‘Another way of parenting’
Ludington resident Jan Wagner received national recognition on Jan. 16, when she was presented with the 2019 Excellence for Children Kinship Caregiver Award from Casey Family Programs — a national organization that works to improve conditions for children in the foster care system.
One of the goals of Casey Family Programs is to make it more common for children to end up in the care of relatives and grandparents rather than in group homes.
The concept is nothing new to Wagner, who — with her husband Ed — has been caring for her grandson, Holden, for the past decade.
“We have been raising our grandson for the last 10 years exclusively,” Wagner said. “We filed and adopted him at the age of 6, and we filed for adoption because his mother was unable to parent him.”
Wagner is a kinship caregiver — one of millions throughout the country raising grandchildren or children of relatives, often doing so without federal or state assistance.
Since taking over guardianship of Holden when he was 2, Wagner has been on a crusade to advocate for other kinship families and to help them find resources — not just financial, but informational and developmental — that they might not know to look or ask for.
There are two kinds of kinship care, Wagner said: instances in which prospective kinship caregivers have taken action to have the child removed by Child Protective Services and those in which prospective caregivers intervene to keep them from going into the system.
Because the Wagners sought guardianship preemptively, in an attempt to keep Holden from entering foster care in the first place, she and Ed were not eligible for most forms of financial and developmental assistance, which isn’t something she knew about or prepared for.
“We don’t get any financial assistance. If you’re a guardian, you’re not eligible. You have to be a licensed foster parent,” she said. “I started looking into why there wasn’t any help for us. I started checking into policies and laws and … I started advocating.”
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