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: