The increase in kinship care in recent years means that those who provide services to kin caregivers will need training and other support. The Child Welfare Information Gateway Bulletin, “Working with Kinship Caregivers” (June, 2018), provides a good starting place: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/kinship.pdf.
Federal law requires agencies to consider placement with kin when a child is removed from the home. About 2.6 million children in the U.S. are in some form of kinship care. Kinship care ranges from an informal arrangement between the parent and the relative to a formal placement by a child welfare agency that has legal custody of the child. Kinship foster homes may be either unlicensed or licensed. If licensed, the relative must meet foster home licensing and training standards and is paid the same as a nonrelative foster home.
Kinship care has the following benefits:
• Ongoing connections with a child’s birth family, extended family, siblings, and community—bonds that are essential to well-being
• Preservation of cultural identity (Generations United, 2016)
• Higher likelihood siblings will remain together
• Greater placement stability than for children in other out-of-home care arrangements
In order to help kinship caregivers make good decisions regarding the child, kin workers need to provide information about licensing options, the court process and the kin’s role, and resources. An assessment opens the door to determine the strengths and needs of the kin caregiver. It’s especially critical to explore family dynamics in terms of the kin caregiver’s relationship with the child’s parent and how to resolve safety and compliance issues. A family-centered practice approach to working with kin empowers them and gives them ownership of their issues.
Model programs for kin placements have these features in common:
• Presumption that placement of the child will be with kin
• Immediate and diligent search for family members
• Licensing waivers for kin homes for nonsafety issues
• Connection of kin to any needed services (frequently requested are financial assistance, day care, behavioral intervention, crisis management)
• Referral to support groups
The Annie E. Casey Foundation, in cooperation with Joseph Trumbley, has developed a five-part video training series to build skills specific to working with kin families. It’s available here: https://www.aecf.org/blog/engaging-kinship-caregivers-with-joseph-crumbley/
Helping kin understand the impact of their caregiving in terms of health, stress, and emotional stability is essential. Here is a list of resources addressing those issues: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/outofhome/kinship/resourcesforcaregivers/impact/
Here are details on an upcoming training on kinship care offered by CWLA: https://netforum.avectra.com/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?Site=CWLA&WebCode=EventDetail&evt_key=67b14325-ac1d-46d8-a2fb-d0c79f7ca7aa.
Posted by Priscilla Martens
NFPN Executive Director