Informal and Formal Kinship Care. Composition of 'mover' and 'stayer' Groups


The preceding section showed that informal and formal kinship groups demonstrate different patterns of transition -- whether viewed by where they tend to come from before they enter the kinship setting, by what type of living arrangements they move to at the end of their kinship stay, or by their likelihood of remaining in place in the current kinship home. Here, we examine some demographic characteristics of the various kinship transition groups to see what can be learned about how different types of children might be expected to have different career patterns. Table 4 .8 is divided into four panels presenting region, age, and racial percentages for each transition (or non-transition) subgroup of children that move from AFDC/Relative (Panel A), into AFDC/Relative (B), from Kin/FC (C), or into Kin/FC (D). In each sub-table, the leftmost numeric column is the distribution of children who do not move -- the "stayers," which can be used as a reference group against which to look for differences for those children that change living arrangement status.

Age: The children remaining in informal kinship (AFDC/relative homes) from year to year tend to be older than children moving from AFDC/Relative to formal foster care placements (Kin/FC), and older than those who return to own-parent AFDC homes. This can be seen in Panel A, where only 25 percent of the AFDC/Relative "stayers" are ages 0-5, while 35 percent of the AFCDC/Rel->Kin/FC group and 50% of the AFDC/Rel-->AFDC/parent group are ages 0-5. The ages of children moving "out-of-scope" resemble the AFDC/Relative "stayer" group. Only the small group of children moving into FC/Other appears to be systematically composed of older children.

The same pattern of age relationships applies with minor variations to children moving into informal kinship, as well as those moving into and out of formal kinship arrangements (Kin/FC). Overall, the bulk of the movement between these categories involves younger. Older children tend more often to either stay in their current living situation or exit the program domain that we can observe. The one exception is FC/Other (non-kinship foster care) which tends to "send" young children to other programs, but which is unusual in that it "receives" a disproportionate share of older children from the kinship categories (particularly from the Kin/FC group).

The more rapid circulation of younger children (in and out of kinship placements) suggests these children's early years are most likely to be typified by disruptions, uncertainties and change. As the child ages, the living situation tends to stabilize along one or more of many dimensions: clarity about whether or not the birth parent might resume care, an understanding of the willingness and capacity of the relative to maintain caregiving, and evaluation of whether the program niche (formal versus informal) seems workable. It is telling that as kinship relations (of either type) end for some reason during a child's adolescence, the likelihood of entering a non-relative foster care placement increases. This suggests that other settings are less likely to remain feasible as options by this stage in the child's life.

Race and Region: The racial and regional composition of transition groups follows patterns that could, for the most part, be predicted from the overall compositions of the program groups. Both the AFDC/Relative and Kin/FC groups are disproportionally composed of African American children and children who live in Cook County. As was noted above, there is a particularly strong joint effect of race and region for the Kin/FC group, so that almost 80 percent of kin foster care placements were of African American children in Cook County.

Of the children moving from AFDC/Relative placements to Kin/FC, 87 percent were from Cook County and 91 percent were African American. The AFDC/Relative "stayers" were 68 percent Cook and 76 percent African American. Only movers "out-of-scope" were significantly lower, with 56 percent Cook and 66 percent African American. Looking to children in kinship foster care, the "stayers" were 88% in Cook County and 88 percent African American, with all "mover" groups somewhat lower.

Relationship: The relationship between the child and kinship caregiver can be identified only for the AFDC/Relative population. The great majority of these informal kinship caregivers are grandparents (78 percent), with most of the "other" category being aunts. In Panel A of Table 4.8, we can see a slight tendency for grandparent-child living arrangements to stay more intact from year-to-year than arrangements where the child lives with other relatives. The other-relative arrangements are somewhat over-represented in moves to non-kinship foster care and in moves to the unobserved "out-of-scope" statuses.


(16) The "own children" tables can be classified by employment characteristics of parents and subfamily composition, and the "all related children" tables can be classified by poverty status -- but these cannot be directly compared or linked together because one is grouped by "parent" characteristics and the other by "head of household" characteristics.

(17)Anecdotal evidence pointed to the possibility that young mothers and their children are frequently lumped into grant units where the adult recipient is a relative of the mother. A "credible mother" was defined as a minor female, more than 13 years older than the child in question, with a relation to the grantee that would be consistent with the child's relation to the grantee. Thus for a 2-year-old who is the grandchild of the grantee, we would search the list of household members for "daughters" of the grantee between 15 and 17 years of age. There is no way to confirm that this "credible" female is actually the child's mother, and there are many possible scenarios where she would not be. However, two considerations led us to preemptively force the classification of "parent" on this type of case. First, these determinations were strongly corroborated by a data field that indicated whether or not a mother had been present at the child's entrance to the case. We found very few "credible" mothers in cases where the mother had not been present, and we did find "credible" mothers in the majority of cases when a mother had once been present. Second, analysis of these "credible mother" present cases shows that a new mother-child grant unit is often formed within the next few years, suggesting that the anecdotal information is, at least in the aggregate, often correct.

(18)In certain "child-only" cases, the grant support is provided to payees who receive only on behalf of the custodial child and who are not active recipients on the grant themselves. Unfortunately, because of their non-recipient status in the case, most key demographic information for these caretakers is not coded or maintained by the state agency. Thus, these cases are not included in discussions of household and caretaker characteristics. Fortunately, they represent a fairly small share of the Illinois AFDC population during the period of study.

(19) "Other foster care" includes all foster care activity that is not defined as "kinship" foster care, e.g. non-relative family foster care, emergency shelter care, and congregate care placements.

(20) cf. A Report from the Multistate Foster Care Data Archive: Foster Care Dynamics 1988-1992 Chapin Hall Center for Children 1994.

(21) Data for the intermediate years is available, but only the end-years were presented to simplify presentation. No internal patterns were noticed to suggest that the additional years would contribute substantive changes to interpretation.

(22) The marital status tabulations both contain a substantial "unknown" category, and this reporting is based on the partial information remaining.

(23) The main dynamic that is hidden by this pooling of data from five sets of annual transitions has already been described, namely, the extremely rapid growth of kinship foster care in Illinois. Although the size of transitions into Kin/FC do reflect the growth of this group between 1990 and 1995, we have observed no real changes in associated trends or patterns apart from the overall shift in incidence.

(24)" "Stayers", in particular, must be understood as being defined by a ?net' outcome. A certain amount of movement in between the June points of observation is not captured in this analysis, and the fact that a child was in a living arrangement in both Junes does not require that the child did not experience two or more moves in between.

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