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UMaine Center on Aging

The mission of the Center On Aging is to promote and facilitate activities on aging
in the areas of education, research and evaluation, and community service.


Maine Rural Relatives as Parents Outreach Project

Maine Rural Relatives as Parents Outreach Project (RAPP)

Funded by The Brookdale Foundation (2008-2010)

UMaine Center on Aging (UMCoA) and School of Social Work
University of Main

This state-wide planning and service project focuses on the special significance of kinship caregiving for Maine's rural families and provides support to grandparents and other kinship caregivers, youth living within such families, and facilitators of support groups for grandfamilies. The support is provided through the use of innovative online technology to create a series of e-seminars and e-conversations for our target audiences throughout the state and the nation. For this project, the Center has partnerships with the University of Maine School of Social Work; Families and Children Together (FACT); Don Lynch, Director of FACT's Maine Kids-Kin program; The Health Access Network; and service providers throughout the State. The Maine Rural Relatives as Parents Outreach Project is funded through a grant from the Brookdale Foundation.

RAPP Webpage Guide

(click to go to section)

Events Offered

Project News

Past Events

Project Contacts


Click here to download the relatives as parents white paper

Click here to join the RAPP project listserv

Read the text of "An Act to Provide Guidelines, Standards, and Rights for Children and Guardians Who Care for Them"


Events Offered

E-Conversations (Online Educational Support Groups) for Kinship Caregivers

Despite the relatively high number of grandfamilies- more than one out of every twelve kids across the country lives in a household headed by a relative other than their parent- many kinship caregivers do not know others who are in similar situations. This can lead to feelings of isolation, which can be magnified for families who are already living in sparsely-populated rural areas. Even when some support services are available, rural caregivers often face prohibitive barriers to participation such as a lack of child care, extended travel time, and high transportation costs.

The e-conversation series provides kinship caregivers with the opportunity for engaging in general discussion between caregivers and trained facilitators during the sessions. Caregivers will have the option to continue to communicate with each other at the end of each session. Professional facilitators also provide education on specific topics. Recent topics have included: accessing resources, mental health and substance abuse issues, self-care for caregivers, and managing holiday stress. Look for more information about the e-conversations under Past Events.


E-Chat (Facebook Site) for Teens Living with Relatives

This aspect of the Rural RAPP Outreach Project is designed to address the needs of teens living in grandfamilies. Teens living in grandfamilies often do not have the opportunity to discuss their concerns and challenges with other peers living in similar situations. Just as caregivers benefit from the support of others, so do teens. Providing the opportunity for teens to make connections, ask questions, and hear from peers and professionals will help both the teens and their entire family.

The Facebook site for teens will be available starting in summer 2009. There is no cost to join the group. All teens (ages 12-19) who are living with a grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling, other relative, or a family friend are welcome to participate. For more information, contact Jennifer at


E-Seminars (Online Educational Training) for Support Group Facilitators

These sessions provide support to the facilitators of support groups for grandfamilies. Especially in rural states, group facilitators often offer the only relative caregiver support group in their area. Therefore, they may not have the benefit of consulting with other professionals when dealing with difficult issues raised by grandfamilies.

E-seminars offer topics based upon concerns of group facilitators and issues raised by caregivers, such as: Increasing community involvement, maintaining a well-functioning group, helping caregivers address challenging family relationships, and understanding children’s developmental issues and specific mental health diagnoses. Resources related to these sessions will be available to registered participants prior to the program.

Project News

Statewide Outreach Grant Recieved in 2008

This next generation RAPP project expanded services to grandfamilies living in rural areas throughout the state of Maine and beyond. This initiative incorporates the use of internet technology to reach families who may not be able to access traditional services or are in need of additional support. In addition, this initiative will provide for the expansion of the Statewide RAPP Network and Task Force. Each of these aspects of the new project is discussed below.

RAPP Tipsheets on Applying for MaineCare (Medicaid) and TANF Benefits Now Available

The Maine Rural Relatives as Parents Project has created two tipsheets for caregivers to help families navigate the application processes for MaineCare and TANF. Many children living with relatives are eligible for these benefits.

