Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Family Continuity, Access of Birth Parents to Children


Foster care can be extremely disruptive for children, threatening their sense of belonging and causing anxiety over the temporary nature of their living situation (Dore and Kennedy, 1981; Laird, 1979; Pecora et al., 1992). Public kinship care placements appear to minimize this disruption, may be less traumatic than placements with non-kin providers, and allow for more contact between children and their birth families.

Experts have argued that kinship caregivers are likely to have a special interest in the well-being of the child in their care and that such placements may be preferable to non-kin foster care because they provide children with a sense of family support (Dubowitz et al., 1994; Iglehart, 1995). One study found, for example, that children placed in public kinship care are more likely to expect to live with a relative after leaving the child welfare system (Iglehart, 1995). Although children in kinship care cannot necessarily expect monetary support from their caregivers after they leave foster care, the bonds formed during their stay provide other kinds of ongoing support. In addition, children may maintain a stronger family bond in public kinship care because they are more likely to be placed with siblings than are children in non-kin foster care (Berrick et al., 1994; Gleeson et al., 1997; Testa and Rolock, 1999). Public kinship care also helps children maintain a connection with their community—research has indicated that they are more frequently placed in close physical proximity to the homes from which they were removed (DiLeonardi, N.D.; Testa, 1997; Testa and Rolock, 1999).

Public kinship care helps maintain family continuity by increasing the contact between children in foster care and their birth families. Children in public kinship care have much more frequent and consistent contact with both birth parents and siblings than do children in non-kin foster care (Table 3) (Barth et al., 1994; Berrick et al., 1994; Chipungu et al., 1998; Davis et al., 1996; Le Prohn and Pecora, 1994; GAO, 1999). Birth parents are also more likely to call, write, or give gifts to their children if the children are in public kinship care (Chipungu et al., 1998).

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