Shelby County Relative Caregiver Program Continues Decades of Service to the Community

Category: Features

By Amber Carter

Memphis – For 20 years, the Shelby County Relative Caregiver Program (RCP) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has provided bold and impactful support and services to children who are being cared for by a grandmother, aunt, uncle or other extended family members. While the pandemic has changed how each day looks for the program, it has not prevented team members from prioritizing the needs of the children and families it serves.

RCP Staff at the Hearts of Gold event

This year, 151 families have been assisted through the RCP. Team members provide services, including child and teen mentoring programs, caregiver support groups and community resource assistance.

“I am so thankful for the staff and community partners who stepped in and assisted us as we helped families to maintain daily living,” said Teresa English, program administrator for the Relative Caregiver Program. “Through unemployment, death and all the aftereffects of COVID, our families were able to persevere with assistance and support. It is a blessing to be able to give hope to our families, as we continue to adjust to the new normal.”

Events for caregivers and children are hosted throughout the year.

The Hearts of Gold appreciation event for caregivers on March 5 was themed “Drive Thru Basket of Love.” Adhering to social distancing guidelines and wearing masks, team members passed out baskets filled with hygiene items and household items, other gifts and a case of water to caregivers who stayed in their cars.

a woman holds up a complimentary tote bag with the UTHSC logo
Ashley Basquez, RCP client, with her token of appreciation

RCP children also participated in a virtual cooking class through the Floating Kitchen 901, a program of Couture Cares, a nonprofit agency that focuses on the needs of children in Memphis. During the Zoom class, the children learned how to cook a chicken pot pie from scratch.

Even with all the program has achieved, English praises the caregivers. “They are the real heroes who keep showing up no matter how hard life gets,” she said. “Not even COVID-19 can stop that.”

The Shelby County Relative Caregiver Program, funded by the Tennessee Department of Children Services, operates under the Center on Developmental Disabilities in the College of Medicine at UTHSC.