Broward Health’s Kinship Cares Initiative Provides Health Care and Social Assistance to Non-Traditional Families
Oftentimes, helping patients access the care they need requires vital partnerships between providers and the community. In 2008, Broward Health launched the Kinship Cares Initiative (KCI) to ensure that kinship families receive not only the health care they need, but also assistance in a wide variety of social services and community support. The program was ignited when Broward Health was offering health check-ups for children who had been removed from their home and placed into foster care.
While in traditional foster care, children have access to necessary health care services. But prior to the launch of KCI, Broward Health employees noticed that children who were placed under the care of a friend or relative, in lieu of a formal foster care setting, regularly lacked access to needed services. As a result, the children fell through the cracks and missed out on vital care, often ending up in the emergency room for primary care needs.
KCI acts as an agency to the community to address unmet health care needs by leveraging partnerships between Broward Health and other social service agencies. KCI employs a nurse, an eligibility specialist and a program manager who work relentlessly as a team to resolve the needs of both children and their kinship caregivers.
“KCI helps children and their caregivers establish a medical home, access health insurance, navigate the health system, and links families to crucial social service programs.”
The program defines kinship care as any living arrangement that involves the care of a child by an individual who is related to the child by blood/marriage, through the third degree, or through close family relationships that are acknowledge by the birth or adoptive parents. Through KCI, kinship families receive health care services and resources, including assistance with:
- Establishing a medical home;
- Acquiring health insurance;
- Receiving wellness exams;
- Updating children’s immunizations;
- Linking families to social service programs to meet their non-medical needs, such as legal aid, emergency financial assistance, parental guidance, educational support, mental health, respite care and more.
The impact of the program reaches well-beyond this list of services. The KCI team works closely with kinship families to help address challenges and provide caregivers and their children with stability while working through their unique situations such as cancer, homelessness and a host of other very complex social and health crises. The program’s three employees have served more than 1,450 individuals, which includes 1,230 families where many of the heads of the household are single grandparents. The KCI staff provide one-on-one personal health assessments for each family member; help families develop individualized plans of care with health improvement goals; provide basic health education in key areas that are unique to the needs of each family; and assist families in navigating health care systems. The program’s success is due in large part to the collaborative partnerships Broward Health/KCI has established with community agencies and organizations throughout Broward County. Each family situation is unique and they often have very complex health care concerns.
“The Kinship Cares Council brings all the partners together to discuss some of the most complex cases and develop an action plan to assist those children and their caregivers in meeting the most critical needs.”
Integrating the families throughout various community agencies for services helps ensure that their social and health needs are met. Partners who also assist kinship families include: 211, Florida Department of Health Broward County-KidCare, Broward County Sheriff Child Protective Services, Broward Outreach Planning Group, ChildNet, Children’s Services Council of Broward County, Kids in Distress, Legal Aid of Broward County, Broward County School System, The Pantry of Broward, The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida, Broward State Attorney’s Office/ Victim’s Advocate Unit, Henderson Mental Health, Florida Department of Children and Families, Mount Bethel Human Services Corporation, Family Success Center, Family Central, and the United Way of Broward County. The KCI also partners with the Miami Herald Wish Book Foundation to support families during the holiday season.
Because partnerships and working together to help low income families are so important, the program formed the Kinship Cares Council. The Council meets quarterly, bringing together community partners to review complex cases and to develop a clear plan of action to maximize the assistance and benefits available to kinship families.
The Kinship Cares Initiative was initially supported through the generous funding of multiple foundations, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Local Funding Partnership, Health Foundation of South Florida, First Hand Foundation, and the Florida Blue Foundation.
The program is now solely supported by Broward Health Community Health Services, as a part of its health system’s commitment to providing access to quality health care and improving the health disparities of Broward’s diverse community.