South Portland Library courtesy photo/ South Portland Library

SOUTH PORTLAND – The Kinship Support Group will hold meetings for the community at the South Portland Library with Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine and Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging.

Brigid Whalen Torberg, resource support coordinator for Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine, Inc. & The Kinship Program, detailed the organization’s mission, collaborations, and impact on Maine families. The project is also being supported by Age Friendly South Portland, Friends of the South Portland Library and Hannaford Supermarkets.

Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine, Inc. & The Kinship Program offers monthly support groups, also known as C.A.R.E.S. meetings throughout the state. Torberg said, “C.A.R.E.S. stands for Connection, Advice, Resources, Education, and Support.”

The meetings are offered in-person and virtually and provide a space for Resource Families (adoptive, foster, and kinship) to connect, receive emotional and moral support, as well as gain practical advice on the challenges and joys of being part of a resource family. C.A.R.E.S. meetings are open to all adoptive, foster, and kinship families.

“As well as meetings offered to strictly kinship families or families who are post-adoptive or have permanency guardianship, the Kinship C.A.R.E.S. meetings are offered to provide more specific support for kinship caregivers,” Torberg said.

The motivation behind the collaboration with Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging emerged from the increasing number of grandparents raising grandchildren in the state. “There are over 6,000 grandparents raising grandchildren in the state of Maine,” Torberg said. “The majority of which did not plan to raise their grandchildren, and most of whom were entering or near entering retirement when they changed roles from grandparent to primary caregiver.”


Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine collaborates with various organizations to provide comprehensive support. “Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine provides the support, resources, and expertise for the nuances of being a kinship caregiver,” Torberg said. “Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging and Age Friendly South Portland provide support and resources for the aging community.”

Torberg explained her role as the resource support coordinator: “I coordinate all of the C.A.R.E.S. meetings for those regions, as well as coordinate and facilitate virtual C.A.R.E.S. meetings. Something that sets Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine apart, we all have lived experience we can draw on when offering empathetic, judgment-free support.”

Tammy Cutchen, co-facilitator for the South Portland C.A.R.E.S. meeting, has more than 35 years experience as a foster and kinship parent. “Tammy is a certified Grandfamilies Leader and can assist families in navigating an array of systems that can be difficult to manage,” Torberg said.

“The South Portland Kinship Specific C.A.R.E.S. meeting is the only one co-facilitated by one of AFFM’s Kinship Navigator and a staff person from SMAAA with expertise on resources for the aging community,” Torberg said. “A success within each meeting is the community that is created among those that attend. AFFM has been extremely lucky with the community support we’ve received from Age Friendly South Portland, Friends of the South Portland Library, and Hannaford Supermarkets.

“Our biggest challenge with establishing our Kinship specific C.A.R.E.S. meeting is getting the word out to families that this support is available to them. Many emotions arise and the family’s dynamic shifts when a relative is placed in the home. This is one of the main reasons for AFFM’s Kinship Specific C.A.R.E.S. Meeting.”

Torberg said the group collaborated with Mann Law to promote programs through Coast 93.1, aiming to raise awareness about kinship families. AFFM adapts its support group to evolving needs by seeking input from participants. “AFFM holds multiple social events annually,” Torberg said. “The events are publicized through news media, online services such as Facebook, and Instagram.”

The group’s future plans include expanding Kinship Specific C.A.R.E.S. meetings to more locations, said Torberg. To measure success, the group conducts surveys every six months. “Responses assist AFFM in filling in gaps as well as accentuating what has been deemed positive,” Torberg said.

The group meets the second Thursday of the month from noon to 1 p.m. at the South Portland Library. To join the C.A.R.E.S. support group meetings, call Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine at 207-827-2331 or visit

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