“Kinship care” is the name given to the practice of an extended family stepping in to raise a child. Supporters of kinship care are gathering in Philadelphia, where a local assistant City Solicitor will tell the story of how her grandmother helped her rebuild her life.
Nikki Johnson-Huston of Mt. Airy, the keynote speaker at the gathering, has had a hard life.
“I was homeless as a child for several months due to my mother’s drug and alcohol abuse and after several months my mom realized that she couldn’t keep our family together. It was me, my brother and herself and so I was sent to live with my maternal grandmother.”
Johnson-Huston said even after getting a scholarship to St. Joseph’s University, she stumbled. The transition was difficult and she was far from her family. After a year she failed out of school. Her resiliency was tested. But with help, she bounced back.
When she was a nanny, Johnson-Huston said, the family she worked for pushed her to pursue her education. That support, combined with earlier support from her grandmother, shaped her life.
“I’m here because of my grandmother and that’s why, when I was asked to be the keynote speaker for this kinship conference, I was incredibly honored and really just wanted to say thank you to all of the grandparents and caregivers who are stepping in to take care of children when their parents can’t or won’t.”
Even though her grandparents knew they were helping, the process wasn’t easy.
“My grandmother struggled because you know she wanted me to have two parents and I think she felt that sometimes she couldn’t give me everything that I deserved. But she gave me everything that I need to be successful and I think for me doing this kind of service is a way of honoring her.”
Organizers of the event said in sections of Philadelphia, one-in-five children is being raised by a grandparent.