Informal and Formal Kinship Care. Characteristics of Children by Living Arrangement


Tables 4.2 through 4.4 present distributions of certain characteristics among these two populations and several important comparison groups for time points in 1990 and 1995. The comparison groups available include all children active in an AFDC/Parent grant and all children living in Other (unrelated) Foster Care. Also, for 1990 only, the census estimates for all children in kinship care with no parent present, and an enumeration of all children in Illinois are available. We use all four groups as benchmarks by which to understand different aspects of the characteristics of children in formal (Kin/FC) and informal (AFDC/Relative) kinship care in Illinois.

Table 4.2 has three sections. The upper panel is a tabulation of counts of children in the four programs, in June 1990 and June 1995,(21) subclassified by a number of characteristic traits (region, age, race, gender, and race/region). The middle panel presents percentage distributions within each group, across these characteristic traits (e.g. the percentage of AFDC/Relative children who were ages 6-11 in 1990). The lower panel presents trait-specific prevalence for each program compared to the larger reference child population. For example, .9 percent of Cook County children were in AFDC/Relative settings in 1990, and 14.0 percent of all 6-11 year-olds in Illinois were recipients in an AFDC/parent grant in 1995.

Size: In absolute size, the AFDC/Parent population with over 400,000 clients dwarfs all of the other groups being discussed here. About 15 percent of the children in Illinois received an AFDC grant through a parent at any one time between 1990 and 1995. At no time in the period of study did any of the other groups include as much as 1 percent of the children in the state, although the foster care programs are each approaching that number.

Age: Using three 6-year age groups for comparison, the AFDC/Relative group is clearly older than the Kin/FC group and each of the other comparison groups in Table 4.2 (including all Illinois children). One-fourth (26 percent) of the children in AFDC/Kinship care are under the age of 6, compared to around 40 percent of the Kin/FC population and almost half (48 percent) of the AFDC/Parent population. The evidence that informal kinship care is more likely to be utilized as a caretaking response for older related children is further substantiated in Table 4.3, which imputes age and regional characteristics for the NON-AFDC informal kin group for 1990. Within this "unobserved" remainder of the Illinois informal kinship group, only 20 percent of the children are under the age of 6. The age composition of the formal Kin/FC group is almost a mirror image of the AFDC/Relative group with just under one-quarter of these cases falling in the older age group. The "youngest" group among those observed here is the AFDC/Parent category.

Gender: The levels of either type of kinship care have not appeared to vary by gender of the child. Among the groups described, only FC/Other appears to have a small gender gap with males, at 53 percent, being slightly more prevalent than females.

Region and Race: Compared to the child population of Illinois, all service-receipt defined groups described here are disproportionally African American and disproportionally located in Cook County (including Chicago) rather than in the balance of the state. These two effects are difficult to disentangle because while Cook County contains 43 percent of the state's child population, it includes almost three-fourths of Illinois's African American children. By 1995, all four programs observed were composed of almost two-thirds (or more) African Americans and almost two-thirds (or more) Cook County residents.

Overall, the kinship-based programs showed a slightly stronger racial pattern than comparable non-kinship programs. (Figure 2.1) For example, in 1995, an African American child was about ten times more likely to be in an AFDC/Relative setting than any other child, both in Cook County and across the rest of the state (2.2 percent versus 0.2 percent). In comparison, an African American child was only about five to seven times as likely to be in an AFDC/Parent setting (49.5 versus 10.0 percent in Cook, 41.3 versus 6.2 percent in rest of state).

Race has the greatest effect on the Kin/FC group. In 1995, over 5 percent of African American children in Cook County were in kinship foster care, while less than one-fourth of 1 percent of non African Americans were in kin foster care settings, a ratio of 20:1. The race ratio for Kin/FC in all downstate areas combined was 11:1.

For AFDC/Relative and FC/Other, there is no evidence that the higher levels in Cook County are anything more than a reflection of the racial differences observed above being applied to the racial composition of the state. In both cases, the Cook County prevalence is similar to the downstate prevalence within each racial category. The AFDC/Parent category shows a consistent tendency towards prevalence levels about one-fourth higher in Cook County, independent of race. However, the Kin/FC category, which showed the strongest race component, also shows a strong region effect independent of race. African American children in Cook County are three times more likely (5.0 versus 1.7 percent) to live in kinship foster care than African American children elsewhere in the state. Similarly, other-race children in Cook County are twice as likely (.24 versus .11 percent) to live in kinship foster care as other-race children elsewhere in the state.

In summary, it appears that AFDC/Relative cases (informal kinship) are directly influenced by race, with incidence among African American about ten times higher than other groups combined. Kin/FC in Illinois shows an even stronger racial component, which is intensified by an independent tendency for Kin/FC levels to be higher in Cook County. As a result, kinship foster care is very much a Chicago and African American dominated phenomenon in Illinois, the net result being that by 1995, 86 percent of kinship foster care placements were in Cook County and 86 percent of kinship foster placements were African American children. (See Figure 4.2).

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