ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services
OhioKAN is a program of Ohio Department of Job & Family Services. ODJFS' mission is to improve the well-being of Ohio's workforce and families by promoting economic self-sufficiency and ensuring the safety of Ohio's most vulnerable citizens. ODJFS' vision is that Ohio's children, youth and vulnerable adults have a safe and permanent family that nurtures and promotes their overall well-being.
Ashleigh Jordan takes care of five children. She’s a working single mom in Cincinnati who, with two kids of her own, took in three more.
She’s what we call a kinship caregiver. When a child cannot safely stay with a parent, the first place we look is at the child’s relatives, or kin. In Hamilton County, we now have more than 500 children in our custody who live with relatives in certified kinship homes. We thank every one of these protectors for opening their homes when these children needed a safe place to stay.
We understand it’s a lot to take on extra kids. And yet Ashleigh, with help from her mom, handles it all every day.
“Stuff happens,” she says. “You have to deal with it. You have to put on your big girl pants and move forward in life. You owe children a good childhood. Life is going to beat them up enough.”
Her journey to becoming the leader of a family of six began when her oldest niece, now 13, showed up at her house one day in November 2020 and asked to stay. Several months later, she took in a second niece, who’s 5 now. Ashleigh didn’t want her in foster care by herself. Then her nephew, now 7 months, arrived a few months later.
That’s three kids in less than a year in addition to her daughter, 16, and her son, who will soon be 2 and has special needs. He had surgery at Thanksgiving to remove a tumor from his spine and needs therapy to learn to walk.
Her caseworker had this to say: “Ashleigh never complained. She gave up her bedroom, sleeping on the couch instead, for more than a year. She was dedicated to getting the kids to services all while dealing with her severely special needs son. She didn’t miss a beat and was always pleasant even during difficult times.”
Ashleigh, 36, worked as a home health aide before she started caring for more and younger kids. Now she works part time at Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken. She misses working more and having more adult conversation.
Taking in the children “was life-changing, for sure,” she said. “I just feel like kids in foster care already have a chip on their shoulder because nobody came for them. I don’t want that.”
“Sometimes it’s hard,” she said. “But I just felt like I had to step up. I’d do it again.”
Ashleigh is one of the many kinship parents across Ohio who had to make this choice to help raise family members. To all the kinship parents out there, thank you for all you do for those around you.