Click here for the MaineCare Tipsheet (PDF)

Click here for the TANF Tipsheet (PDF)

Toolkit Developed: Basic Internet Use Training for Grandfamily Caregivers

Recognizing the importance of the use of computers and the internet in today’s society, the Maine Rural RAPP Outreach Project is implementing basic internet use training for grandfamily caregivers throughout Maine. This training will provide the skills necessary to participate in the online educational support groups for grandfamily caregivers. It will also provide caregivers with the confidence and ability to continue to use the internet on their own to request and access information, communicate with others, and assist their children with school assignments.

This training will be available to all relative caregivers, with a particular focus on caregivers who may be interested in participating in an online educational support group.

Online Support, Education, and Discussion

The comprehensive range of programming targets a broad range of stakeholders and includes:

1. Online educational support groups for grandfamily caregivers

2. Basic internet use training for grandfamily caregivers

3. Online educational training for support group facilitators

4. Online chat and discussion groups for teens living in grandfamilies.

In collaboration with RAPP Network members, The University of Maine Center on Aging will oversee the organization of the online groups. Professionals from Maine Kids-Kin, Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine, Community Health and Counseling Services, Casey Family Services, and other regional and national organizations with will facilitate the sessions.

Support Groups in Maine

Six support groups for relative caregivers have been organized as a result of this project. Each support group targets areas of the state which are currently under- served and confront particular challenges associated with family substance abuse and mental health issues. The groups organized as a result of this initiative are located in Portland, Augusta, Westbrook, Bangor, Dover, and Lincoln. Contact Maine Kids-Kin for more information about joining a support group at 866-298-0896, or go to for a current listing of support groups throughout Maine.


Expansion of the Statewide RAPP Network and Task Force

The RAPP Statewide Network and Task Force was established in 2002 through a grant received from Generations United. UMCoA facilitates meetings of this diverse group of statewide professionals. Agencies involved provide information in addition to legal, health and mental health services, and support to both caregivers and children. This group serves as the advisory committee for the Maine Rural RAPP Outreach Project.

Statewide Network : The statewide network has been organized bringing together individuals, agencies and organizations who have extensive experience in providing services to relative caregivers throughout the state with other interested constituencies who are only recently becoming involved with issues of drug and alcohol abuse and mental health disorders for families with older relatives as parents. The statewide network has four primary ongoing goals:

  • Information sharing with a focus on mental health disorders and substance abuse issues and the related issues of poverty, abuse, and family dysfunction

  • Collaboration across geriatric, youth, health, mental health, and substance abuse agencies

  • Stimulation of expanded mental health and substance abuse services for custodial grandparents and their families

  • Provide educational events focusing on state and federal policies, special concerns, and innovative interventions related to parenting relatives

The initial statewide network meeting of the Maine Parenting Relatives Mental Health and Substance Abuse Project took place on September 25, 2002 . Network meetings have since been held on a regular basis.Network members include a variety of agencies, including the various Area Agencies on Aging, Families and Children Together, the University of Maine Center on Aging, Health Access Network, Community Health and Counseling Services, Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine, Casey Family Services, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Wellspring, Senior Spectrum, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Statewide Task Force : A Statewide Relatives as Parents Mental Health and Substance Abuse Task force has also been established as part of this project. The task force has four primary goals:

  • To gather existing information about current resources for relative parents and their unmet needs with special emphasis on mental health and substance abuse issues

  • To carry out research on unmet needs and resources for these persons

  • To prepare a White Paper which summarized current policy and program gaps in service to relatives as parents in the state of Maine and recommendations for responding to those inadequacies

  • To develop and coordinate educational opportunities for the RAPP provider and parent network and community.

If you would like more information about current research or programs, or want to join the network or Task Force, please contact Jennifer Crittenden at the UMaine Center on Aging at 262-7923 or e-mail

A listserv has been established to foster inter-agency communication about topics and issues related to the Project. To join the listserv please send

send an email to with the following text in the message body: Subscribe RAPP

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Article Series for Parenting Relatives and Providers

Kinship care has been a long-standing tradition that transcends cultures and time. Today it takes on a new meaning as families face increasing pressures from substance abuse, domestic violence, divorce, unemployment, poverty, and health issues.  Some families are able to address the safety and well being of their children through their own resources and these children may never come to the attention of the child welfare system.  This is commonly referred to in the professional community as “Informal Kinship Care.” 

