Kinship Care Resource Guide


When Relatives Care for Children:
Essential Resources for Those Delivering Kinship Care

A Resource Guide Compiled by:
Emily Newman
Resource Coordinator
Central Coast Children’s Foundation, Inc.
1 Surf Way, #237
Monterey, CA 93940


When relatives have to step in to care for children whose parents are no longer in a position to do so, the immediate circumstances are often confusing, chaotic and ambiguous.  A grandmother who suddenly finds herself parenting one or more grandchildren is not likely to be totally prepared, for example, to locate, and make use of, the resources that might be available to help.  Where do you turn?

As it happens, the information and resources available to relative caregivers are growing rapidly, alongside the growing number of people who are called upon to parent the children of relatives no longer able to provide that care.  But these resources are not always easy to find.  That is why we at the Central Coast Children’s Foundation have compiled this handy guide to the sources of information, assistance and guidance that are readily available to relative caregivers and those who are trying to help them.

We have tried to organize this resource guide to facilitate ease of use. Each section focuses on a different topic: Mentoring and Support for Family Caregivers, Healthcare Essentials, Troubleshooting Educational Issues and dealing with the Legal Concerns.  Within each section, we have tried to describe clearly what each resource might be able to offer and how to most easily access it.  We have also included, at the end, a list of especially valuable web resources that can ease the task of finding quickly those resources that are only a mouse click away.

Mentoring and Support for Family Caregivers

Support groups combat caregiver isolation, burnout, and help identify resources. They offer emotional support to grandparents and kinship caregivers facing common problems. Support groups provide an opportunity to meet others in the same situation to share experiences, knowledge, strengths, and hopes.  It is difficult to be a good parent, at any age.

One of the best things that adults can do to improve their parenting abilities is to take good care of themselves.  Actions as small as setting aside an hour a week to attend a support group meeting and gain emotional support can yield huge results.  While there are many joys and challenges that caregivers face, being part of a support group helps them know they have assistance in meeting their daily challenges.  Caregivers can be strengthened through sharing information and resources, and knowing others have walked in their shoes – and survived and grew.

The lack of community awareness of problems faced by these grandparents and kinship caregivers further adds to the already stressful situations they face.  By cultivating a strong support network, grandparents and caregivers will be better equipped, both from a psychological and an informational perspective, to assist their children in maturing well.

PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education) Training

Alameda County Social Services Agency utilizes the PRIDE curriculum to train new foster care parents and to provide continued education of existing relative caregivers.  PRIDE contains five essential categories prospective and current family caregivers should be continually assessed for:

•    protecting and nurturing children and youth
•    meeting children and youth’s developmental needs and addressing developmental delays
•    supporting relationships between children, youth and their families
•    connecting children and youth to safe, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime, and,
•    working as a member of a professional team.

This training includes nine 3-hour sessions on topics relevant to successfully parenting children and youth who are in out-of-home placement.

For more information, contact Faith M. Battles, MSW Child Welfare Supervisor responsible for the recruitment, development and support of Resource Parents and Adoptive Parents in Alameda County at 510-780-8942 or contact the Alameda County Social Services hotline at 510-259-3575.

You can also visit their website at the following address:

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Grandparents United for Children’s Rights, Inc.

This organization was formed to provide assistance and support to grandparent caregivers.  Among its services offered are a 24-hour support service and hotline for advice and information, a national directory of grandparent support groups, health and service care providers and a nationwide attorney referral network of lawyers.

For more information, contact Executive Director, Ethel Dunn, at 608-238-8751 or 608-236-0480.  You can also visit the GUC website at:

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Relatives as Parents Program, Washington State University

This website provides information on beginning your own support group for relative caregivers or information on how to find an existing support group within Washington State.

Three types of support groups exist:

•    Discussion – provides emotional support and a time to talk about the good and not so good times
•    Educational – guest speakers provide an opportunity to discuss issues
•    Advocacy – works to find solutions to problems and challenges facing relative headed families.

Some groups meet monthly, weekly or every other week and the majority have no fee associated.

To learn more go to or contact a Parenting Coalition member at 360-676-6736.

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GRAND: The Official Magazine of Grandparents

Generations United puts out this free publication for grandparents.  You can subscribe for free at the following web link or by calling 1-866-327-9039.

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Generations United Fact Sheet – Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children: Caregiver Support Groups

This document, found on the following page, provides information on networks of caregiver support groups for grandparents and other relatives raising children throughout the United States.  It also provides resources for starting your own support group.

Healthcare Essentials

All children deserve a healthy start in life to help secure their happiness, wellbeing, and successful passage into adulthood. To make this goal an everyday reality, children need affordable, high quality health insurance to cover the rising costs of medical care. Tragically, too many children go without the health coverage they so desperately need.

