Rewarding Responsibility: Honoring Unique Forms of Parenthood

Around this time of year, we happily celebrate the wonderful parents who give their kids all of the love and attention they need. However, we sometimes neglect to thank the “unique parents” – foster parents, grandparents, extended family members, family friends, etc. – who often take on major roles in the rearing of children.

Jeanine Bobenmoyer, chief mom officer of theCityMoms, provides content and online community-building opportunities for families of all kinds. She said that unique parent roles “are important because they demonstrate how modern parenting takes a village to tackle all that parenting entails.”

Peggy Surbey, a regional manager for the Indiana Department of Child Services, also sees several forms of unique parenthood in her line of work.

“Every child needs a loving, caring adult to care for them when a biological parent cannot due to a circumstance that involves DCS,” said Surbey. “Grandparents, other family members, or a kinship home can provide the child a home-like setting that also is least restrictive.”

As stated in research presented by Child Trends in 2014, nearly 5000 youth in foster care were placed with a relative foster family. Furthermore, 40 percent of youth adopted from foster care were adopted by relatives. According to Surbey, today about half of the kids in out-of-care are in the custody of a family member.

Unique families often need unique forms of assistance. According to Surbey, DCS offers some financial support and counseling services. For individuals who find themselves caring for children, she recommends that they reach out to support groups, call 211, or contact Children’s Bureau. Additionally, Surbey says that help can often be found in schools, community mental health centers, and churches.

“It’s important to reach out for help or assistance,” said Surbey. “If DCS has an open case, the family case manager will also be a resource with material relief, daycare costs, guidance for community resources, or advice in accessing other resources specific to the family’s situation.”

Bobenmoyer says that community members can also rally around non-traditional families through compassionate conversations.

“Stop talking in broad messaging as though every household contains the nuclear family,” said Bobenmoyer. “Understand that the fabric of family has shifted. Host a judgement-free zone for friends and acquaintances. Be present. Be aware. But above all, be supportive. For businesses, I’d note to spend some time understanding your target through research and own it. For us, we are a community 100 percent comprised of moms. When we talk to our audience, we know she’s a mom who comes from various walks of life and various familial makeups, but what grounds her is her role as a mom. And that’s where we can connect with each other.”

In the end, the work we do as parents, community members, and service providers is for the benefit of children.

“Helping raise a child in need can be very rewarding,” said Surbey. “There are many resources that are available to help so no one has to take on the responsibility alone.”

For individuals looking for more information on this topic, please reference the following resources:

Fair Society: Contemplating the Benefits of Paid Family Leave

Most parents can relate to the stress of tracking down a babysitter for an evening out. However, it seems that more and more parents are desperately struggling with the daily balance of work and childcare, especially after the birth or adoption of a new child. For many families, expanded paid family leave options could offer solutions that are not currently available.

Erin Macey, policy analyst for the Indiana Institute for Working Families (IIWF), defined paid family leave as paid time off from a job for a family member who must provide care for a newborn, newly adopted child, foster child or a child with a serious illness. Paid family leave could also apply to adults who care for elderly parents or spouses who suffer from serious illnesses.

“I’ve spoken to pregnant moms and expectant dads who are cobbling together their sick days to spend time with their babies when they are born,” said Macey, adding that, in her opinion, “a fair society recognizes the value of caregiving and supports it – systematically, not just through campaigns.”

Ambre Marr, the state legislative director for AARP Indiana, considers paid family leave to be a critical tool for all kinds of caregivers. According to Marr, approximately 840,000 Hoosiers provide care for a loved one.

“Family caregivers are the backbone of our long-term care system here in Indiana, providing care valued at $9.5 billion annually,” said Marr.

Paid family leave has been known to provide a number of benefits for the children and adults involved, from good health practices to a more productive workforce.

Read more on IndyWithKids.

Key to Success: Encouraging Parent Involvement in Youth Academics

“Education begins at home.”

That’s how David Patterson, marketing and communications director for Stand for Children Indiana, described the reason parent involvement is so vital to student success.

“When parents are involved in their child’s education, it makes everyone more accountable to perform well to ensure success for that student,” said Patterson. “It allows administrators to develop better policies, helps teachers provide more effective lesson plans and stresses higher expectations from students academically.”

Stand for Children Indiana strives to empower parents, teachers and community members to demand excellence in schools. One of their initiatives, Stand University for Parents (Stand UP), teaches parents and guardians ways to better support the academic success of youth and helps them build effective partnerships with schools. Since 2014, more than 350 Indianapolis parents have graduated from this program.

Crystal Feliciano is the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president for Lawrence Township Public Schools. She says that parents can begin getting engaged in their children’s schools by attending back-to-school nights and parent/teacher conferences, joining the PTO or helping at school events. She also encourages parents to monitor their children’s grades, join community organizations and participate in “tutoring programs, college tours [and] specialty workshops that will help expose the children to different and exciting opportunities, as well as help them academically.”

“The reason why parental involvement in their child’s school is important is because the children, as well as the educators, can use the support,” said Feliciano. “When parents are not involved with their child’s educational journey, they run the risk of the child not getting his or her maximum benefit from the school system. The guidance counselors and teachers cannot do it alone, nor should they have to.”

Read more at Indy With Kids.