The NYS KinCare Coalition established The Cura Awards in 2015 to annually recognize the outstanding achievements and contributions of those involved with kinship care.
Each year, a volunteer committee reviews nominations and selects honorees in the following categories:
- Outstanding Professional – An individual working in the field of kinship care or related field or that has had a significant positive impact on kinship care in New York State as a result of their work.
- Outstanding Organization – A nonprofit organization in New York State providing kinship care or that has had a significant positive impact on kinship care.
- Outstanding Kinship Caregiver – Any kinship caregiver living in New York State that has demonstrated outstanding selflessness, leadership or has overcome tremendous barriers.
- Kinship Champion: A state or national official or organization leader who has vigorously worked to help kinship families.
This year, the committee is pleased to announce the following winners of the Cura Award:
Outstanding Professional: Carolyn Fluckinger, Director, Family Service Society of Yonkers’ Kinship Support Program
Carolyn Fluckinger is a ground-breaking creator of programs that provide services to grandparents and other relatives raising children in Westchester County. Ms. Fluckinger developed and has led the award-winning Kinship Support Program for Family Service Society of Yonkers (FSSY) since 2002, now Westchester County’s (WC) most comprehensive provider of services for kinship families. For FSSY, she has provided critical support and advocacy and represented the agency with elected officials, private funders and key organizations. She is the Chair of the WC Grandparents Coalition, sponsored by the WC Department of Senior Programs and Services, which mobilizes resources such as clothing, gifts, parenting training and caregiver recognition. As a member of the WC Families Task Force she ensures inclusion of kinship families in county practices and policies. Ms. Fluckinger’s strong relationship with DSS resulted in the assignment of a liaison for caregivers and professionals, as well as the award of grants for care giving, summer camp, and participation in activities previously for foster families. Ms. Fluckinger is steadfast and passionate in her work to ensure the needs of kinship caregivers and their families are met.
Outstanding Organization: Kinship Families of the North Country, Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country
The Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country (CCCCNC) was one of the first agencies in New York State to recognize the need to support kinship families. The program began in 2002 as a recipient of the first NYS Office of Children and Family Services grants. The CCCCNC staff was actively involved in the start-up of the NYS KinCare Coalition. The current program, under the leadership of Juliette Lynch, has hosted monthly support groups, youth programs, recreational events and many educational events to assist caregivers as they navigate the many systems encountered. The CCCCNC through the many years of operation have been able to educate local agencies (i.e Department of Social Services, Office for the Aging, Rural Law, and Family Court ) on the importance kinship caregivers play in the raising of relative children. The agency had a presence at the local Department of Social Services so kinship caregivers could be educated and assisted early in the stages of care. The agency staff also helped educate the Family Court judge on the importance of KinGAP as an additional permanency option, other than adoption, for kinship families. The monthly support groups gave caregivers a place to discuss successes and challenges in a safe, confidential environment.
Kinship Champion: Greg Olsen, Acting Director, NYS Office for the Aging
Greg Olsen is the acting director of the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA). He is responsible for the administration of federal and state funded programs that assist more that 4.3 million older adults and 4 million informal caregivers across New York State. Greg is leading the effort to re-brand what aging in New York looks like. Greg has been a strong support of kinship care since 2005. Prior to joining NYSOFA, Greg served as chief of staff and legislative and policy director for Assemblyman Steve Englebright, former chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Aging. He led the effort to introduce legislation that funded the NYS Kinship Navigator and worked with the NYS Senate to create the program in 2005. At NYSOFA, he has helped to produce informational videos on kinship care services and legal issues, urged local Area Office of Aging to support kinship care, leading statewide efforts in the aging community. He has supported inclusion of kinship care aging issues in the 2015 White House Conference on Aging, has promoted kinship care by organizing a statewide information campaign for the aging community, and constantly brought kinship issues to the attention of the federal policy makers.
Outstanding Kinship Caregiver: Sharon Johnson
Sharon Johnson assists other grandparent and relative caregivers as a GrandPower Advocate. She educates the public and elected officials about the needs of kinship caregivers, and advocates to get the essential services caregivers need to raise relative children and for changes in laws to help caregivers keep the children with their families and out of the foster care system. She provides visibility to kinship caregivers who so often are not seen by society. Even though she works full time, and is a highly committed and loving caregiver to her grandchildren, Bryce, age 11 and Aiden, age 12, and a mother to her son, Jordan, age 18, she finds time to speak at public hearings on the city, county and state level and to assist with planning educational and recognition events for kinship caregivers. Despite a heavy workload, a long commute and child rearing responsibilities, Mrs. Johnson makes the time to advocate for other caregivers. Mrs. Johnson and the other GrandPower Advocates are known in Yonkers, White Plains and Albany for their persistent efforts to keep kinship care issues on local, county and State agendas.
Outstanding Kinship Caregiver: Kim Hinkson
Kim Hinkson, is a Staten Island resident and grandmother raising two grandchildren, Anthony (age 8), and Aldo (age 9). Ms. Hinkson not only has been raising both children since they were toddlers, she also has a strong presence in bettering her community. She is the chairperson for the Stapleton Neighborhood Advisory board, is on the executive board of the NAACP, and a member of the NYC Citizens Committee. She helped to organize the Gun Violence March in the Stapleton community in order to highlight the efforts of bettering the “quality of life” for the residents, who want a peaceful environment to raise their children. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, Ms. Hinkson was the ceramics instructor at the Stapleton Senior Center, teaching the seniors how to make ceramic pottery. She has made several beautiful pieces of artwork, showing her great creativity! Also, in her spare time, Ms. Hinkson enjoys growing and harvesting vegetables, and has taught both her grandchildren the appreciate the joy of growing fresh vegetables, and they take pride in watching how they grow. Both grandchildren are polite, well-groomed boys, and Ms. Hinkson keeps them enrolled in after school activities, such as the Saturday Children’s Academy to strengthen them educationally.