Tena Randecker says the Kinship Care program from the Tampa Metropolitan YMCA has changed her life. Her great niece, Zoya, and great nephew, Issac, moved in with her and her husband after they received a call from the court system.
Tampa, Florida - When Cole and Chase Hakken were allegedly kidnapped by their own parents earlier this month, it highlighted some of the hurdles that relatives and other caregivers can face in protecting children who are in their custody.
The Tampa Metropolitan YMCA has set up a community network designed to help both caregivers and children.
Tena Randecker says the Kinship Care program has changed her life.
"Without help, we would not be where we are today, that's for sure," she says.
Her great niece, Zoya, and great nephew, Issac, moved in with her and her husband after they received a call from the court system.
"They had been in a domestic violence situation and the court system didn't want them to go home," she recalls.
At first, there was hesitation to even let them play alone in the gated yard, a concern heightened by seeing what happened with the Hakken children.
"It was tough at the beginning because they had a lot of issues that needed to be overcome," Randecker says. "You always have a fear."
She turned to The Kinship Care program, where the YMCA works with groups like The Children's Home to help families stay together. 20,000 kids in Hillsborough County and 15,000 in Pinellas County do not live with their parents.
"We have a lot of grandparents that, often times, come to us because they're concerned about the safety and well-being of the grandkids," says Larry Cooper, Project Director at Children's Home for Kinship Care Program.
Kinship Services basically lets caregivers go to one place to find a lot of support.
"We were seeing a large influx of kids coming into foster care, so there was an effort to try to place them with relatives rather than bringing them into the foster care system," says Mary Ann Kershaw, Director for Partners Kinship Services at Tampa Metropolitan YMCA. "But then there was the recognition that those caregivers needed support."
In Randecker's case, that support came in connecting the family with a behavioral analyst, even finding summer programs so that the kids could get used to their new home.
That's why Randecker is now working with the Kinship program to help other caregivers.
"We all kind of help each other. That's what families do," she says.
If you think you could benefit from Kinship Services, call 1-888-920-8761.