Program Highlight: Catholic Charities of Western New York

It’s not just big cities getting the money to support kinship caregivers, it’s also small rural areas like the families served by Catholic Charities of Western New York in Alleghany and Cattaraugus Counties. Below is the testimony of Danielle Kielar talking about how her program helps kinship caregivers in these communities.

I am Danielle Kielar, I am the Kinship Caregiver Social worker from Catholic Charities of Buffalo, overseeing the OCFS kinship program in Allegany County and help with a grant with the TANF unit in Cattaraugus County.  Many of the OCFS kinship grants are for programs in bigger cities ,but  they also funded these 2 rural counties with Allegany County that has 46,000 residents and Cattaraugus County with 80,000 residents to provide kinship programming and we are so thankful for this opportunity to help these families. 
The Allegany County program provides: 

  1. Case management and referral services: home visits, linkages with community agencies, finding out the needs of the families and how to help them; 1-4 times per month 
  2. Support groups-separate for adults and children (held virtually and/or in person)
    1. for adults: we offer the curriculum PASTA (Parenting a Second Time Around) once a month
    2. for children: once a month focusing on stress management, listening skills, self-esteem building, bullying prevention 
  3. Education sessions: legal advice, community resources 
  4. Family engagement activities:  family swim nights, movie night, craft night, etc. once a month 
  5. Maintenance and family preservation services: respite for the children once a month 

We Serve 30 children, 25 families each year of the grant—right now at 15 since September 1, 2020. The only qualification is that they have a custody order, not KinGAP (Guardianship achieved from being in Foster Care first). 

The Cattaraugus County program has been running for over 12 years. It is a grant with Cattaraugus County Department of Social Services TANF unit.  We work with 55 children each grant year. The qualifications to be part of the program is that they have Article 6, informal custody,  and must be TANF eligible.  The program provides home visits, case management services, support groups for children as well as for caregivers, family engagement activities. 

We have we been flexible throughout the pandemic in regard to serving our kinship families.  We provided tablets to families who needed them for on-line schooling. We started offering our support groups virtually and getting innovative regarding what we are doing on the meetings-delivering ingredients and supplies needed to participate in the meetings and the caregivers/children would log onto the zoom meetings. Some of those events included: a painting night; cookie baking night for Christmas; self-care kits before Valentine’s Day; offer virtual Tai Chi & yoga classes; did a workshop for families on how to navigate virtual learning; and we have practiced with families ahead of time to teach them how to get on zoom so they know how to join our meetings.              

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