Kinship navigator offers help to those raising children who are not their own
Information and referral service that links caregivers to local resources
Ligia Teodorovici is a social worker with the Washington County Department of Social Services and is a supporter and advocate of family members who have taken on the responsibilities of raising children, who, otherwise, would be left behind. (By Yvette May, Staff Photographer)
The young woman had started young, fell fast and, in her reckless prime, swallowed, drank and smoked anything available.
She spent years going in and out of rehab — learning the dangers of her habit and how much pain she caused others in her life.
And though she fought the battle, eventually, addiction won.
Now, her 2-year-old daughter — a child who barely knows her mother — lives with her aunt.
It's a familiar story to Ligia Teodorovici.
Almost on a daily basis, she has witnessed firsthand the destruction that drugs and alcohol can cause to families. She sees abuse and abandonment, and chaos and confusion.
And she also sees relatives come to the rescue of children who have become the collateral damage of parents unable to cope.
Teodorovici is a social worker with the Washington County Department of Social Services. She also is a supporter and advocate of family members who have taken on the responsibilities of raising children, who, otherwise, would be left behind.
Teodorovici provides services with the Kinship Navigator program — an information and referral service that links kinship caregivers to local resources.
Provided through social services, the program has been funded through the Fostering Connections Grant since 2009, Teodorovici said.
Washington County is one of seven counties in Maryland that offers the program. It also is available nationally in more than 20 states.
Teodorovici was hired in June of 2010 as a navigator and "immediately began providing consultation and support services to interested families," she said.
Teodorovici said the program is available to biological and nonbiological relatives who are raising children full-time, meaning 24 hours a day. They might need help navigating the system of financial assistance programs and might be experiencing barriers with education and/or improving medical services.
"We work with aunts, uncles, older siblings, cousins, godparents, in addition to maternal and paternal grandparents of children not living with their biological parents," she said. "The Washington County Department of Social Services wants to support these families as a way to prevent placement in the state foster-care system."
Teodorovici said kinship caregivers receive help in identifying local resources through telephone and in-office consultations, as well as a resource guide containing useful information.
"We also offer a monthly support group that allows caregivers to come together and network with each other while their kin children are supervised and offered activities, such as crafts, snacks and other fun times," she said.
Support group meetings, which began in February, are held monthly at various locations throughout the community.
"There are speakers on issues specific to these caregivers' needs, as well as time for families to build friendships and informally network for support and respite," Teodorovici said.