September is Kinship Care Month. Kinship Care refers to caregiver grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, adult siblings, and even family friends. Nationally, more than 2.7 million children live with relatives, and New York State has more than 200,000 children living full time with kin.
The Center for Elder Law & Justice provides free legal representation to relative caregivers of all ages in Erie and Niagara counties.
Recent client Maria Kaetzel came to our office seeking custody of her great-nephew, who was put into the foster care system when his parents were unable to care for him. “It was amazing…Dave Shapiro was my lawyer, and I really couldn’t have done anything if it wasn’t for him,” Maria said. After several years of guiding her through the process of foster parenting, we are happy to report that Maria’s adoption of her great-nephew was recently finalized.
Another client (who prefers to remain anonymous,) worked with attorney Sarah Hedden to gain custody of a family member’s child. The child was found living in deplorable living conditions and removed from his biological mother. Our client stated that “[The Center for Elder Law & Justice] was very helpful in navigating unsure areas…it was nice to have a resource to fall back on.” Our client and her partner are committed to caring for the boy, who has special needs that will require additional services lifelong. During the pandemic, the couple has worked tirelessly to ensure that the child receives therapy through virtual means.
Sarah Hedden, Esq. said “At CELJ, we represent caregivers in kinship matters including custody, guardianship, adoption, child support, family offense, and administrative matters. The goal is not necessarily to keep kids with our clients, but to advise and represent our clients, and work towards resolving cases that keep families intact. Anyone who is seeking assistance should contact our direct intake line at (716) 878-9297.