Aaronique is living proof that children placed in kinship care with extended family members or close family friends thrive in stable, permanent homes with loving guardians. When she was 5 years old, child welfare workers removed Aaronique from the care of her biological mother who suffered from substance addiction. The little girl went directly into kinship care with her grandmother, known as Miss Annie, who became her legal guardian.

Children in kinship care experience less trauma because they live with someone they know, instead of strangers. Generally, kinship care increases stability by maintaining a child’s connections to extended family, community and school.

Wayfinder welcomed Aaronique and Miss Annie into our Kinship Support Services program at our Antioch, Calif., location when Aaronique was 15 years old. They jumped right in! Aaronique developed supportive friendships with other teens in our kin youth program. The very outgoing Miss Annie always kept the conversation going at caregiver events. They attended monthly activities, support groups and training.

Our Antioch office includes a foodbank to relieve food insecurity for foster, kinship and adoptive families in need. Miss Annie became a volunteer at the foodbank. “She helped load all the food weekly at the county foodbank,” remembers Wayfinder’s Cheri Thomas-Stevens, MSW, “bring it back to the Wayfinder office, and then distribute it to all the families.” Miss Annie was motivated to give back by her family. “My family taught all of us it was better to give than receive,” she says. At the county foodbank, she had a strategy. “I bulldogged myself through there to get good meat and vegetables for the Wayfinder families,” she says. “I wanted to make sure we got good quality like everyone else, not just the leftovers.” Cheri describes Aaronique as “very helpful, loving and independent.” In high school, Aaronique was a good student who set goals and tenaciously pursued them.

Miss Annie and Aaronique lived on a limited income, so the teenager didn’t always have money for extracurricular activities or
clothes that she might have wanted. In addition to gas cards and extra food, Wayfinder’s Kinship Support Services gave them tickets to special activities, including a San Francisco Giants game. “These were joys we would not have had without the
kinship program,” Miss Annie says.

But most of all, they appreciated connecting to other families in the same situation. “The kinship program connected me to a community,” Miss Annie says, “so I felt like I wasn’t alone.”

One of the biggest joys for the family was Aaronique’s graduation from high school. Miss Annie cheered very loudly at the ceremony. She knew how many obstacles she and her granddaughter had overcome to achieve this special moment. After graduation, Aaronique got her first job. She plans to enroll in college and aspires to become a nurse. Like her grandmother, Aaronique wants to help people in need.