Free and low-cost health insurance is generally available to eligible children through two major federal programs: Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).   Despite these programs, less than half children in kinship care arrangements received the health insurance coverage for which they were entitled under Medicaid.  Many state agencies and children’s health advocacy organizations are simply unaware of the significant and growing number of children raised by kin and the unique barriers these families face. This lack of awareness is compounded by the fact that many kinship care families tend to go unnoticed by program administrators and policy makers.

Since the primary source of private health insurance coverage for children is through their parent’s employers, children living without parents present in the household are more likely to be without private health insurance than those living with their parents. Even when working grandparents and other relative caregivers receive private health coverage through their employment, often they are unable to cover the children they are raising under their plan or to purchase additional family coverage without adopting the children.

The following section provides important resources to securing access to affordable healthcare for children living with caregivers.  Additional resources on physical and mental health issues, early childhood development and substance abuse are also included.

Children’s Defense Fund

The Children’s Defense Fund created a publication on accessing health services through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid.  The following page details the procedures covered by Medicaid for children aged 21 and under.

Additional information can be located on at:

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Healthy Foster Care America – American Academy of Pediatrics

Most children entering the foster care system have experienced serious family dysfunction prior to placement, including exposure to domestic violence and to their parents’ mental health disorders, addiction, or criminal activity. Serious neglect and abuse are the most frequently stated reasons for removing children from their parents’ care. Children entering foster homes and relative care have extremely high rates of physical and mental health problems, developmental delays, and educational underachievement.  The American Academy of Pediatrics provides assistance and information on how to cope with these issues.

To learn more, please call 1-800-433-9016 Ext. 4273 or view AAP’s website at:

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Services to Enhance Early Development (SEED) Program

Located in Alameda County, CA, this program offers comprehensive mental health and development assessments to children from 0-5 years as they enter the foster care system.  Caregivers and their children are served by a multidisciplinary team which includes mental health professionals, public health nurses, and child welfare workers.

For more information, please call 510-259-3575 or visit their website at:

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Training, Intervention, Education and Services (TIES) for Adoption

TIES for Adoption is an interdisciplinary, university-based program established in 1995 to promote the successful adoption, growth, and development of children with special needs, especially those with prenatal substance exposure who are in foster care. The program is located on the UCLA campus and works in close collaboration with the public child welfare and mental health systems. The program employs an innovative model of intervention to reduce barriers to the adoption of these children and support their successful transition into permanent homes with stable, nurturing families.

TIES for Adoption provides training at the local, state, and national level on the adoption of children with special needs and on the lessons learned from this innovative model of intervention. Training is offered to prospective and current adoptive parents, child social workers in public welfare, and professionals in the legal and mental health systems.

To learn more, please go to the TIES for Adoption website at or call 310-794-2583.

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Children of Alcoholics Foundation (COAF) Ties That Bind Project

It is estimated that parental addiction is the cause of roughly 80 percent of family caregiver arrangements.  COAF provides tips for relatives who have taken over the care of a child when parents’ drug or alcohol use has left them unable to care for their children.

Please contact Kim Sumner-Mayer, Ph.D. at 646-505-2063 for more information.  You can also view COAF’s website at the following address:

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Education Information

Education is fundamental for any child.  It is important for caregivers to utilize available resources to ensure the best education for their children.  This section provides resources for early education as well as independent living skills training for children leaving the foster care system at age 18.

“The giving in love is an education in of itself”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

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The Foster and Kinship Care Education Program

The Foster and Kinship Care Education Program provides quality education and support activities to the caregivers of children and youth in out-of-home care so that these providers may meet the educational, emotional, behavioral and developmental needs of children and youth.

FKCE provides free classes, workshops, and conferences in Shasta, Tehama and Trinity counties in Northern California.

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Los Angeles Mission College – Foster/Kinship Care Education

Foster/Kinship Care Education is a statewide program funded by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. This program provides a variety of training programs for foster parents through California Community Colleges. Foster parents are required by the state to have pre-service training before children are placed in their homes and renewal training each year thereafter. In order to help foster parents through this process, we offer more than 400 hours of training each year in both English and Spanish.

The Foster and Kinship Care Education Program provides quality education and support opportunities for care givers of children and youth in out-of-home care so that these providers may meet the educational, emotional, behavioral and developmental needs of children and youth.

For more information, please contact Rosalie Hilger, Program Director at 818-364-7736 or visit their website at:

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Independent Living Skills Program (ILSP), Alameda County

This program’s mission is to provide every eligible youth in foster care with independent living skills training to assist in the transition to a successful, independent lifestyle.  ILSP focuses on education, employment and life skills training.

