Patricia Perez, the mother of a young daughter, recently became the primary caregiver of her two young nephews, ages one and four, when her sister unexpectedly passed away in October 2020.
Since the 4-year-old was already in preschool at Encompass, the family was quickly offered additional assistance and resources, including support from the Kinship Care program. Patricia sat down with Encompass Family Services Manager Sam Sinanan to share her experience because she wants others to understand that while it is often challenging and sad circumstances that lead to relatives becoming primary caregivers for children in their extended family, it also comes with blessings.
How has your life changed or been different than you imagined since you started caring full time for your nephews?
“I had no plan, as this was all unexpected. I just knew in my heart, within hours of hearing about her, I needed to care for them. They needed a motherly figure; they were very close with their mom. Having 3 kids under our tiny roof has been challenging and sweet. More laundry, more meal preparation, more messes, and I work, so in order to have the balance between home and work, I have had to work less. I’m fortunate that my father cares for them when I’m at work. They need strong attachments now more than ever.”
How has being involved with the Encompass Kinship program been helpful to you and your family? Can you give an example?
“I’ve gotten tremendous help with my legal fees to obtain guardianship of my nephews. I’ve been introduced to some sweet community members and help with getting things such as clothes and food for the boys. It’s been more than I would have even thought to ask for. I didn’t even know what I was in need of, as I’ve been processing this loss on top of taking my nephews in.”
What do you want people to know about being a Kinship caregiver?
“It’s not easy, especially when you’re grieving. It may appear that I have it all together, but in the beginning, and now, there are so many tears, missing mom/sister/aunt. So it’s so much more than just raising two more children. It’s compounded by a devastating loss, in my case particularly, plus a complex court case for guardianship. Without community outreach such as this program, my situation would be so much more difficult. It’s also special being a caregiver. Of course, it comes with challenges, as life does, but it also comes with blessings.”