Other children may be identified by the child welfare system and enter foster care. Often there is an assumption that there are no family resources to call upon.  There is a powerful movement spreading across the USA to challenge these assumptions and develop better ways to help families utilize their resources to protect their children and keep the children placed within their families.  This is commonly referred to as “Formal Kinship Care.”  As the foster care system becomes more taxed, kinship care is becoming an increasingly important resource for our children.  These families present with unique challenges and needs that can be easily overlooked.  It is critical that as service providers we review these challenges and needs so we are better prepared to support this growing population.

The RAPP Task Force authored a series of 5 articles designed to help the reader understand the experience of kinship care. The series explores kinship care through the eyes of both the provider (articles #1 & #2)and the parenting relative (article #3). Articles #4 and #5 provide helpful websites and a bibliography for additional reading. Please visit our Publications and Reports page.

Past Events  

E-Conversations (Online Educational Support Groups) for Kinship Caregivers

Managing Holiday Stress

December 5, 2008

Ever had trouble managing all of your responsibilities and the holidays? Sometimes felt like there was no time to catch your breath? This e-conversation helped participants manage their holiday stress while being a caregiver.


  • Wendy Rapaport, a professor at the University of Maine School of Social Work and author on the topics of diabetes, self care, and relationships


Self-Care for Caregivers

November 17, 2008

This e-conversation was designed to help caregivers discover the importance of taking care of themselves. Techniques and ideas were shared and discussed.


  • Dr. Polly Moutevelis-Burgess, an experienced counselor and the Director of the Employee Assistance and Wellness Programs at the University of Maine for 25 years


Mindfulness and Caregiving

October 7, 2008

This e-conversation focused on mindfulness. Caregivers learned about mindfulness and how it can help improve their quality of life and reduce stress.


  • Lucia McBee LCSW, MPH, CYI, works with caregivers in a wide range of community, research, and institutional settings


Raising the Children and Managing Everyone Else

May 29-30, 2007

This e-conversation focused on mental health issues. When people are raising relatives' children, it is often more complicated than it may first appear. Parenting is never easy and all of us need help, especially when the child has had a tough time. How do we take care of the child and ourselves, and also manage to get help from the rest of the family, mental health providers, DHHS workers, doctors, teachers, guardians-ad-litems and other potential helpers? Over the two days, we looked at issues related to mental illness, substance abuse, and family relationships. We learned from each other about available services and how to get the most from them. 


  • Bonny Dodson, LCSW, Clinical Coordinator of Community Health and Counseling Services Children's Services
  • Barbara Kates, Director of Maine Kids-Kin, a program of Families and Children Together

View a list of themes and concerns raised by grandfamilies during this event.


Resources, Policies, and Changes Affecting Grandfamilies

October 4th- 5th, 2006 

This was an opportunity for grandparents raising grandchildren, and other relative caregivers, to 'meet' on-line and learn together. Topics included: local resources available to grandfamilies and older adults throughout Maine, policies and recent policy changes that affect grandfamilies, and how grandparents can and do make changes to the system. There was plenty of time for asking and answering questions.


  • Lenard W. Kaye, DSW/PhD, Director of the UMaine Center on Aging and a Professor at the University of Maine School of Social Work
  • Barbara Kates, Director of Maine Kids-Kin, a program of Families and Children Together


E-Seminars (Online Educational Training) for Support Group Facilitators

Support Group Facilitators

February 25, 2009

This e-seminar was specifically for new and experienced facilitators of support groups for grandfamilies. Approximately 80 professionals from across the country participated in this event. They had the opportunity to discuss starting, maintaining, and facilitating support groups with the facilitators and each other.


  • Bette Hoxie, Director of Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine
  • Barbara Kates, Director of Maine Kids-Kin, a program of Families and Children Together


Developing and Sustaining Support Groups for Grandfamilies

June 26-27, 2007

This e-seminar focused on starting and maintaining support groups for grandfamilies. We discussed solutions for some of the challenges for support groups. The first morning was a discussion of the use of collaboration to help groups in the beginning and strengthen continuing groups. The first afternoon focused on special issues for rural communities. The second day was spent discussing clinical issues that come up in support groups where grandfamilies raise some difficult and emotional family and personal experiences.


