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OTS 93: How OT practitioners support Kinship Families in Education with Angela Provenzano


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Welcome to the show notes for Episode 93 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast.


In this episode of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast, we are joined by Angela Provenzano, OTD Student, to discuss kinship families and what we should know as school-based OTs who support students who may be a part of a kinship family.


Angela is going to share her experiences as being a member of a kinship family, what the research says about both the children and the guardians in kinship families, and how she is now supporting those who find themselves as kinship guardians.



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Transcript

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Amazing Narrator

Hello and welcome to the OT Schoolhouse podcast, your source for school-based occupational therapy, tips, interviews, and professional development. Now to get the conversation started, here is your host, Jayson Davies, class is officially in session,


Jayson Davies

Hey, everyone, and welcome to episode 93 of the OT Schoolhouse podcast. My name is Jayson Davies, and I am your host today and forever. Thank you so much for being here today, I want to paint a picture for you. And that is that you walk into an IEP, you sit down at the table, you're talking with the administrator, the SLP. And then the next thing you know, you know, you're about to invite the parent or guardian in and someone comes in maybe they're a little bit older than what you might imagine them to be. And you kind of get the sense that they're not the students, parents, maybe they're the students, grandparents. How do you respond when that happens? That's what we're going to talk about today with Angela Provenzano. She's an occupational therapy doctorate student and she's about to graduate a few months from now. And she's going to come on and talk today about kinship families, and really dive into what's called Grand families. And that is when the grandparent takes responsibility for the child. And this does happen if it hasn't happened yet. I guarantee as an occupational therapist, it will happen, you will be sitting across the table from a grandparent of a student. And you need to know a little bit about what's going on in both the student’s life and that grandparent’s life. So that's what we're going to talk about today. Now, stick around have a great listening experience to this podcast with Angela Provenzano. But also, if you're listening to this episode, within the first week that it is coming out, I want you to know that we are having an event with Angela about a week after this podcast goes live, where she's gonna come on and actually do a live Q and A. So look in the show notes for a link to that live Q and A. Or if you're listening to this a little bit later, we will be sure to upload the recording of that Q and A If you'd like to learn a little bit more about kinship families and grand families. So I hope you enjoy the episode. And yeah, I hope to see you at the q&a event or in the replay for that Q and A event. Enjoy this interview. Hey, Angela, welcome to the OT Schoolhouse podcast. How are you doing today?


Angela Provenzano

I'm great. I'm so happy to hear. Thanks for having me.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, I'm so happy to have you as well, you know, you originally reached out to me and you're telling me about something that is just really quite something that I had never heard of before I had experienced in my practice as a school-based OT. But I had never thought more about that. And that is kinship families. And so we're going to talk about that in just a little bit. But first, I want to give you a moment to share a little bit about yourself, maybe how you found OT or maybe how OT found you and where you are at right now in your OT career.


Angela Provenzano

Sure. So currently, I'm a graduate student at The Ohio State University. So Go Bucks. And I will be graduating in May of 2022, which can't come fast enough for me. So yeah, I chose OT I found out about it in high school from like a random friend’s neighbor and a random conversation which I feel like how it is for most people. And then an undergraduate, I attended Mississippi State University. And I studied educational psychology. So for a while, I was going between psychology and OT actually. But I loved the holistic perspective that OTs can take and the number of different settings we can work in. So yeah, I landed here, and now I'm doing some non-traditional stuff, but have also really enjoyed learning about all parts of occupational therapy.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. You know, I actually want to dive into educational psychology. What was that? Like when you're going through that program? What did you learn? And yeah, like, what were your plans when you're doing that?


Angela Provenzano

It was very cool. I think it's like a very unique major, but we pretty much learn about the psychology of learning. So it very much applies to occupational therapy. We learned cognitive theories, behavioral theories, and also in the schools how kids can best learn. So it was a very different perspective. And I think the learning theories I learned there have really helped me in OT because we are teachers of different skills.


Jayson Davies

Very cool. And so would that have eventually led you to potentially being like a school psychologist?


Angela Provenzano

Yeah, a lot of people go into counseling or school psychology from educational psychology. It's very theory-based. It's not very applicable as like science itself. But many people do end up working in school systems or counseling settings.


