Several research and data-gathering efforts now being planned or already underway should significantly improve our understanding of kinship care. A few of the larger efforts include:
- The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). Through this system, States provide the Federal Government with semi-annual data on the children in foster care. These data will help address several of the issues Congress raised in the Adoption and Safe Families Act: for example, the sources of funds used to support kinship care families, including the number of families who receive title IV-E foster care, title IV-E adoption, TANF and title IV-D child support; Medicaid; and Supplemental Security Income. Demographic data should soon be available, including information on the race, age, and marital status of kin and non-kin foster parents. Data on children's most recent permanency goals and on the number of adoptions by kin will also be available.
- The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW). In 1997, HHS funded NSCAW, a six-year study to assess the well-being and experiences of children who come in contact with the child welfare system. The study will collect information on more than 2,000 foster children, many of whom will be in kinship care, and on kinship licensing and payment practices. Foster caregivers and noncustodial biological parents will be interviewed about their age, race and ethnicity, sex, relationship to the child, employment, income, subsidies, education, spouse or partner's education and employment, household composition, country of origin, the language spoken at home, the history of changes in the child's living environment, the child's and caregiver's physical health and functioning, services needed, services provided, and satisfaction with the child welfare system. Interviews with children age 6 and over will provide information on contact and relationships with biological parents and siblings.
- Children's Bureau (CB) Demonstration Grants. In 1997, HHS's gave several States demonstration grants to test strategies for improving the delivery of services to kinship caregivers and to enhance permanency arrangements for children in kinship care. Projects are examining decision-making about the appropriateness of kinship foster care, licensing requirements and their effect on the willingness and ability of extended family to provide care, the service and economic needs of kinship caregivers, and strategies for training, supervision, and service. Several of the projects are examining the safety, well-being, and permanency of children in kinship homes.
- Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Projects. States that received IV-E waivers to implement subsidized guardianship programs will be collecting information on such factors as permanency of placements; child and family well-being; health, special needs, safety, emotional adjustment, and educational status of children; children's perceptions of permanency in subsidized guardianship; family satisfaction with the placement; and the effect of guardianship programs on the number of children in long-term foster care with kin. (See Appendix B.)
- The Urban Institute Child Welfare Survey. In 1999, the Urban Institute surveyed all State child welfare administrators to get updated information on their kinship care policies, including definition of kin; when kin receive preference; and policies for licensing, paying, and supervising kinship caregivers.