  • Carol Moore, self-employed consultant providing training to nonprofits, schools, and universities 
  • Sandy Baily, PhD, CFLE, Associate Professor & Extension Specialist at the Department of Health & Human Development at Montana State University in Bozeman and Director of the Montana Grandparents Raising Grandchildren project
  • Barbara Kates, Director of Maine Kids-Kin, a program of Families and Children Together
  • Virginia Holmes, mental health therapist working with children and
    families for nearly 20 years

Grandfamily Summits and Workshops

Grandfamilies Mental Health Summit

May 31, 2006

Over 100 social service professionals, policy makers, and grandparents raising grandchildren gathered together for the semi-annual “Maine Summit for Grandfamilies”. The full-day event took place in Augusta and focused on the strengths of relative caregiver families and the challenges those families face, including the impact of substance abuse and mental health issues.

Dr Crumbley

Dr. Joseph Crumbley, a nationally recognized family therapist and consultant from Philadelphia, spoke about clinical issues for Grandfamilies, including shared parenting between the birth parent and the grandparent, the differences between kinship care and foster care, and the effects of a kinship placement on all members of the family. One participant commented “Dr. Crumbley was wonderful! His dual perspective as a professional and relative caregiver was so helpful. All caseworkers should hear him speak”.

In addition, a panel of grandparents shared their personal experiences of raising their grandchildren, including discussing resources and supports they utilized and changes they would to see in social service policy and practice. Several professionals stated that the grandparents provided insight into the issue by sharing their stories.


Grandfamilies and Cultural Diversity Workshop

November 4, 2005

Professionals and parenting relatives gathered at the University of Maine to participate in a workshop focused on increasing cultural awareness when working with Maine’s grandfamilies.

John Bear Mitchell John Bear Mitchell, a member of the Penobscot Nation and Associate Director of the Wabanaki Center at the University of Maine, sparked interest and discussion on the topic through his presentation on understanding human diversity. A service provider in attendance declared “I thought I was culturally sensitive, but I am walking away with some new things to think about”.

Participants also appreciated interacting with a panel of parenting relatives, who shared the personal stories, struggles, and rewards of parenting relative children. The panel was moderated by Susan Nichols, Executive Director of Equal Opportunity and Diversity for the University of Maine.

An engaging discussion on challenges facing grandfamilies and how professionals can improve their services concluded the workshop. One participant summed up the day by stating: “The workshops you put on are always wonderful- informative with the personal twist that makes it worth the time to attend”.


White Paper Forum and Presentation

January 2005  

The University of Maine Center on Aging, in conjunction with Bangor's Families and Children Together, presented the results and recommendations of a policy white paper at UMaine on the Orono campus.  The presentation capped three years of research into factors making it difficult for grandparents and other relatives to become recognized guardians for children who are unable to live with their parents.

RAPP Forum 2005:  Break out groups

“We are offering a series of recommendations, which, if implemented, would dramatically improve the quality of life for those grandparents raising at-risk grandchildren and other young family members throughout the state,” said Lenard Kaye, director of the UMaine Center on Aging, who assisted principal white paper author Sandra Butler, interim director and associate professor in the UMaine School of Social Work.

Recommendations included changing Maine laws to provide relative parents the same access to financial reimbursements and financial aid that foster parents receive, providing the same access to educational and professional resources, including reimbursable family counseling sessions and day care, providing the same access to subsidized healthcare for children in their custody, and providing the same levels of support from mental health and child welfare services that state licensed foster parents receive.

A full list of project recommendations are available by downloading the RAPP White Paper. Please visit our Publications and Reports page.


Project Contacts

Maine Kids-Kin: Information & support for parenting relatives and contact information for support groups statewide.

Don Lynch at 207-941-2347 or go to

University of Maine Center on Aging: Information about the RAPP task force & network, educational programs, and research.

Dr. Lenard W. Kaye at 262-7922 or e-mail

Jennifer Crittenden at 262-7923 or e-mail