Jayson Davies

Awesome. Well, we're lucky to have you and especially have you with that educational background, because I'm sure that is going to like you mentioned all those theories, all that information that you learned is going to carry over into your OT career. So that's awesome. All right. So now let's dive into the kinship families. And to do that tell us about how you landed on the topic of kinship families.


Angela Provenzano

So it kind of has found me For a long time, and I always say this is a long story, but I hope you all enjoy just the perspective that I have coming in here. So my grandparents have actually raised my cousin from about age five to age 15. And that was their grandson. So I've got to see a kinship care dynamic, just growing up in everything that came with that. And I do like to tell this story because I think it's very illustrative. In the last conversation I had with my grandma, she actually was diagnosed with stage four, lung cancer. And I knew this would probably be the last time I would talk to her and think about how it would go. And like one of the last things she said to me, like even struggling to talk was like, make sure Damien's school uniforms are ordered on time. So I think that just shows how intricate the role is to one's identity. Once you step into that, that was like one of the last things she was thinking about talking to me. And at that moment, I'm like, I need to do more with this. Because I can't be home and help my own family. But I want to learn about this on a bigger level and help others. And after this, my cousin went to live with my parents after she had passed away. So that's an aunt and uncle raising a nephew. So it's still very much in my family. And I get those late-night calls sometimes of stress. But yeah, so Well, I was studying educational psychology, I actually joined a grand family’s research lab. And we looked at large national data, and like psychological outcomes for this population. So I learned about it on a theory and research level. But coming into OT school at Ohio State, I really wanted to get the opportunity to work with kinship caregivers. So at that, I applied for the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, which is a one-year small grant to start a community program. And this was right after COVID had hit as well. So I started kinship caregivers Connect, which is an online support group for kinship caregivers. And I've gotten to meet caregivers twice a week now for the last year and a half, which has been so incredible. And just like such a joy of mine. And I've also looked for other opportunities to support kinship families as well. So I'm currently in a research lab with Dr. Ramona Denby, who's actually at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, now she was at Ohio State, kind of looking at the Child Welfare side of things more. And then I'm also completing my capstone project on kinship care. So everything I do is very much in this area. But I'm working with the Ohio statewide Family Engagement Center Ohio State, and developing professional development for educators of all different types around supporting and engaging kinship families within the schools because I feel like the school system can be such a support to these families. So it's a long story, but that is how I learned today.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, we're gonna break that down here. But to get started, you mentioned two terms during that, that I kind of want to let you dissect a little bit. The first was kinship family, what is a kinship family? And yeah, just dive into that.


Angela Provenzano

So a kinship family is when the primary caregiver is a relative, that's not the birth parent of a child. So the most common dynamic we see is our grandparents raising grandchildren, and they make up about 65% of kinship caregivers. But you can also have aunts and uncles raising nieces and nephews, you can have cousins, or even siblings raising family members. And there's also something called fictive kin, which is when a family friend steps in as the primary caregiver. And this could be with or without the birth parents still present. But a lot of these arrangements, the birth parent is not still living with the child. So...


Jayson Davies

and so obviously, when I think most of us when we think of families where the child is not with the birth parent, we typically think of foster families, I think, at least that's my experiences. So this is obviously different from a foster family. What are some of the similarities? And then obviously, the difference? Well, I don't know, are these kids technically in a foster situation? Or is this completely separate?


Angela Provenzano

This is a lot different. There are a few instances actually only about 5% of kinship families are licensed, foster caregivers. So many of these people are not, do not go through the foster system to care for their children. And the reason for this is kinship care is often a way to keep kids out of the foster care system. So if CPS gets like a call, that a child might need to be removed from their home the first people they'll call or the relatives and be like, can you take this kid in or we're gonna have to put them in the foster system. So it's kind of seen as the first line of defense because it is a lot better for a child to go with a relative compared to a stranger and there are better outcomes related to like permanency and stability, as well. But another key difference is kinship. Families are not supported or prepared like foster families are when you typically think of it. So a lot of times foster families will have to go through training to get licensed and kind of have a timeline of when a kid might be placed with them. And they also get monthly payments for being a foster family. But for kinship families, a lot of the time it's just a call On the Dine like I've heard so many stories, they get a call like you have to come and get the kids that night, they get the kids and they come back with whatever they could fit in a suitcase. So it's definitely normally an unplanned situation. And also they receive a lot less funding than foster families, it differs from state to state. But like a foster family, a national statistic might receive $500 a month per child whereas a kinship family might receive $250 a month. And that's not even like doubled per child, it's just increased a little bit. So there's definitely a lack of support. And also like those family ties make it different too because it's likely like your son or daughter who you have to take the kid away from. So there's a lot of like, less strict boundaries with that. So a lot there.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. And the other term that you mentioned, and I think you kind of answered this already, but grand families, I'm assuming that means that when the grandparents take the child,


