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 conditions under which children enter care and the characteristics of kinship caregivers and their households. Listed below are additional information needed and potential sources of this information.

  • Conditions leading to kinship care. There is no indication as to how often private kinship care arrangements become public arrangements, or why some private kinship caregivers seek assistance from the child welfare system. There is little information on the severity of abuse or neglect that children in kinship care were subjected to before placement or how it compares to that of children in non-kin foster care. There also is no information about when children are placed with kin; specifically, whether they are placed with kin from the outset or whether they are first placed in non-kin foster homes and then with kin as they are identified. The HHS-funded national survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) will collect data from kin caregivers and may address some of these issues.
  • Characteristics of kinship care. Available data on the race and ethnicity of public kinship caregivers and children do not allow for comparisons between races and ethnicities other than African American and white. It is unclear how the race and ethnicity of related and unrelated providers compare to the race and ethnicity of the children in their care (i.e., whether unrelated providers are more likely to care for children of a different race or ethnicity). Further, no one knows whether differences in the race and ethnicity of caregivers reflect differences in the availability of caregivers or a cultural preference among available caregivers to care for kin. In addition, it is unclear whether differences in the characteristics of children in kinship care compared to those in non-kin care result from differences in the circumstances under which they entered foster care. Information is also lacking on the other adults and children living in kinship care families and how they compare to adults and children living in non-kin foster homes. Data are also lacking about the use of kinship care in rural areas.

NSCAW will collect data from kin and non-kin caregivers and from noncustodial biological parents on 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, and language spoken at home. The survey will also collect information from caregivers and noncustodial biological parents on the history of changes in the child’s living environment and on physical health and functioning. The survey will collect data from local agencies on the percentage of children in kinship care who are not related to their caregivers. In addition, demographic data should soon be available from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, including information on the race, ethnicity, age, and marital status of kin and non-kin foster parents.

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