For more information, call 510-434-3333 or visit their website at:

Legal Issues

Navigating through the legal procedures to obtain guardianship and/or visitation rights can be extremely difficult for kinship caregivers and oftentimes the costs of hiring legal assistance can be an enormous economic burden.  The resources on the following pages are meant to guide caregivers in navigating resources to find the assistance that they need.

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The National Committee of Grandparents for Children’s Rights

The National Committee of Grandparents for Children’s Rights was established to form a coalition of concerned grandparents, citizens and agencies united to create one powerful voice and to network with groups throughout the nation that share our goals. Its mission is to advocate and lobby for substantial and urgent legislative changes that protect the rights of grandparents to secure their grandchildren’s health, happiness and well-being. They are committed to monitoring agencies that affect our grandchildren at the city, county, state and federal levels and to protect the rights of grandparents and the needs of grandchildren who are at risk.

For more information, please call 866-624-9900 or view the NCGCR website at the following link:

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NYC Caregiver

In 2000 Congress enacted the first amendment to the Older Americans Act in 25 years—the Title III-E National Family Caregiver Support Program. Recognizing the growing numbers of older adults who require assistance in performing their activities of daily living, this new program acknowledges the vital role played by their caregivers and seeks to address the wide range of caregiver needs.

For the first time, the Older Americans Act is targeting beneficiaries who may actually be under the age of 60. Qualified individuals are providing care for a family member, friend, or neighbor who is 60 and older. In addition, grandparents and other older relatives over the age of 60 who provide care for a grandchild who is 18 or younger also qualify for the new program. Available caregiver services include information and assistance, counseling, support groups, training, respite, and supplemental services.

NYC Caregiver connects New York City caregivers with the resource centers that provide the services covered by the National Family Caregiver Support Program.

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California Department of Social Services

Eleven counties in California received grants for the continuation of existing Kinship Support Services Programs (KSSP). The KSSP programs provide community-based family support services to relative caregivers and the dependent children placed in their homes by the juvenile court and to those who are at risk of dependency or delinquency. The KSSP also provides post permanency services to relative caregivers who have become the legal guardian or adoptive parent of formerly dependent children.

The California Department of Social Services also has compiled a listing of kinship support services staff listed by county, which can be found on the following page of this compendium.

For more information, contact the Kinship Care Policy and Support Unit at 916-657-1858 or view their website at:

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KIN: KINship Information Network

The KINship Information Network provides a forum for relative caregivers to share information and swap stories.  Among these stories is a brief letter with suggestions and tips of how to easily document and maintain notes for legal procedures.  This short article is on the next page.

Additional posting on other relevant legal topics can be found at:


The first advise I was given was to DOCUMENT!! There are many approaches to how you actually do your documentation. Some say it can be type written by dates, some say email it to yourself every day with date and time stamp, some say only handwritten ones will be accepted that are part of a bound book with no pages missing. This depends on your state law and your lawyer can help you with this. Some will say your journal cannot be given to your judge. Some lawyer can get your journal in or at very least you can refer to it when in court testifying. Either way the journal is a vital part of keeping the child safe.

Ok, you documented and you are faced with court. Now what do you do? Realistically, a judge probably won’t read your whole documentation folder. Actually your lawyer probably won’t either. So you have to spoon feed them bits and pieces of information that are of value to your case. Why are you going to court? Guardianship hearing, visitation hearing, contempt of court, termination of guardianship, termination of bio’s rights. Depending on which is the case if you use this simple method you will be very organized with your facts and answers.

I used what I called “one sheets” to back up what was in the journal. I listed visitations, missed opportunity visitations, child support payments, and a point by point history of each bio (depending on which one I was going to court for). These were detailed by dates, times and information and backed up by documentation.

Another sound piece of advise as our GAL told us, you don’t have to answer your phone. Let your answering machine pick it up. You will be surprised what the messages your bios leave on the machine and it is perfectly legal since they know they are being recorded. My voice mail time and date stamped the messages if I left them on there for a week. I always transcribed the information into my journal. I used the speakerphone to record them on to cassette tape.

I did a calendar from court hearing to court hearing. I listed every contact either by person or phone. This covered both bios as well as the other paternal grandmother. I listed GAL conferences and counseling appointments. I color-coded for easy reference. Anything bad that happened ie. Missed visitations, arguments, or weeks of no contacts I always-used RED CAP LETTERS. If something really significant happened on a specific date, I gave the page number to correspond to the journal.

