Help for grandfamilies

Help for grandfamilies
(K.Barnett/Reporter) Muscogee (Creek) citizen Robyn Wind recruited for to help identify inequalities in foster care system.

“We want those families to have the help that other families are getting like foster care payments or Sooner Care and oftentimes they’re not.” – MCN Children and Family Services Foster Care and Adoption Coordinator Robyn Wind.

Kevin Barnett/Reporter

Organization looks to strengthen support for non-traditional households

OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — It comes as no surprise to find out many people are raised by someone other than their parents, what is alarming is the recent rise in the number of these “grandfamilies” and the systemic hurdles faced by most.

According to a 2015 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation there are more than 2.6 million children being raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings or other extended family members with studies revealing as many as two-thirds as uncertified foster homes making them ineligible for assistance programs and supportive services. 

In 2014, Muscogee (Creek) citizen Robyn Wind became a foster parent when she received placement of a relative into her household and experienced first hand these common difficulties. 

Wind, a Foster Care and Adoption Program Coordinator for MCN Children and Family Services Administration has spent the past 12 years in Indian child welfare and admits that even she had a hard time navigating the system.

“When I started this whole process, I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be… and I was familiar with it,” Wind remembered. 

Wind was recently chosen by Generations United, a grandfamily advocacy group, as one of a handful of Native caregivers to join the organization’s Grand Voices Racial Equity Initiative. 

The Racial Equity Initiative uses family caregivers as advocates that educate, represent and testify about their own grandfamily situations in order to influence policy, practice and research. 

The need for the initiative arose from the disproportionate rate that American Indians, Alaskan Natives and African American children are removed from their homes and placed into foster care. 

As part of the Grand Voices network, Wind and others will be equipped with ‘actionable knowledge’ to help raise awareness among policymakers and strengthen their efforts to improve services and address systemic racial inequities. 

“I think [testimonies] coming from people who have experienced these difficulties make it a lot more meaningful,” she said.  

Wind says that the organization is currently developing a resource toolkit specific to the problems faced by African Americans and Natives, alike.

“We want those families to have the help that other families are getting like foster care payments or Sooner Care and oftentimes they’re not,” she said.

Wind knows, firsthand, how emotionally and financially overwhelming becoming a caregiver can be and reminds other Natives to take advantage of one of their greatest resources: their tribe.   

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