San Joaquin and Fresno Counties Rank Highest for Number of Grandparents Taking Care of Children in Central Valley**

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The California Kinship Navigator Program is a new service that provides free information, local referrals and support for Relative Caregivers in San Joaquin and Fresno Counties and throughout California at 1-800-546 (KIN)-0047

Since Fresno and San Joaquin Counties have the highest number of grandparent caregivers in the Central Valley (**based on 2009 Census data for populations in counties that do not have existing Kinship Support Service Programs), the California Kinship Navigator Program announces its new phone service that serves relative or “Kinship” caregivers in this region and throughout the state. According to 2009 U.S. Census data, more than 15,000 grandparents in these two counties are primary relative caregivers (Census estimations: Fresno County, 8,112; San Joaquin County, 7,624).

The Kinship Navigator Program (http://cakinship.org) provides Kinship caregivers with free local referrals and personal support to needed services such as childcare, housing, legal aid and more. In these challenging economic times, a phone call can be a lifeline for grandparents – as well as aunts, uncles, siblings and others who are raising children in the absence of biological parents.

For immediate help in navigating often complex social service systems, any Kinship caregiver in the Central Valley or in the state of California can call 1-800-546 (KIN)-0047 and speak confidentially with “Navigators” for comprehensive and personalized assistance to help them thrive. Bi-lingual Navigators also provide phone support for Spanish-speakers.

“Our goal is to provide Kinship caregivers with the information and referrals they need within their communities to become empowered to make decisions that will sustain their families,” says Martha Sirias, a Kinship Navigator. “As caregivers ourselves, we build trust with callers based on our shared experience and provide customized and peer-to-peer support.”

Historically, Kinship caregivers – who can unexpectedly become “parents” of a relatives’ child – face unique challenges to successfully raising children, such as school enrollment, medical treatment authorization, public housing, affordable legal services, and accessing a variety of local, state and federal benefits and services. According to the Children's Welfare League of America, almost one-fifth of grandparents responsible for their grandchildren live in poverty nationwide.

The CLASP Center for Law and Policy has noted that children living with relatives are much more likely to remain in a stable environment than those placed in foster care. In the words of caregiver Beverly Grigsby, “with other programs it always felt like there was something missing, but with the Kinship Navigator Program, this gap was filled in. Our family became whole again.”

About the Program
The California Kinship Navigator Program is a collaborative effort between Edgewood Center for Children & Families (http://edgewood.org); EMQ Families First (http://emqff.org/); and Family Support Services of the Bay Area (http://fssba-oak.org/). Collectively, these organizations have more than 50 years of experience providing Kinship support to relative caregivers and their families.

The program is a free service and Navigators who are available to speak to callers 10 hours a day, Monday – Friday, from 9AM – 7PM at 1-800-546 (KIN)- 0047. Phone lines are accessible 24/7 and information is also available at http://www.cakinship.org

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Beth Waitkus

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