Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Education, Employment, and Income

06/01/2000

Almost all studies that have collected data on the income of kinship caregivers have found that they are significantly poorer than non-kin foster parents (Barth et al., 1994; Beeman et al., 1996; Berrick et al., 1994; Brooks and Barth, 1998; Chipungu et al., 1998; Gebel, 1996; Geen and Clark, 1999; Le Prohn, 1994; Zimmerman et al., 1998). For example, one study found that twice as many public kinship caregivers as non-kin foster parents have incomes below $5,000 (8 percent vs. 4 percent) or below $9,999 (20 percent vs. 9 percent) (Chipungu et al., 1998). Similarly, approximately 39 percent of children in private kinship care live in homes with incomes below the Federal poverty level; an additional 17 percent live in homes with incomes below 150 percent of the poverty level (Harden et al., 1997).

Differences among the incomes of kinship and non-kin foster care providers may be largely due to the fact that kinship providers have less education (Barth et al., 1994; Beeman et al., 1996; Berrick et al., 1994; Chipungu et al., 1998; Gebel, 1996; Geen and Clark, 1999; Le Prohn, 1994; Zimmerman et al., 1998). For example, one study found that 44 percent of public kinship caregivers did not have a high school education, compared to only 11 percent of non-kin foster parents (Geen and Clark, 1999).

Given the lower incomes of kinship caregivers, it is not surprising that they are more likely to receive public benefits. Studies show that public and private kinship caregivers are more likely than non-kin foster parents to receive TANF, Supplemental Security Income, Food Stamps, Free and Reduced Lunch, Social Security, and Medicaid (Berrick et al., 1994; Chipungu et al., 1998; Geen and Clark, 1999).34 In contrast, non-kin foster parents seem much more likely to have income from a spouse’s wages than public kinship caregivers (44 percent versus 27 percent) (Chipungu et al., 1998).

Data on kinship caregivers’ employment are conflicting. Some studies have found that kinship caregivers were more likely to be employed than non-kin foster parents (Barth et al., 1994; Berrick et al., 1994; Chipungu et al., 1998) and to be employed full-time (Barth et al., 1994; Chipungu et al., 1998).35  Other studies have found that kin were less likely to be employed or employed full-time (Beeman et al., 1996; Gebel, 1996; Geen and Clark, 1999). Many kinship caregivers who are employed appear to have lower skilled and lower paying jobs, a possible explanation for the large disparity in income between kin and non-kin foster parents.36

One study found that, despite having lower incomes, public kinship caregivers are more likely than non-kin providers to make regular contributions to defray the expenses of the child in their care (Chipungu et al., 1998). Not surprisingly, a higher percentage of public kinship providers than non-kin foster parents believe that the payments they receive to provide foster care are inadequate (Chipungu et al., 1998).

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