Angela Provenzano

yeah, so grand families are just when the grandparent is ahead of the child. It also is sometimes used interchangeably with kinship families, since that's like the most common arrangement that people can relate to. But yes,


Jayson Davies

gotcha. And you said only about 5% of these kinship families actually become licensed foster, I don't even know how the system works, but only 5% or so actually go through a foster type of system.



Yes. And that's because they might not have the information about it to start and then it's too late. Because once they're out off of caseload for CPS, you can't go back. And also the licensing process takes a while and it can be an expense. And there might be barriers. I think, with the process going online, it might be more accessible now. But it has been very something very difficult for caregivers to do.


Jayson Davies

Well. And so what does it look like for the parent or for the grandparents or maybe the aunts and uncles that taken that student? Or that child, you said that you know, sometimes they only get to pack up whatever they can fit into the car and go and that's the last of it. But beyond that, what are the next few weeks even potentially look like for that grandparent or that new caregiver?


Angela Provenzano

Yeah, so this time of transition is really hard. And I think the word I might use a lot today is trauma, which is not a fun word. But that's just the reality of how these families start. And also, there is a lot of other feelings with the process. But a lot of times the kids have gone through trauma in some way. And the most common reason a child might get reported is because of neglect. So that's the most common type of maltreatment, we have to remember, a lot of times these parents are struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse. So these are like lifelong struggles. Or maybe the parent has passed away too. So when this kid is picked up by a kinship, caregiver, they're not in like a regulated or good state, because it is a traumatic thing. And even to be taken away from a parent is a traumatic thing as well. And it's also traumatic for the caregiver, because like I said, they might be the one that has to call Children's Services on their son or daughter or the one that has to go pick it up and try to set boundaries with their son or daughter. So it's like a very chaotic time. And on top of caregivers, a lot of them that having the financial means to just be raising a couple of kids all of a sudden, because sometimes it can be like three kids at once. I've heard of caregivers having up to like five or six kids. So it's just a lot there to start. And they're navigating a lot of systems at once trying to figure out how they can be supported, but the systems are not normally catered towards them. So I think that the reason that school can be so helpful is like they're in the child's life from the start. And it is some sense of stability. And hopefully, that's not as much of a transition as other things. But yet, the beginning of it is, I think a shock to everyone involved.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. And you know, you bring up a good point, too, is that I think we might often think that a child goes into kinship or foster care because there is a death of their parent. But that is not always the case. A lot of times, it's more of a different type of situation that you were talking about that is going to bring trauma with it. Are there numbers related to like kind of what the I don't know, not the top reasons? But is there any data behind that?




Angela Provenzano

Yeah, I mean, it's well-cited that the top reasons children go into kinship care are because the parent struggles with mental health, illness, or substance abuse and honestly, kinship care kind of came out of the opioid epidemic in like the 70s and 80s is when it started becoming recognized as a thing. So those are heavily like most cited the common reasons and as I said, the most commonly cited reason for a maltreatment report or anything like that is due to neglect, which has also been linked to poverty as well. So there are a lot of socio-economic factors that I think come into play with the formation of kinship families, too.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. And then so as the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, I mean, is it almost on a whim that they go and just kind of pick up the child and bring them home with them? And then after that, is there a true system to go through like to make this formal, and do they go through it? Or do they just kind of take on the role of a guardian?


