Back-to-school event offers boost to kin caring for children

The local Kinship Navigator program is offering backpacks with school supplies that will be distributed today.

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WALLA WALLA -- As a community, Walla Walla is above the standard in working to prevent child abuse and neglect, along with meeting the needs of kids who fall victim to the twin ills, said Leslie Hamilton, director of Catholic Charities' Kinship Navigator program in Walla Walla.

And now, that community care means new school backpack kits for eligible families.

Kids facing abuse and neglect are at greater risk for dropping out of school, being homeless and being unable to maintain healthy relationships as adults, Hamilton said. "We know that children who come from healthy families have more advantages in life than those who do not."

One form of providing such an environment is through caregiving by relatives, known as kinship care. Such setups may include care by grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles or family friends.

It keeps children out of the foster care system and in with family members, she said. "Research has found that children placed in kinship homes are more likely to feel loved by their families and be happy with their living arrangements."

Kids in such homes are three to four times less likely to be mistreated than children in traditional foster homes, she added. The situation also usually preserves extended family ties and saves the state money, she said.

But those families need support, and that's where her agency and the back-to-school event comes in, Hamilton said.

Backpacks filled with grade-appropriate supplies will be distributed at St. Patrick Catholic Church office, 408 W. Poplar St., today from 4-6:30 p.m.

The idea is to give kinship caregivers one less thing to worry about, Hamilton said. "We're hoping people will hear about this."

Refreshments will be served. For more information call 522-8220.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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