Campus News

Meeting caregivers where they are: Kentucky Kinship Resource Center expanding

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 1, 2024) The Kentucky Kinship Resource Center (KKRC), housed in the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky, is expanding to better serve caregivers and children across the Commonwealth.

The KKRC now offers resources for all caregivers, including those who have custody, are fostering, or for those caring for a child of a family member or friend.

“The relational dynamics and complexities of kinship care can be difficult for caregivers to navigate, regardless of whether a caregiver has custody or not,” said Sheila Rentfrow, director of KKRC. “Expanding the program will provide opportunities for caregivers to connect with other kinship caregivers and receive vital support — no matter where they are in their kinship journey.” 

Nearly 2.7 million young people are being raised by a relative and data suggests kinship rates throughout the Commonwealth are among the highest in the country. 

There are immense benefits of kinship arrangements — a form of care that allows children to grow up in a family environment. Studies show these children have healthier behavioral and emotional outcomes. But emerging research also takes a closer look at the struggles relatives often face when caring for young family members.

The CoSW has an established history of supporting kinship caregivers across Kentucky. From conducting research to launching programming, the college is on a mission to connect relatives caring for youth with an array of services designed to meet their unique needs.

In an effort to provide much-needed support for kinship families, in March 2020, the college launched KKRC. Through education and training programs, peer support and mentoring initiatives, and broad-based advocacy, the center provides a continuum of resources for kinship caregivers.

“We conceptualized and launched KKRC for a singular purpose: to meet the needs of kinship caregivers in Kentucky,” said CoSW Dean Jay Miller, Ph.D. “This center was the first of its kind in our state, and we are extremely excited to be able to continue serving kinship caregivers in an innovative way.”

Miller, who spent time in foster and kinship care as a youth, is passionate about providing useful information and valuable resources to caregivers. That’s why KKRC leads efforts to provide and promote evidence-based approaches. This is done through expansive research and evaluation in the field. 

With the expansion, KKRC will now offer programming to all relative caregivers in Kentucky, regardless of custodial status, which includes kinship foster caregivers.

“The KKRC is designed to provide a strong social support network easily accessible by participants in times of need,” said Missy Segress, director of centers and labs in the CoSW. “Through our innovative partnership with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, we have implemented a program that reduces the risk of placement instability and improves the quality of care. With this program expansion, we are able to provide these services to even more families across the Commonwealth.”

Families being served by KY-KINS have access to innovative peer support and mentoring initiatives. Additionally, Kinship Peer Supporters, who are caregivers themselves, undergo comprehensive training to provide the best support possible.

KY-KINS is based on the premise that by connecting kinship caregivers to a supportive network of trained professionals, the overall well-being of the entire family will improve, and the placement of children in the home will become safer and more stable.

“Our peer supporters and small group facilitators have been amazing people to work with. They are passionate about using their lived experiences in kinship care to serve and connect kinship families with needed resources and assistance,” Rentfrow said. “With this type of expansion, we’ll be able to offer more support services, utilizing more program leaders with lived kinship experience, including hiring more peer supporters and small group leaders that will allow us to serve more of Kentucky’s kinship families.”

In 2023, the KKRC was nationally recognized and named “Parent Group of the Year” by the North American Council on Adoptable Children. The award is designed to honor parent associations and groups for their excellence in supporting adoptive, foster and kinship families.

KY-KINS was also approved to certify kinship peer supporters, in accordance with Kentucky law. The program is recognized as meeting state certification requirements — allowing KKRC to address critical workforce and behavioral health needs in Kentucky.

“As a kinship caregiver, I wasn’t able to access programs like KKRC,” said Jessica Adkins, a kinship caregiver and certified Kinship Peer Supporter. “For many of our caregivers, it’s such a relief to know they are not alone — to know they are heard and to know there is help. That is what the KKRC is all about.” 

To learn more about KKRC, or if you are a kin caregiver in need of support, email

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

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