Angela Provenzano

Yeah. So I will say definitely differ status stay in a situation to situation. Sometimes, as I said, they'll get a call from Child Protective Services and go through that way. Sometimes it's something they've noticed as time goes on. Like with my grandparents, they've noticed that he was missing school or things weren't looking right. So then they started having him on weekends and then took him full time. So sometimes it is more gradual and planned. But sometimes caregivers don't know at all what's going on with that child until they get that call. And it is even more so overnight. And there are really not many systems in place at all. If you go through Child Protective Services, then, like I said, becoming a foster family, you have a lot more options. But without that, I mean, families can get legal custody themselves privately. But that also is an expensive thing to do to have higher private lawyers get custody. And a lot of people do end up going that way. And then another option is to just never have custody. And it's kind of an informal relationship, which is actually my parents, and my grandparents never had legal custody of my cousin. So there's no like legal thing, binding him to them. But they've been able to like navigate the system and his mom is still, able to sign things over and in his life in that way, as well. So it's very different from family to family. But the sad thing is, there's really no universal system to fall back on. A lot of times, it's just Alright, I'm going to get the kids and then what's next, and then figuring it out day by day for really the next like 15 years or 18 years, depending on how old the kid is.


Jayson Davies

Yeah. Because I mean, I've been in situations where I'm at an IEP, Individualized Educational Program for a student, and the grandparent is there, the uncles there, whoever it might be, and one of the questions that we have to ask is, do you have educational rights in order to sign this IEP? And sometimes we get a yes or no, but other times, we kind of get a gray answer. And we are responsible for trying to figure out who has the educational rights in order to sign this IEP. And so it sounds like there may be some kinship families that never really established that because it's almost kind of almost on the side. It's not even formally recognized. It's just kind of the, you know, this kid is living with the grandparent, and the state doesn't even know that. Because, yeah, so is that common?


Angela Provenzano

That is pretty common. I will say a lot of people do end up getting custody just for those reasons. But some people are afraid to take their son and daughter or daughter to court to get custody or they don't want to put them through that. Or they're afraid that the court might give them back to their parents. So there are just so many things to think about on the legal side of things that aren't even on our radar at all. And it can be like a very stress-inducing process, and very, hard to navigate and make those decisions as well. Because once it's done, it's like permanent. And you don't really reverse it either. So yeah.


Jayson Davies

Wow. All right. So let's talk a little bit about the research and relationship to the caregivers. What are they bringing on? And what has some of the research shown you the difficulties for the caregivers themselves?


Angela Provenzano

Sure. So it's obviously a huge role transition and research sadly shows, but it's unsurprising that kinship caregivers do experience more depressive symptoms, higher anxiety, and more physical health compared to nonkinship caregivers, their age. And I think a lot of it has been tied to lack of social support, lack of financial support, and also tied to the aging process as well. For grandparents, there's a lot of stresses and strains, but pretty much their whole life has to change. And I know we talk about occupational deprivation and OT and I think that's like the perfect word for this. Because a lot of them who have been working, won't be able to work and afford childcare, because childcare is a whole another problem that can be so expensive. So they actually might have to quit their job and live off like state benefits in order to even provide care for these children. Whereas other people might have to take extra shifts and struggle with raising kids while working two jobs that they never planned for or expected to. And then thinking about like now you have to wake up for school and get everyone on the bus and do pickups and drop-offs. And like your whole world changes and not having support and that and feeling alone in it. And not being able to relate to other parents that might be within the school system too is a very hard thing. So running the support group, the most powerful thing has just been to see like not even the resources, just seeing what it means to know that you're not alone in it. And there is a lot of unsaid guilt and shame from society and people who are in these situations, just because people don't really know what's underneath it. So anyway to like bring that to light and just normalize the things that caregivers often go through in their kids is very helpful. So yeah,


Jayson Davies

I mean, their life is changing. It brings a whole new meaning. Then it takes a village to raise a child, right? I mean, whole new, whole new changes, you know, that child is no longer reliant on their parents, they're relying on the grandparent, and I'm sure the grandparents are relying on their circle of community to help them as much as they can. I mean, hopefully, aunts and uncles are also helping and friends as well. Well, you mentioned trauma for the students. Are those the primary findings of the research when it comes to the children, are there other findings, the difficulties that the children have?



Angela Provenzano

Sure, yeah, trauma is definitely a common finding, which just comes out of the circumstances they've been in. But it has shown in relation to school, especially, and just in general, children and kinship care show for behavioral outcomes, which I think can very much be tied to trauma as well, and poor academic performance. But the good thing is, children and kinship families do fair better than children in foster families. So although it's worse than the overall population, like that's why kinship families are so important as well, they definitely do. A lot of them need extra support, especially in a time of transition. And interesting Lee as well, children, kinship care, and more likely to have a diagnosis of autism, ADHD, and a learning disability as well, which I've so much seen in my support group, like when we talk about this topic, I think like 75, at least percent of caregivers have a kid with some sort of diagnosis. So it's definitely not uncommon for children in kinship care to need some extra support in schools and that at home as well.


