Informal and Formal Kinship Care. Analysis of Illinois Living Arrangement Groups


The child cases examined here appear in either the AFDC or Foster Care tracking data between 1990 and 1995. At any specific point in time, a child can be classified uniquely as being enrolled in one of four program statuses -- AFDC Parent Grant, AFDC Relative Grant, Kinship Foster Care, or Other Foster Care.(19) The populations of children tracked in these statuses in each successive June is presented in Table 4.1.

The two most important categories for this study are the AFDC/Relative and the Kinship foster care groups. The Kinship foster care group (Kin/FC) is a complete enumeration of the formal kinship care population of Illinois during the period of study. This population has been expanding rapidly. The number of children in kinship foster care increased from 8,150 in June 1990 to 27,054 in June 1995, a cumulative growth of over 230 percent across the 5-year period. Although this explosion of kinship foster care in Illinois is far more dramatic than the experience of most other states where these trends have been monitored, a general pattern of growth in kinship care is one of the dominant national trends observed in child welfare in the early 1990s.(20)

The AFDC/Relative group is a non-random subset of the informal kinship care population of Illinois, which might best be described as "semi-formal" because of their reliance on some public supports. The U.S. Census in 1990 estimated that 56,793 children in Illinois were living in the care of relatives with no parent present in the household. Subtracting the children who were in formal kinship foster care from this total leaves 48,643 children in informal kinship care. The AFDC/Relative group numbered 16,058 in June 1990, almost exactly one-third the size of this estimate of the state's informal kinship population. Unlike the formal kinship population, the size of the AFDC/Relative group has remained virtually unchanged between 1990 and 1995.

Size Trends: The AFDC/Relative population has remained stable at about 16,000 children between 1990 and 1995, while during the same period the Kin/FC population has grown over 230 percent, from 8,150 to 27,054. In comparison, the AFDC/Parent population grew 12 percent and the FC/Other population grew by 71 percent. These relations suggest several preliminary findings. The increase in formal kinship care in Illinois during the early 1990s was not apparently part of a general shift to kinship care that extended outside of the child welfare system. The increase in formal kinship was not paralleled by a decrease in informal AFDC/Kinship, which some had predicted. Finally, we can see that formal kinship is associated with (and probably pacing) an overall growth in Illinois child welfare that is reflected in the remainder of the foster care population.

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