Kids and Kin groups assist extended family members caring for children

Published 10:01 am Thursday, January 12, 2023

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The Kids and Kin Program of the Family Guidance Center of Alabama, a childcare partner, offers statewide education for grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings ages 18 and older who are caring for children and their families.

The program is funded through the Alabama Department of Human Resources, with the purpose to educate and support families with child development classes. Held in 67 counties, classes focus on the physical, social, emotional, cognitive, language development, positive discipline and guidance, health and safety, and special needs of children.

“We offer CPR and first aid for free when caregivers sign up for the program,” said Child Care Partner Judy Wells. “It does not cost anything for them to attend or receive resources. We give away books once a month and have a prize drawing too.”

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Wells said participants who complete four developmental courses and complete first aid training earn $50 worth of new toys they can order. Once learners complete the first part of the program, they will have earned $150 in free toys.

“We offer a lot of free education for family members taking care of their kids, and their kids’ families,” Wells said. “In the today we live in, some of our grandparents, aunts and uncles don’t understand why children behave the way they do. Our classes cover some of that and help them respond to children with positivity.”

Wells said organizers collaborate with other agencies too, to connect participants with programs and resources they need. The program, she said, gives caregivers the opportunity to meet others also caring for extended family members.

“They get to meet other people, to talk about things that may be happening in their family,” Wells said. “We bring people together to collaborate and see what’s going on in their community. It teaches them to reach other people as well.”

Wells works with groups which meet in Butler, Crenshaw and Lowndes counties.

Crenshaw County groups meet twice a month, gathering at the Luverne Public Library. Participants who are unable to attend a class in-person, can sometimes join by Zoom and Wells works with learners to help them meet their goals.

“I want them to reach the goals and earn items for participating,” Wells said. “So, I’m very flexible.”

In Lowndes County, the group meets on Wednesdays twice a month at the Hayneville Community Center or by Zoom meeting.

“Most of my Lowndes County students meet by Zoom,” Wells said. “Two ladies come in person. Zoom is just an extra way we help facilitate the meets so care providers attend the classes. We do activities, have a party, and do crafts. It builds a bond and extended family.”

Butler County groups meet on Tuesdays at the Board of Education office.

“If school system offices are closed for holidays, I work around the holiday to schedule an alternate Tuesday so groups can always meet two Tuesdays each month,” Wells said. “That group likes to talk about things going on in their families.”

Wells said developmental classes help participants learn to care for children with autism or those with challenging behaviors.

“We teach them to create routines that are beneficial, loving, and caring for the children,” she said. “Other classes focus on social media, apps, and sites kids are using now.”

Along with free toys and educational materials, participants have an opportunity to receive their choice of a free smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, or first aid kit.

For more information, contact Wells at (800) 499-6597.