Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Chapter 3 How Do Kinship Families Differ from Non-Kin Foster Care Families?


Kinship care is by definition different from non-kin foster care because the caregivers are related to or have a prior relationship with the children in their care. As one expert has noted, “To view kinship care as simply a form of foster care ignores the unique dynamics and varied definition of family within a multi-cultural context. Kinship care must be viewed as distinct and separate from family [non-kin] foster care” (Johnson, 1994). Moreover, private kinship care arrangements are necessarily different from public placements because they do not involve a public response to abuse or neglect.26 Available data suggest that public kinship care families (and often private ones as well) differ from non-kin foster families in other key ways:

  • the conditions under which they become involved in the child welfare system;
  • demographic characteristics;
  • education and income; and
  • health, economic, educational, and emotional well-being.27

These differences suggest that the needs of kinship caregivers and children may differ significantly from those of non-kin foster families and have implications for how child welfare agencies evaluate, serve, and monitor kinship care arrangements.

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