CIRCLEVILLE — A new program is now available to help kinship and adoptive families navigate support that is available to them through any number of organizations and programs.

The OhioKAN Kinship and Adoption Navigator Program is a statewide program that works with families to meet their individual and unique needs by helping them navigate all available resources.

“We are so excited about the opportunity to partner with thousands of kinship and adoptive families statewide,” OhioKAN Program Director Julia Donovan said.

“With OhioKAN Navigators located throughout the state, we are taking a highly regional approach to statewide service delivery. We meet families where they are, help navigate each unique situation and work hard to make sure accessing resources and services is faster, easier and simpler than ever before.”

The OhioKAN program can serve families with children up to 18 years old or 21 years old if the child has a diagnosed disability in addition to adopted children.

“The feedback from families served so far has been incredibly positive,” JoAnn Heichel, region 7 director, said. “There are no income eligibility requirements and we serve formal (legal custody, open children’s services cases) and informal (no court involvement or legal custody, not a blood relative), kinship placements, as well as adoptive families. We are here to listen, link and empower families.”

OhioKAN Navigators will meet with families and do an individualized basic-needs assessment. Pickaway County is located in region 7, alongside Franklin County.

“They’ll see where they can help the family and find support,” Heichel said. “We’ll help them know what’s available in their area. It can be a financial boost to help them, such as summer camp, car repairs or electric bills like we’ve done recently. When we’re able to do these things, families will have better outcomes.

Heichel said it’s not just about providing resources and being there for the families, but setting them up with a plan to help them move forward on their own.

“We link them with resources and then plan with them how to do it next time without us,” she said. “This is where the navigator part of what we do comes in. They guide them to what is available for state and federal assistance. It can be very overwhelming for someone to handle.”

Heichel said she’s been visiting with local organizations and groups to spread the word about the relatively new program, which started last October.

“We’re trying to spread the word so families aren’t potentially missing out on these resources and our incredible staff,” she said.

OhioKAN can be reached at 1-844-OhioKAN or at https://ohiokan.jfs.ohio.gov.

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