Every month, a Catholic Charities program called Kinship Caregivers serves over 60 families where the primary caregiver is not the child’s parent, but another family member, often a grandparent. For the last 20 years, this ministry has been walking with these families to help provide resources, stability and support.
“I’ve been fortunate to work in the program over 8 years,” said Carrie Savage, Manager of Kinship and Senior Services at Catholic Charities. Savage has witnessed children get their Eagle Scout, graduate from higher education and other achievements as they’ve gone through the program. Savage works closely with Kerry Lutz, Bilingual Program Coordinator for Kinship Caregivers, to serve those families and children who are cast into this type of situation.
“Once they have that safe and stable home, they just really blossom,” Savage said.
In order to provide this safety and stability, the kinship program has eight different support groups each month, with four in the Denver metro area and the others in Arvada, Thornton and Castle Rock. They also have a Spanish speaking group.
At these meetings, caregivers can share their experiences, stories and struggles and also learn information about an applicable parenting topic. Children are welcome at the support groups, and have time to be kids, rather than another therapy session on top of what they might already be receiving, Savage said.
Other services include working with families on an individual basis, providing referrals to different resources they need, and also on a larger scale, having events for the families to come together for fun or for an educational purpose.
“We serve everybody across all faiths and backgrounds,” Savage said.
Their highest demographics for caregivers they see are single grandmothers, mostly in their 60s. They also serve great-grandparents raising children, aunts and uncles, and psychological kin: a godparent or a family friend.
These caregivers are raising the children for a variety of reasons, Savage said. Some parents have passed away, others have physical or mental health issues, substance abuse problems, are incarcerated, or lack the financial means or the skill set to parents.
New caregivers are always welcome to attend a group, and there is no waitlist. Sometimes a new caregiver will be unsure about attending their first group, Savage said.
“They come and really just feel like they’re not alone,” she said. The caregivers present “understand, they’ve been there. They’ve been through a lot and can offer a lot of wisdom.”
Savage has seen fruit from the program not only in the achievements the families have made, but in the relationships they’ve built with each other. The kids in groups come from similar backgrounds and form friendships that make them want to keep coming back, she said. Caregivers also support each other through loss and difficult times. Some even want to give back and become donors to the program.
Savage got her start in the program as an Americorps volunteer for Catholic Charities. She studied sociology and psychology and was interested in family dynamics and how these dynamics arise.
If you or someone you know is a caregiver for a relative’s child and are interested in learning more about the services Catholic Charities provides, visit their website at ccdenver.org/familyservices/kinship-caregiver-program or call (720) 799-9254.