Jayson Davies

I am wondering why that might be. I mean, we know that autism is not a result of trauma, right? We know that ADHD is not a result of trauma, per se. But obviously, trauma is a big part of these children's life. Do you think that on the flip side, and this is hard to even discuss, but do you think on the flip side, that the parents might have struggled also because the children have this disability and they just didn't know what to do?


Angela Provenzano

Yeah, I think that can definitely be a factor. And I think a lot of these could be hereditary as well, because a lot of the caregivers can struggle with, especially like ADHD, or other things, and even mental illness to with like the parents. But it is pretty surprising. I think dysregulated sensory systems come into play a lot. And I know that ties into trauma, and I know that can manifest in different ways in school, as well. So I think sensory is kind of a key component and just how a kid can process the environment when they're in like fight or flight mode, that might affect their school performance. But I'm not sure of the root cause of it. It is just very, very interesting to see.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, definitely. All right. Yeah, that, you know, thank you for that answer. What the kids, you know, they went through a big change of their life. How does that impact them within the educational system? Do we see any research or even just stories that you have heard from the grandparents about how those children deal with a change within the school?


Angela Provenzano

Sure. I will say like, in general, children and kinship care, there's not a ton of research around it, which was a little sad for me to see like in coming into my capstone and all that, but I definitely have common stories and experiences to share. And a lot of the times like that time of transition is really hard. One grandparent said like she had to go to the school and tell them like, I'm the caregiver now. And like he's living with me, but you didn't want to switch school districts or anything. So it was up to the grandparent to kind of inform the school about the situation, which I think can be pretty common since there's no really systematic way to do that for the school. So starting with that interaction, but for kids, I think sometimes they might have to end up switching schools, depending on where the caregiver lives. So that can be one transition. And like I said, I think the biggest thing that comes up is just raising children who have been through trauma and might have like dysregulated systems in doing struggle with behavior or do struggle with like the emotional side of things, especially if they haven't been in therapy like they probably haven't been in therapy at all leading up to like this transition. So they're pretty much starting from square one. And I think any communication the schools can have with the caregivers can be so helpful because so much of the transition is unknown, but this is something that they can know like how their kids are doing in school and what supports are being used. But a lot of the struggles are just feeling connected to that school community. Because it can be a stigma, like one grandparent said, Whenever she walks in a room, she just doesn't know where she stands. And also like the other parents can make small talk with her at soccer games, but she knows it will never go beyond that just because of maybe how society views grandparents in general and you're in a different situation and other parents. So I think really becoming a part of the commute school community can be really difficult. And also trying to get the support for those kiddos who want to get anything in place as soon as possible. But like the reality is the IEP process is long, the 504 plan process is long, anything like that can take a long time. But a lot of these kids do struggle in school, especially at the initial transition.


Jayson Davies

Wow. Yeah, I know that stigma, that was what I was going to ask you a little bit about because I can only imagine as a parent having to muster up the confidence to walk into a school and tell the secretary like how do you even tell a school that you are now going to be the parent of this student? And without, you know, people might ask why. And I could imagine that just being the most difficult question asked, not just because, you know, when you answer that question, if you choose to, you are not just talking about yourself, and the child that the grandparent is taking in, but you are also then having the conversation about the middle person, the grandparents, child, and the child's mother or father. And who knows, I mean, sometimes the Secretary or the principal at that school may be very familiar, because that child or the middle person, the mother, father may have gone to that school, or I mean, there's just so many factors that I can imagine would make it difficult for the grandparent to explain. Yeah, I'm taking over control of the student's life, or


