LUBBOCK, Texas — In 2016, Catholic Charities’ Kinship Navigation Program Director, Terri Rodriguez, got a call that “nobody really expects.” The caller asked her to take in five of her relative’s children.

At the time, Rodriguez studied at Texas Tech University and found herself struggling to make ends meet.

“I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t know who to call,” Rodriguez recalled on Monday.

It wasn’t until later when she learned the word that describes her, and many others’, situation: kinship.

A kinship family includes children being raised by relatives (grandparents, aunt, uncle, close friend, etc.) and not by a birth parent. This can be formal, as arranged through the courts, or informal, through private family arrangement, according to a Kinship Program pamphlet.

After conducting surveys in Lubbock, Rodriguez found that a lot of families are struggling to survive.

The survey found that 43% of children raised in kinship families were raised by grandparents, many children being between the ages of 0-5 years.

Fifty-three percent of those families are on a fixed income and only make $15,000 per year.

So Rodriguez created the Kinship Program, which is one of only four statewide. The program serves the Lubbock area as well as 29 surrounding counties.

Pauletta Chambers, Kinship Coordinator, said this program offers many kinds of support: food, household items, counseling, assistance filing for Medicare, SNAP benefits, stipends and more.

She said families often need medical assistance, insurance and legal advice, so the program partners with various organizations and provides referrals as needed.

“That’s what we want to make these kinship families aware of… If you’re a family member raising another family member’s child, there is support. There is help,” Rodriguez said.

While they do work for Catholic Charities, Rodriguez and Chambers said they don’t only serve Catholics.

“We serve everyone. We do not turn anybody away,” Rodriguez explained.

The Kinship Program was founded in the fall of 2020 and has served more than 200 families and counting, including a 17-year-old whose parents were deported. Left with two younger siblings, the program helped the high schooler find much of the assistance she needed.

The organization said it needs volunteers and donations — anything that could be useful in a family’s household. It also encourages any kinship family in need of assistance to reach out.

For more information, visit its website or call Terri Rodriguez at 806-765-8475 ext. 118.

You can also email her at terri@cclubbock.org, or Pauletta Chambers at pauletta@cclubbock.org.