(ren) feel comfortable in your home. This is likely to be a big transition for both of you, so be empathetic and patient with them as you adjust to this new normal. Talk with one another about the situation, and express expectations for both of you to ensure you can get along well. Then, consider reaching out to our team and looking into our Kinship Navigation services. We’ll connect you with support, resources, educational courses, and caregiving materials to help you thrive in your new role.

Are you thinking about or currently acting as a #KinshipCaregiver? @NEChildrensHome answers the 7 burning questions you might have:Click To Tweet

2. What are my legal rights & responsibilities?

It depends!

No matter what your situation is, from an informal agreement to formalized guardianship, this new environment is hard to traverse on your own. Despite the inherent unpredictability in these circumstances, you can identify exactly what your legal role and responsibilities are now.

Different levels of kinship care include:

  • Private Or Informal Kinship Care —Temporarily delegating parental rights and care for the children in need to the kinship caregiver without permanently altering the rights.
  • Diversion Kinship Care —Often voluntary, a child welfare agency becomes aware of the child’s needs and works together to create a strategy for moving the child into the care of a relative without joining the formal child welfare system.
  • Licensed Or Unlicensed Kinship Care — The final level of kinship care involves children living with other family members but remaining in the legal custody of the state they reside in.

While you can get more detailed information about your own specific situation and the legal rights that come with it, there are some basic rights you should be aware of.

As a kinship caregiver, you have the right to:

  • Be treated fairly and with respect
  • Be offered training opportunities to expand your parenting skills and knowledge
  • Make most day-to-day care decisions for the child or young person
  • Receive information about services that can support you in your role as a carer

The legal rights and responsibilities for kinship caregivers vary across multiple factors, but at the end of the day, as long as you are providing to the best of your ability and giving a safe place for the children in your care to thrive, you are certainly on the right track.

3. What are my medical rights & responsibilities?

They may look different now, but we’re here to help!

Many questions we run into include the management of a child’s medical history, caretaking plan, and future. As a Kinship Caregiver, you can advocate for the child in your care and keep them on a path to achieving and maintaining physical and mental health.

Common questions include:

  • If the child in my care already had Medicaid, how can I manage that for them?
  • If the child doesn’t have Medicaid but needs it, how can I sign them up? 
  • Can I add my kinship child to my private health insurance?

Much like legal rights and responsibilities, your medical rights will vary in a case-by-case situation. Our team can help you decipher the needs of the child or children and work with you to create a plan of care that benefits you both.

4. What help is out there?

There are countless avenues for help!

With the connections we have through our Kinship Navigation program, you can access resource libraries, educational courses, community resources, certified specialists, peer support groups, and more. 

In addition to these resources, we’re also prepared to help you navigate which professionals are needed in your care team. What are the obstacles the child in your care is facing? Do they warrant professional attention? How can you know when to turn to a therapist, psychiatrist, or counselor? And what is the difference between each?

Our team can connect you with trusted providers and help steer you in the right direction. Support is out there; sometimes, all it takes is having someone help direct you to the right person. NCHS fits this role by helping you find the support and resources you need to succeed.

5. How do I take care of myself and the children in my care?

By taking time to address your needs, too!

When you’re acting as a kinship caregiver, it is important to take care of your own physical, mental, and emotional needs as well as the needs of the child(ren) in your care. If you aren’t ensuring your own needs are met, how can you expect to care for someone else? That being said, we understand that self-care when caring for a child can be a bit…tricky.

Here are some ideas of things you can do to promote self-care as a kinship caregiver:

  • Take a walk outside
  • Practice meditating for 5 minutes a few times throughout the day
  • Carve out alone time to read or take a bath
  • Treat yourself to your favorite guilty pleasure snack
  • Visit a friend (or schedule a FaceTime call so you can have some time away!)
  • Turn off the electronics and unplug for a while

The bottom line is that you need to take care of yourself as a kinship caregiver. This transition is sure to be an adjustment for all of you, and it doesn’t do any good to push your own needs aside.

Get the answers to your top 7 questions as a #KinshipCaregiver on @NEChildrensHome’ latest blog:Click To Tweet

6. When/how do you notify DHHS about a situation? And how do you do it without getting the biological parent in trouble?

It depends!

Countless individuals have experienced or are experiencing a similar situation as yourself. You’re not alone in trying to decide if something is worth calling DHHS over.

Every single person has the responsibility to report any instance of child abuse or neglect. In fact, in Nebraska, state law requires any person who has a reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected to report their concerns to the Child Abuse and Neglect.

If you are unsure if the situation should be reported or not, with the help of our Kinship Navigation program, you are connected to a network of support within your community, ranging from certified specialists to peer support groups. These points of contact, with years of experience in their backgrounds,  can help you address the situation and create a plan of action quickly and effectively.

7. Isn’t NCHS an adoption or foster care agency?


NCHS supports families of all kinds for the benefit of children, whether temporary, foster, kinship, adoptive, in crisis, or in the community. Our team works hand-in-hand with other organizations and the state to ensure we keep people out of the system and keep families intact.

Through public programs, educational opportunities, community connections, and support infrastructure, we’re helping to create better parenting outcomes for families of all kinds, no matter their circumstances or location. We continue to keep children front and center in all that we do, but we also focus on helping families, fathers, mothers, kinship caregivers, and grandparents as well.

NCHS is here to help support you where you need it most. Our no-obligation, only opportunity programs can connect you to the resources and materials you need to ensure a safe and loving home for the children in your care. To learn more about our Kinship Navigation services or speak to someone on our team, reach out to us today!