Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Limitations of the Data


While the information presented in this report reflects the best currently available on kinship care, a number of limitations make generalization and cross-state comparisons problematic.

  • Differences in State policies and practices. State policies and practices affect who is permitted to provide public kinship care, how kinship families are supported, and other key factors that may influence the characteristics and outcomes of children in kinship care. Any comparison of data across States must therefore take into account differences in State policies and practices. Moreover, national or multistate data samples often combine data that may not be entirely comparable.
  • Differences in types of public kinship care included in State data. Depending upon their policies, States may have several types of public kinship care arrangements, such as kin licensed under the same criteria as non-kin foster parents, kin approved on the basis of different, and typically less stringent, standards, or unlicensed or unapproved kin who receive minimal supervision. Depending upon States' reporting practices, kinship care data may or may not include all of these arrangements.40  Few States appear to collect data on noncustodial arrangements. In addition, some States do not distinguish fully licensed kinship care from non-kin foster care and thus incorrectly report licensed kin as non-kin foster care. Other States do not include approved or assisted kinship care arrangements in their data. Thus, differences in the experiences of kinship families across States may reflect differences in the types of families included in the data. Moreover, States' data combine all types of kinship care, making it impossible to draw conclusions about specific types of arrangements (for example, comparing the experiences of licensed versus approved public kinship care).
  • Lack of representativeness. Data summarized in this report may not be representative of the kinship care population nationally or that of a given State. Virtually none of the studies summarized here are based on data from all States, and most studies reflect results from a small number of cases or from cases that were chosen by the researcher rather than selected at random.
  • Differences in comparison groups. It is helpful to compare the circumstances and experiences of children in public kinship care to those of children in alternative settings`but in what settings? Some studies compare children in kinship care to children in non-kin foster care. Others compare them to children in all other types of placements, including group homes and residential placements. Since studies often use different comparison groups, findings may not be comparable.
  • Correlation between kinship care and other variables. Most of the research summarized in this report addresses the relationship between a particular type of foster care and a variety of characteristics or experiences of families and children. These analyses do not take into account the multitude of differences before placement that might influence these characteristics and experiences. Thus, the ability to draw conclusions about the differences between public kinship and non-kin foster care is limited.

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