by Lester Holmes, HHS Communications
In a heartwarming display of support and dedication, the Kinnect to Family program has successfully assisted a grandfather in maintaining placement of his one-month-old granddaughter despite facing financial hardships. The program, which aims to prioritize relative placement for children in need, has proven once again that familial connections and support can greatly benefit a child's well-being.
Nicole Chimo, a Kinnect to Family Specialist with Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), was assigned to attend an emergency custody staffing involving a one-month-old girl. The agency sought a temporary order of removal, but the child's mother proposed her own father as a suitable placement option. Recognizing the importance of kinship care, Chimo promptly initiated an emergency home assessment for the maternal grandfather.
The assessment revealed that the grandfather met all the necessary requirements for providing a safe and loving home for his granddaughter. The child was immediately placed in his care on the same day. The Kinnect to Family program remained actively involved in providing ongoing support and conducting regular follow-ups to ensure the stability and success of the placement. All involved noticed the grandfather’s dedication to his granddaughter's well-being.
During the one-month follow-up visit with the family, the grandfather disclosed to Chimo that he was struggling financially. He revealed that he had been previously hospitalized due to pancreatitis, which resulted in the loss of his job and falling behind on rent and utilities. Fearful of his granddaughter ending up in foster care, the grandfather kept his financial struggles to himself.
Determined to prevent the placement from being disrupted, Chimo collaborated with his primary worker and other organizations to extend a helping hand to the devoted grandfather. They provided him with essential resources such as a food card, diapers, wipes, baby clothes, a stroller, and a diaper bag through the agency's Treasure Chest. Moreover, they facilitated communication between the grandfather and OhioKan/Adoption Network, ultimately securing funds to alleviate his utility expenses.
Despite encountering challenges with other assistance programs, including PRC, PIPP, and HEAP, the collaborative efforts continued. Chimo contacted Kristin Gardner, the outreach coordinator for DCFS, who recommended exploring funding options through the director. Simultaneously, outreach was made to Maureen Draye, the social services coordinator for DCFS who identified the Fatherhood Initiative/Passages program as a valuable resource for economic stability, housing, and employment assistance.
Recognizing the significance of a comprehensive support system, additional referrals were made to Help Me Grow and the neighborhood collaborative to ensure the grandfather received a range of services. Daycare vouchers for kinship caregivers and kinship payments were made available, and the grandfather was overwhelmed with gratitude for the outpouring of support he received during this difficult time.
"I really appreciate everything you've done for us; you showed me God is still blessing me," said the grandfather, expressing his profound appreciation for the unwavering support provided by the Kinnect to Family program and specifically Chimo.