Informal and Formal Kinship Care. Household Composition and Caretaker Characteristics: AFDC/Relative versus AFDC/Parent


Compiling Illinois AFDC data at the individual level offered the opportunity to compare certain characteristics of the AFDC/Relative population to the AFDC/Parent population. Although neither group represents the broader kinship and own-parent child populations, they comprise a significant segment of each of these, and clearly represent segments of the kinship and own-parent populations with which the public sector is involved.

Table 4.4 presents counts and percent distributions for characteristics of the households these children live in, and the key caretakers in those households, for 1990 and 1995. This household or caregiver data information is counted for each child, so a household with two children of the appropriate type will be counted twice. Certain "child-only" cases that were included in Tables 4.2 and 4.3 have had to be excluded from this table because the detailed descriptive information was not available in their records.

Over one-third of AFDC/Relative children live in households that also include own-children of the key caregiver. In contrast, almost two-thirds of the AFDC/Relative children live in households where the key caregiver has no own-children present. Thus, a significant segment of these related children are being blended into existing parent-child families. However, the majority of children in relative grants either cause a "new" family unit to be formed, or initiate "successor" family groupings created after an earlier generation of children has already left the household.

Almost half of the AFDC/Relative households include two or more adults, compared with only one-fourth of AFDC/Parent households. In both types of household, the key adults are preponderantly female, although one in ten is male in a relative-grant household and one in twenty in a parent-grant household. A relative child's caregiver is more likely to have been married at one time than a parent-grant caregiver, but is no more likely to be currently married with a spouse present.(22) All these characteristics suggest that some AFDC/Relative households might have access to more social and possibly financial resources than the typical AFDC/parent household. This makes intuitive sense because while both programs were developed to support the child, the AFDC/Relative case is often defined by the resource limits of the non-caregiver parent, in contrast to the AFDC/Parent case which is typically defined by resource limits of the caregiver parent.

The characteristic that most clearly differentiates AFDC/Relative and AFDC/Parent cases, though, is the age of the primary caregiver. (See Figure 4.3). For AFDC/Parent cases, 89 percent of the key adults were younger than 40 years of age, and only 1 percent were 50 years of age or above. In contrast, for AFDC/Relative cases just over one-third (37 percent) of the key adults were younger than 40, about 40 percent were over 50, and 16 percent were over 60. This is explained primarily by the fact that almost four out of every five relative-child caregivers are the child's grandparents. The aging of some members of this relative caregiver population (median age in the mid-40s,) clearly limits the social and possibly financial resources available for the caring of children in some households.

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