Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Gaps in Knowledge and Potential Sources of Data


This chapter includes all available information on two of the items for which Congress specifically requested information: the costs and sources of funds for kinship care and State policies regarding kinship care. Listed below are additional information needed and potential sources of this information.

  • Costs and sources of funds. Of all the items for which Congress requested information, this is the one for whilih there is the least information. There are no data available on the overall costs of kinship care. There is limited data on the extent to which different sources of funding support kinship care arrangements. No one knows how many kinship care families qualify for and receive foster payments or how many of these families receive other types of financial assistance, all of which may be provided at different rates or frequency than payments to non-kin foster parents. Likewise, no one knows how the cost of services for kinship families differs from that for non-kin foster care families. There is no information on how long kin and non-kin caregivers are financially supported or how this affects long-term costs. 

    Data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System should help identify the sources of funds used to support kinship care families. Under this system, States are required to provide data on the number of families who receive title IV-E Foster Care, title IV-E Adoption, TANF, title IV-D child support, Medicaid, and Supplemental Security Income. In addition, the HHS-funded National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being will collect data from local agencies on the percentage of kinship care arrangements that meet the normal licensing requirements, receive foster care but do not meet the normal licensing requirements, receive TANF but no foster care payment, and receive no financial assistance.

  • State kinship care policies. The most recent information on States’ kinship care policies is from 1997. Given the recent Federal legislation affecting kinship care and the increased attention being paid to the topic generally, many States will probably be reconsidering their kinship care policies. More information is needed on how caseworkers interpret and implement States’ policies. For example, do caseworkers rely on kin to come forward themselves, or do they seek out potential kin caregivers? What criteria do social workers use in determining whether to place a child in kinship care? How do caseworkers choose among different potential kin caregivers? In many States it appears that kin have multiple options for becoming approved as foster parents. No one knows whether kin are informed of their options or how their decision affects the payment and services they receive. There is no information on how frequently kin choose each of the different approval options or how frequently kin who seek a higher standard of approval fail to meet the requirements. 

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 States’ policies for licensing, paying, and supervising kinship care providers. They received responses from all 50 States and the District of Columbia. The Urban Institute will analyze the data and publish a report of the findings.

The Children’s Bureau has provided grants to examine policies and procedures for making decisions regarding the appropriateness of public kinship care and regarding licensing requirements and their effect on the willingness and ability of extended family to provide care. Projects will also assess the service needs (including economic needs) of public kinship care and the strategies for training, supervising, and providing services to caregivers.

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