I kept everything that pertained to my grand from her bios. Every written correspondence, note, email, card or letter was included in my documentation. I kept letters from preschool, Sunday school teacher, and dance teacher. Sample preschool work. I kept all her medical information in my documentation folder. Anything we did on the behalf of our grandchild i.e. Getting her birth certificate straightened out.

Another thing we did was write a letter to the judge (but it didn’t address the judge) for the reasoning behind what we were going to court for. For visitation hearing, it was a point-by-point reason why visitation shouldn’t be increased. Reasoning, bio wasn’t taking the opportunity for given visits, asked bio to watch child and refused and gave reason, etc. This was based on factual information not our feelings. For our contempt of court hearing, we presented why we were not in contempt of court. This is normally a one to two page letter listing your reasoning in a factual point by point format.

A photo collage of your grand doing happy things with and without you. The judge needs to see whose life he/she is deciding.

I used a 6-sided classification folder that you can get at any office supply store. It has the prongs at the top for 2-hole punch.

How I organized the folder:

1st side-Court notice and on top the letter.

2nd side-Letters from teachers and on top the photo collage

3rd side, Child support history and copies of the check stubs. Also notice from preschool the amounts that we paid. A detail summary of what we spent on the child. Dance lessons, gymnastics receipts etc.

4th side- Medical information. Records of office visits, rx’s, and any money we paid for medical care.

5th side- Information from the bios. Cards, letters, picture of gifts with child. On top a list of visitations and canceled visitations with just the facts referring page numbers in journal.

6th side-the detailed journal with page numbers for reference. On top of that the calendar.

Everything was labeled with little labels for easy reference to the pages including the months in the journal. Make copies, one for everyone involved.

Sounds like a lot of work. YES it is but by doing this and keeping it up monthly you can help your case so much. I honestly believe my documentation was the single most important thing that helped my case. By giving your lawyer the bits and pieces back up by all the documentation you are saving him time as well as yourself money. You basically are doing his work for him. You are giving the judge compelling reasons why court should go for you. It is very hard for the bios to come to court and say, they hadn’t seen their child because the grandparents wouldn’t let them. They might say, oh I wanted to see my child on mother’s day and called beforehand and they wouldn’t answer their phone. Judge might ask what day and bio won’t know. Your journal will show the phone calls by date and time giving you more creditability than your bio.

Some of us have used 2 journals, one for our feelings and one for court. This is a wonderful idea. It gets some of the anger out. Just use common sense judgment and your documentation will be your ally.

Disclaimer: This page is for information only and is not to be considered legal advice. Every state and case is different. Be sure to consult a legal professional.

Case in Point: Family Ties

Family Ties, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was established in 2002 as a program of the Kinship Center and the Monterey County Department of Social Services.  Located in Salinas and Monterey, Family Ties serves family caregivers throughout the Monterey County.  The mission of Family Ties is to increase the chances for children’s success by building the capacity of kin caregivers to meet the health, financial, social, emotional and child rearing challenges.  Family Ties provides resources and referrals, legal assistance, emergency food, clothing and medical assistance, respite care, support groups and children’s mental health services.

Relative caregiving keeps children with their biological families and is also a cost-effective alternative to the foster care system.  For the approximately 95,000 caregivers in California living at or below the poverty level, it is often a struggle to keep their families together.  Through their offices in Salinas and downtown Monterey, Family Ties work hand-in-hand with caregivers to strengthen their capacity to care for children who would otherwise become part of the public system.

Family Ties is leading the way in helping fill the gaps for these family caregivers – the lack of public assistance, the need for resource and referral services, parenting education, assistance in obtaining guardianship or adoption, mental health and tutoring services for children and respite care for the caregivers.  They provide these services to an average of 250 families and 400 children each month.  Since 2002, when Family Ties began, less than 1% of children have had to be removed from the relative home and placed in foster care.

As one of the first of its kind, Family Ties has been called upon to replicate its success throughout other counties within California.  Plans are underway for a new office in South Monterey County and in San Luis Obispo.  Family caregivers in these areas will greatly benefit from increased access to resources and a committed support network.

Web Resources

    Seeking out resources on the Internet can be a daunting task.  There are so many resources available online it is often difficult to know where to begin.  The Central Coast Children’s Foundation has attempted to locate those that are most beneficial as a starting point for caregivers seeking additional information.  In additional to providing the website link, we have also indicated what resources you will be able to find on each particular page in the hopes that you will better be able to find the information and assistance you need.

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AARP Grandparent Information Center

This website provides an extensive range of services including a listing of local support groups, newsletters, and useful publications.

