In Clark County, Nevada, an estimated 19,000 people have taken on primary parenting duties from another family member. Most of these "kinship caregivers" lack the support needed to ease the financial strain and emotional toll of learning (or re-learning) how to parent, and Ali O’Donnell wanted to do something about it. Last December, after dedicating a year to research and planning, she founded the Las Vegas-based nonprofit Foster Kinship, which won the GOOD Citizenship Challenge on GOOD Maker.
O’Donnell, who originally relocated to Las Vegas from Seattle to work as a mental health counselor for foster youth, says she realized early on that services for caregivers were insufficient. She wanted to help people who have taken on the difficult job of creating safe, loving homes for vulnerable children, while connecting them with others experiencing the same challenges. Foster Kinship exists to provide mentorship, activities, and peer-to-peer support for those who step in to raise a relative’s child when the parents are no longer able or willing to do so. “Often that role falls on grandparents, who must deal with the disruption of ‘second time parenting’ in their retirement years," O'Donnell says. "It’s a huge change that requires an unexpected amount of knowledge and resources. We want to stand in the gap.”
Foster Kinship will use its $500 grant to spread the word about the services it provides, including support groups for caregivers launching this spring. By the end of the year, O’Donnell hopes Foster Kinship will be actively supporting 100 local families. “It is incredibly rewarding to go out into the community and share this passion and mission," she says. "I left a comfortable corporate job at Microsoft two and a half years ago because I felt strongly I was climbing a ladder that was up against the wrong wall. Now I have greater alignment in my life, and truly believe in the work I am doing.”
To learn more about Foster Kinship, or to make a donation, visit fosterkinship.org.
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