Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System. 2.1.1 Relative Placements

12/01/2001

States mentioned a variety of ways they are using relatives to create permanency for children, including kin placements, guardianship, and adoption. In an attempt to address the need to find an increasing number of permanent homes for children, states are turning often to relatives.

Sixty-eight percent of the states (13) reported an increase in the use of temporary and/or permanent relative placements over the past few years.3

Six states reported maintaining steady rates or no change in the rate of relative placements, but some of those States also said it has always been common to have children placed with relatives. No states reported a decrease in the use of relative placements. Many state administrators who reported an increase in relative placements also reported more upfront work in locating relatives for placement, due to the time limits of federal and state legislation.

Administrators showed a preference toward permanent relative placements. Once a child is placed with a relative, according to ASFA regulations, the state may choose whether to exempt the child from ASFA timelines. However, many states have implemented the stringent position to require legal permanency for a child with a relative, in an effort to find permanency for children and move them out of the foster care system. Without legal placement, the child remains in state custody. This burdens the state's system financially and also leaves the status of the child unresolved; without legal custody to a third party or TPR, a parent may choose to take the relative to court at a later time to regain custody of the child. A few administrators stated a preference for relative placements that involved adoption or a guardianship placement because, in their states, these were considered legally permanent where the child exits the foster care system and has a better chance of uninterrupted permanency. However, legal custody or placement with a relative can be difficult to accomplish since some kin may not be willing to go through the burdensome legal process of adoption or legal custody or may be unable to care for the child without financial support.

About one-half of the states (13) responded that they had some type of guardianship option for children (with relatives and non-relatives), although only three specifically mentioned that guardianships were subsidized. However, states seem to understand the concerns of relative caretakers and know that support is important in order to place a child permanently. Eighteen states (72%) reported some type of new initiative underway in their state to assist relative placement.4 Particularly popular were plans for guardianship assistance (n=14) and also various initiatives for kin care assistance (n=5). Moreover, two states also reported support initiatives specifically for grandparent caretakers. With states struggling to find innovative and diverse ways to obtain safe and permanent placements for children, it is clear that states are focused on encouraging and supporting relatives as caregivers when children must be placed outside the home.


3.  N = 19; 7 states reported no information on this subject. Some states that reported no change in the use of temporary or permanent relative placements discussed efforts underway to increase the number of relative placements.

4.  Two states in the group had Title IV-E child welfare waivers for subsidized/assisted guardianship. The others seemed to be utilizing state funds for their initiatives.