Angela Provenzano

Yeah, and I think we have to remember, it's like a traumatic thing for the grandparents really, as well. And even any, like, the simplest of questions can just be complex. So I think that's why creating a safe environment. And just getting to know these grandparents, as caregivers can be so helpful, and kind of casting away any judgment, like the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. That's like the worst mindset to have. But I think caregivers can feel that sometimes. And also, on the other side of things. I was talking to my cousin about this recently, and he said, in school kids would always ask, like, why are you being raised by your grandparents? And he was like, I hated that question so much, because like, I don't want to have to answer that every time and relive, like, my past childhood as well. So there's a lot there.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, I mean, as children, we take, not the responsibility, but we take pride in who our parents are. And on the flip side, parents take pride in their children. And so grandparents had to not speak down about their child who was taking care of the grandchild. But that puts everyone in a really tough situation when people ask that question. And so I'm glad you're on here because that's the type of thing that we need to know that we have to be very mindful of, and very careful of when we are in an IEP. And to know that, you know, if we see a grandparent sitting across the table from us, we need to be mindful. And so that's where I want to kind of dive into the next part with you is What can teachers, occupational therapists, administrators do to support these families?


Angela Provenzano

Yeah, I'm so glad to be here to talk about this too, because I think talking about it. And breaking the stigma is like, the first biggest thing, and I think we have to kind of analyze their own implicit bias. And I think it's called implicit because we probably didn't know it was there, especially toward something like grandparent caregivers. So thinking like, When the grandparents are in IEP meeting, do I think of them any differently? Or any less or any less capable of like a parent? Or is there any sort of feelings of judgment? So I think, analyzing our own implicit bias, and then also, just approaching any conversation with empathy and understanding, and I think it's easy to forget that oftentimes, these caregivers are doing the best they can in the best like with the situation they have. And a lot of them are struggling with a lot of different systems like the child welfare system, like I said, trying to get payments to even meet monthly rent the legal system, there are so many systems at play. So just realizing that like, sometimes their life can't revolve only around like their child's education. And that's okay like them housing their child in a safe environment is making such a difference in their lives. So I think leaning into empathy for that and just creating a safe and welcoming environment and getting to know them as like human beings, not just a caregiver, and when they are ready to open up one caregiver said like her first parent-teacher conference, which is also like a problematic terminology. But anyway, was very difficult because she was walking through the hallway. She's like, I was not supposed to do this again. And like, now this is just me saying like, this will be my what I'm doing for the next couple of years. And the first time she met with the teacher, she said, all she could do was cry when she was trying to talk about like, what had happened with the kid and what the teacher should know and all of that and what supports they might need as she could just cry. It was so overwhelming but the teacher gave her her phone number. And she's like, well, when you want to talk about this more, and you're more ready, and like, please give me a call, let me know. Because it can be very difficult in the beginning and kind of like a shock to everyone. So I think just creating that safe and open space, and also like truly listening to the concerns of caregivers can go such a long way because they feel so unheard. And so many other systems like, what are you concerned about? What do you see with the child and taking that seriously, and not approaching behavior as like something that caregiver did wrong or the child did wrong, but like having that trauma-informed mindset, as this family has been through a lot. And like I said, using that family-inclusive terminology. So like, Mom and Dad don’t go very far with all these families and different caregivers. So asking them their name and what they want to go by, because some grandparent caregivers do go by mom or dad, at that time. So I think just trying to be more mindful of addressing people in a more universal and accepting way, like inside the classroom and outside of the classroom. And like I said, just truly listen to their perspective and what they have to say because they do want to be the best advocates for their kids. And that's like, what everyone is there for, for like the best for the kids. So


Jayson Davies

yeah, absolutely. And so from your experiences, then do you find that most of the kinship family guardians really want the school district to kind of understand the current situation, or do some of them prefer to not even really have the school understand the situation because of that stigma a little bit.


Angela Provenzano

From what I've heard, most caregivers say they want them to know what's going on. And they will tell the school what they want them to know, they just don't want to have to relive it every year with every new teacher. So like, that's part of getting to know a family in the school. Like in the beginning, it might be hard to open up especially but as time goes on, like them talking about it more, but I think that's the good thing about being able to have a relationship with teachers in the school, it becomes more natural and less of like, alright, let's sit down and talk about all the terrible things that have happened. And I've seen, checklists being used in the school, where it's, it was actually like, pretty hard to see, it was given to a grandparent caregiver. And it was like, pretty much check, like all of these traumas that have happened to the kid. So we can see, I think it was from an outpatient clinic who had done it, though. And I was like, how terrible is that to look at a paper and have to check off all the things your child has done to their child's like, it's just a very difficult situation. And I think that's why relationship art is so helpful, so it can come out more naturally. But these caregivers do want the schools to know what their kids need, and what has gone on to the extent that they need to, hopefully not having to relive that like with every new teacher in every year.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, absolutely. So you are working directly with these families right now as part of your doctoral Capstone, I want to give you a chance to kind of speak a little more directly about that. And then also share with us what you are learning from that process. I mean, everything that you've already shared with us.


