Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Chapter 1 The Role of Extended Family in Child Rearing

06/01/2000

In its broadest sense, kinship care is any living arrangement in which a relative or someone else emotionally close to the child takes primary responsibility for rearing a child. Most kinship care takes place without the involvement or knowledge of child welfare officials. Such arrangements are not a new phenomenon. Anthropologists have documented the role that extended families play in raising children in cultures and communities around the world (Korbin, 1991; Young, 1970). Extended family members and other persons with a bond to the family have been particularly important in African American families dating back to slavery times, when parents and children were often separated. In fact, the phrase “kinship care” was coined by Stack (1974) in work documenting the importance of kinship networks in the African American community.

In contrast, child welfare agencies’ reliance on kin to act as foster parents is relatively new. When the Adoption and Child Welfare Act of 1980 was passed, forming the basis of the Federal foster care program, it was very rare for a child's relative to act as a foster parent. Today, child welfare agencies increasingly consider kin as the first placement choice when foster care is needed and kin can provide a safe home.

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