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The Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP)

The Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP) was initiated in 1996.  It is designed to encourage and promote the creation or expansion of services for grandparents and other relatives who have taken on the responsibility of surrogate parenting due to the absence of the parents.  The program awards seed grants of $10,000 over a two-year period in two categories: local agencies and state public agencies.

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Child Welfare League of America – Kinship Care Program

CWLA is an association of nearly 800 public and private nonprofit agencies that assist more than 3.5 million abused and neglected children and their families each year with a range of services.  CWLA is committed to engaging people throughout the country in promoting the well-being of children, youth and their families.

CWLA provides the following services to family caregivers:

•    Consultation, training, and technical assistance

•    Organize the National Kinship Care Conference

•    Convene National Kinship Care Advisory Committee

•    Create Kinship Care Standards

•    Conduct Research Projects

•    Publications

•    Grant Initiatives

•    Legislative Agenda

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Generations United

This organization offers information and advocacy relating to grandparent caregivers plus a very good biennial conference.  Generations United (GU) is a national membership organization focused solely on improving the lives of children, youth, and older people through intergenerational strategies, programs, and public policies.  GU represents more than 100 national, state, and local organizations and individuals representing more than 70 million Americans.  Since 1986 GU has served as a resource for educating policymakers and the public about the economic, social, and personal imperatives of intergenerational cooperation. GU acts as a catalyst for stimulating collaboration between aging, children, and youth organizations, providing a forum to explore areas of common ground while celebrating the richness of each generation.

A Generations United Brochure can be found on the following page of this compendium.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

This website provides and interactive map which enables you to click on your State of residence to view local caregiver resources.

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Washington State Department of Social & Health Services: Kinship Care in Washington State

This website can direct you information within Washington State on the following information:


Health Care

Mental Health

Drug and Alcohol

Child Care

Food    Child Support

Children with Disabilities

Foster Care

Kinship Navigators

Support Groups

Legislative Documents

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State Fact Sheets For Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children

In a unique national partnership, the AARP Foundation, the Children’s Defense Fund, Casey Family Programs’ National Center for Resource Family Support, The Brookdale Foundation, the Child Welfare League of America, and Generations United have compiled and released state fact sheets that include:

Census data on the number of grandparent caregivers and the children they are raising

A comprehensive list of local programs, resources and services

State foster care policies for kinship (grandparent and other relative) caregivers

Information about key public benefit programs

Important state laws

National organizations that may be of help

The following pages display the California State Fact Sheet, and the full listing of each state can be found at:


There are many helpful books on kinship care – for both caregivers themselves and those who work with caregivers.  This section highlights several crucial books that every caregiver should read.

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Cox, Carole B.  Empowering Grandparents Raising Children: A Training Manual for Group Leaders.  New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2002.

This manual is a 14-session workshop designed to help grandparents who are raising their grandchildren alone. Group leaders can revise and expand upon themes in the manual to fit the needs of their particular work groups. Topics include: useful tips for grandparents on how to communicate effectively with grandchildren on issues ranging from drugs to sex and sexually transmitted diseases; helping grandchildren to learn how to deal with loss and abandonment; helping them develop and maintain self-esteem; dealing with special behavioral problems; and appropriate ways of instilling and maintaining rules in the home.

This book can be purchased on at the following web address:

De Toledo, Sylvie and Deborah Edler Brown.  Grandparents as Parents: A Survival Guide for Raising a Second Family.  New York: Guilford Press, 1995.

The first several chapters in this book deal with predictable and unexpected issues grandparents may face in their relationship with the child: effects on the grandparent’s life, effects on other family members, getting help for a troubled child, and dealing with the child’s natural parent(s). The book is humanized by relevant case examples of real family caregiver’s situations.  Additional chapters provide vital legal information as well as descriptions of support groups, and appendixes list various sources of support.

This book can be purchased on, at the following web address:

Doucette-Dudman, Deborah.  Raising Our Children’s Children.  Minneapolis, MN: Fairview Press, 1996.

This book explores the challenges, hardships and rewards faced by grandparents parenting their grandchildren.  The social, legal and emotional issues discussed are interwoven with stories from families who have been there.

This book can be purchased at at the following web address:

Houtman, Sally.  To Grandma’s House, We…Stay: When You Have to Stop Spoiling Your Grandchildren and Start Raising Them.  Studio 4 Productions Company, 1999.

The author of this book, Sally Houtman, was raised by her grandparents and is now an experience counselor.  Drawing on personal experience and professional expertise, Houtman covers grandparents raising grandchildren in depth.  Some of the topics that are covered are: problems related to inheriting a troubled grandchild, parenting two generations and developing new parenting skills.

This book can be purchased at at the following web address:

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