This chapter includes all available information on three of the items for which Congress specifically requested information: services provided to kinship caregivers and to birth parents, birth parents’ access to their children in care, and permanency plans for children in kinship care. Listed below are additional information needed and potential sources of that information.
- Service delivery. Information on the service needs of kinship care children and caregivers, as well as birth parents, is very limited. An important question is the extent to which differences in service delivery and agency supervision result from differences in need, differences in State policies, or differences in caseworker practices (for example, telling foster parents about available services). Other factors that may influence the services provided to kin but for which information is not available include foster parent attributes and attitudes (such as their ability to articulate needs and willingness to accept services) and the personal interaction between caseworkers and foster parents.
The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) will collect information from caseworkers on risk assessment results, services needed, services provided, and family compliance and progress. The survey will also gather information from substitute caregivers and noncustodial biological parents on services needed, services provided, and satisfaction with the child welfare system. Noncustodial biological parents will be asked about their understanding of and compliance with the case plan. Children age 6 and over will be asked about their satisfaction with casework services.
The Children’s Bureau is funding the development of guidelines for the use of kin as foster parents; cross-agency training for staff, relatives, and birth parents; and services for relatives. Projects will also assess the service needs (including economic needs) of kinship caregivers and strategies for training, supervising, and providing services to them.
Birth parents’ access. There is no information on the extent to which kinship caregivers have difficulty restricting birth parents’ access to children when such access may not be appropriate.
NSCAW will interview children ages 6 and over about their contact and relationships with parents and siblings.
Permanency. No one knows how often kinship caregivers adopt the children in their care or the extent to which caseworkers’ perceptions (or misconceptions) about kin’s willingness to adopt result in fewer adoptions. There is no information on the role of biological fathers in kinship care or permanency planning.
NCSAW will interview caseworkers about permanency planning and adoption possibilities. Data on children’s most recent permanency goals and on the number of adoptions by relatives will be available through the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System. In addition, States that received title IV-E waivers to implement subsidized guardianship programs will be collecting information on such factors as permanency plans for children; 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 the programs on the number of children in kinship care. A detailed description of these subsidized guardianship programs is included in Appendix B.
The Children’s Bureau has funded a variety of projects regarding kinship care, including one to examine the safety, well-being and permanency of children in kinship homes using a variety of measures for infants, children, and teenagers to age 18. For older children, it will also code school absences, health appointments, immunizations, dental appointments, and referrals to outside agencies for other services. The Children’s Bureau has also funded a kinship care demonstration project designed to prevent placement disruptions and promote permanency by providing a variety of services, such as respite care, in-home counseling, family unity meetings, training and support groups for kinship caregivers, stipends for material resources to maintain placements, and referrals to community-based support services. Another project will try to determine whether adoption by kin is a meaningful option for children in kinship care who cannot be reunified with their birth parents and to identify barriers to kinship adoption and methods for overcoming them. In one State, a project designed to improve the safety, well-being, and permanence of Indian children entering child welfare will provide kinship care in both state and tribal welfare systems. Another grant will fund a project to examine what effects intervention strategies for kinship families have on children’s psychological attachment, behavior, readiness for school, interaction with peers, and performance in school; incidents of child abuse; children’s life skills; and adoption. The project will also measure caregivers’ self-esteem, self control, parenting skills, ability to meet basic human needs, advocacy abilities, and stress.