Angela Provenzano

No, I love this question. That truly has like, been the biggest honor of my life. And like I don't say that lightly. I get emotional about it. Just gotten to know these caregivers over the past year and a half. And I think when we go into occupational therapy, not to get like, you know, too philosophical, but we think we're there to help people and solve their problems and make their lives better. And I found the most powerful thing is truly listening, and seeing the dignity in people and what people have to say. And I think I've been the biggest learner of this all, and caregivers supporting each other. That's been like the magic of it. I do provide very helpful resources like I have lawyers come in. I have OTs come in. I have psychologists and counselors come in and talk about trauma, and like all different types of things. And that information is very helpful and very powerful. But the most powerful thing is just seeing what it means to know that you're not alone and taking away the stigma and shame from these families. Because if you think it just happens to you, then you want to keep it private and not talk about it. But once we talk about like, Oh, this is what my relationship is like with my like adult child, and this is what's hard. And this is what is easy. someone's like, oh yeah, I've experienced the same thing too. And this is how I've handled it. So the most immediate, amazing meetings have been when I can just sit back and watch the magic happen. But I think behind the scenes, what I'm really like even using my OT skills, doing is creating that safe and nonjudgmental, nonjudgmental space to share. But also kind of taking an empowerment approach. Like these are all hard things that have happened to us. But what is the good we can see in today and like, look how far we have come ourselves and kind of building that self-efficacy, because that is very important as well? So I think I've just learned like kind of cliche, but like the power of human connection, like how resilient people can be in literally changing their whole life and identity to care for a child and it's like the most amazing thing to witness and also like the joy to like yes, these caregivers go through hard things but like you bet Laughing like half the meetings when it's going on? So, yeah, just a lot there.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, adult child, that was the term I needed, like 10 minutes ago, stumbling over my words. Great. So you kind of explained a little bit about what you are really getting out of this and the significance of this process. But what does it actually look like for you? Are you running groups on Zoom? Or how many people are attending? What does that day look like?


Angela Provenzano

Yeah, so like I said, the name of the group is kinship caregivers connect. And I think we're actually the first online support group throughout the whole state of Ohio. So we have people from all different regions since it is online. And we have two meetings a week. So we meet Tuesday mornings and Thursday nights just to have two different time options. Typically, we have like eight to 12 people, but it has really been growing recently, which has been exciting. And I'm like, maybe I'm gonna have to start a new group soon. But I've had really strong community partners. And I think that has made a difference just I think, like being in OT, and doing kinship with no one else doing kinship, I'm like, I need to like look at other disciplines, other organizations. So I think I just really like making those strong community connections with advocacy organizations, and even bringing awareness to kinship care within the OT program at Ohio State. And making those connections has been really helpful. So I've had so many different speakers come in and provide information, and then I'll record those presentations, upload them to a website, so people can watch them afterward. But yeah, that's the typical structure of the meeting. And it is exciting that it's still growing in, it just shows that it's such a need for caregivers to know they're not doing something like this alone.


Jayson Davies

And so what is your ultimate goal? I guess with this, I mean, you are an OTD student right now, you are just starting your career as an occupational therapist. Do you have kind of like a short-term and then longer-term goal?


