Relatives as Parents Program Supplies Support to 'Kinship Families'

By Thomas, Clint | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), February 15, 2012 | Go to article overview

Relatives as Parents Program Supplies Support to 'Kinship Families'


Thomas, Clint, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


cthomas@cnpapers.com 304-348-1232

Since 2000, the Relatives As Parents Program, launched as a partnership between the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and Mission West Virginia, has offered help in various ways to non-traditional kinship families.

RAPP defines kinship families as those in which the sole responsibility of raising children is not the parents', but which falls to grandparents, uncles, aunts or other family members. Some kinship families are informal caregivers outside of the foster care system or foster parents in the child welfare system.

Among the support services RAPP provides to kinship families are:

* RAPP groups, which are meetings of kinship family members to acquire and share information on legal issues, community resources and coping skills.

One kinship family group meets on the first Saturday of every month, from 1 to 3 p.m., at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1600 Kanawha Blvd., E., in Charleston, near the State Capitol Complex.

"We enjoy food, fellowship, a program and discussion. We have about 10 families participating," said RAPP Coordinator Laura Lou Harbert last week.

"We have a very active group in Martinsburg, as well as groups in other parts of the state. We would love to expand the number of groups both in Kanawha and Putnam counties, as well as statewide," the Charleston resident said.

"Another service offered by Mission West Virginia for kinship families is workshops. The Charleston workshop will be on March 24 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Charleston, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Frances Pack of Kanawha County Schools will talk about enrolling kinship children in school, and Rhonda McCormick of Legal Aid of West Virginia will talk about the IEP (Individual Education Plan).

"We try to do topics relevant to kinship families, but foster families, social workers and other interested persons are invited," she said.

Harbert said another late spring workshop is planned for Berkeley County. …

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