Angela Provenzano

Sure. Yeah, it's a question I asked myself a lot. Amaze coming like, but I have been fortunate enough to find a funding source to do the support groups, which has been super awesome. Like, especially as a student, you're kind of used to volunteering your time. So I'm partnered with Ohio can which is a kinship navigators program in Ohio, so shout out to them. And they also refer a lot of caregivers to the support group. So that's how it's really hard to get in touch with caregivers otherwise in the community. So referrals are really helpful. And I have like an email list of like, 150 people right now, I think. So it's definitely been growing. And I plan to hopefully, continue working, doing the support groups, it is like a remote job, which provides a lot of flexibility as well, and hopefully adding a support group or two. And if I could go the nonprofit route, I think that would be a really awesome thing. And maybe even like, thinking many years ahead, like making this a franchise match, I don't like the term franchise, or like opening it in other states as well, if it is working well. And it is like, pretty easy to expand just with the online format, because historically as there has been in-person kinship support groups, but like, it's always known that maybe like one or two people show up like it's really hard. If you think about the barriers of like transportation and childcare and finding time in the middle of the day, where like caregivers here, they're doing something cooking dinner in the background, they can still like hop on and listen. So it is a lot more accessible in some ways. So I hope to keep doing this. I'm really enjoying like I know it is non-traditional OT if I ended up in OT, I think the schools would be a great fit for me. I was in a preschool for fieldwork. And I just love like the aspect of working with different kids and different families and like the school community, that aspect that brings, and I'm also enjoying research, so maybe a Ph.D. like, but I have a lot to figure out short term, definitely keeping the support groups going and keep keeping to do this. Yeah,


Jayson Davies

that's great. So if there is a school-based OT out in the Ohio area out in the Midwest, is this somewhere that they can reach you to potentially learn more about the program, or I guess anywhere, anywhere, anyone anywhere in the country. We're more about you.


Angela Provenzano

So the most information about me, and the support group is kinshipcaregiversconnect.com. So that's pretty straightforward. My capstone project on posting resources on their website, which is Ohio family state, oh, my gosh, I should know this better. Ohio Statewide Family Engagement Center. It is kind of a mouthful at Ohio State and they have a page called Grand Understanding. So that's where I'll be posting some more of my content like the professional developments I'm working on. And then you could also find me on LinkedIn at Angela Provenzano. And if anyone has questions and is interested in learning more, or maybe he wants to come to present something at a support group meeting. I mean, definitely feel free to reach out to me I love just making as many connections with the community, especially the OT community as I can.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, awesome. So well We will be sure to link all of that into the show notes so that anyone can find the website or find you on LinkedIn. Great. Thank you so much for that. And yeah, you know, I'm excited about this because I think this is something that any one of us as a school-based occupational therapists, we will experience. If you haven't experienced it yet, you will experience sitting in an IEP across the table from a grandparent or an aunt or an uncle, someone who is taking care of a child that is not the biological parent. And you're also going to deal with foster families as well. You know, that's different from what we talked about. But there are some similarities, that trauma that comes with with a student, that's likely there as well. So yes, be sure to check out the website, check out the resources that Angela has provided. And I would love to find out that one day someone listened to this podcast that the school-based OT out there near you that came and presented one of the groups that'd be awesome. So thank you so much, Angela, for joining us on the podcast today really appreciate you being here taking the time out of your day to present this and I want to wish you the best of luck in your program and career as an occupational therapist.


Angela Provenzano

Thank you so much. This was so great. It was such an honor, thank you.


Jayson Davies

Definitely. Well, take care, have a great rest of your day. And we'll have to stay up to date, okay?


Angela Provenzano

Yeah, sounds good.


Jayson Davies

Bye


Angela Provenzano

Bye.


Jayson Davies

Alright, one more time, I want to say a special thank you to Angela for coming on and sharing all about kinship and grand families, it really is a pleasure to have her on. And it's even better to know that she is starting this. So early in her OT career as an OT student, she is going to make significant contributions to the field of OT as well as not just for kinship, but OT in general, but significant contributions for the lives of those who care for students as a grandparent, or an otherwise you know, as an aunt or uncle. So, one more time. Thank you so much, Angela, for coming to the show. I really appreciate having you here today. And if you're listening, thank you so much for listening, especially all the way to the end of the podcast. I really hope that you learned a lot. And don't forget about our live Q & A session that you'll be able to partake in about a week after this podcast goes live, or be sure to check out the replay. To hear what others had to ask and what Angela had to say in response to those questions. Be sure to check all that out at the show notes take care. Have a great rest of your day. And I'll see you next time. Bye.


Amazing Narrator

Thank you for listening to the OT Schoolhouse podcast. For more ways to help you and your students succeed right now. Head on over to otschoolhouse.com Until next time, class is dismissed.




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Have any questions or comments about the podcast? Email Jayson at Jayson@otschoolhouse.com

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