Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Notes


  1. See Chapter 5 for a complete discussion of data limitations.
  2. Throughout this report, we differentiate between these two types of arrangements. When we wish to discuss both types of arrangements together, we refer to them as simply kinship care.
  3. Takas used similar terms to differentiate kinship care arrangements, but her definition of public kinship care included only children in State custody placed in foster care with kin.
  4. Child welfare agencies have long used relatives as resources, but States have only recently developed programs specifically designed to ensure their involvement in case planning.
  5. These data include public kinship care families that did not identify themselves as foster families in responding to the survey. In 1998, approximately 4.0 million children lived in households maintained by their grandparents; 1.4 million children were living with grandparents without either parent present (U.S. Census, 1999).
  6. Data are provided based on two- or three-year averages, because the number of children in kinship care in a single year’s Current Population Survey is relatively small and provides unreliable estimates. In addition, because of the introduction of improved collection and processing procedures, data before 1994 are not comparable to data from later years.
  7. Based on yearly March Current Population Survey data, the number of children in kinship care decreased from an average of 2.21 million to 2.08 million between 1994–1996 and 1996–1998, and the average prevalence of kinship care decreased from 3.15 percent to 2.93 percent.
  8. Based on data from the Urban Institute’s National Survey of America’s Families, which identified children as living with related foster parents if a foster parent indicated that he or she was related to the foster child or a relative indicated that the child in his or her care was a foster child. In the first type of identification, the caregiver was identified as the child’s foster parent or as the child’s parent and, when probed about the type of parent, indicated that he or she was a foster parent. The caregiver was then identified as being related to the child. In the second type of identification, the caregiver was identified as the child’s brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, great-grandparent, great-aunt, or great-uncle, and the child was then identified as being the foster child of this relative.
  9. NSAF was completed by a nationally representative sample of approximately 48,000 households in the United States in 1997. Respondents who noted that they were related to, but not the parent of, a child in their household and that neither of the child’s parents were in the home were asked whether they were the child’s foster parent. If they answered no, they were asked whether a social services agency helped arrange for the child to live in the respondent’s home. Those who answered yes are considered to be voluntarily caring for children reported as abused or neglected.
  10. Between 1988 and 1993, public kinship care as a percent of all foster care rose from 32 to 54 percent in Illinois, from 22 to 45 percent in California, and from 23 to 36 percent in New York (Harden et al., 1996). However, between 1993 and 1997, public kinship care decreased in New York, from 36 to 26 percent of the foster care caseload, and Illinois, from 54 to 51 percent. During the same period, California’s use of relatives as foster parents increased slightly, from 45 to 47 percent.
  11. Miller v. Youakim, 440 U.S. 125 (1979).
  12. Lipscomb v. Simmons, 962 F. 2d 1374 (9th Cir. 1992).
  13. The Department of Health and Human Services has played a key role in promoting public kinship care research, including the funding of analyses of data collected as part of the National Study of Protective, Preventive, and Reunification Services, data that States provide through the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, and data collected as part of the National Study of Outcomes of Children Placed in Foster Care with Relatives.
  14. Parents could receive child-only payments if they themselves were not eligible for assistance—for example, because they were an undocumented immigrant, received Supplemental Security Income benefits instead of AFDC, or had been sanctioned from the AFDC program.
  15. The House bill originally referred specifically to “relatives,” but this language was removed from the final version of the law (Spar, 1993).
  16. Social Security Act, Section 471(a)(10).
  17. A recent California court interpreted the Federal law differently, stating that IV-E eligibility is determined on the income of the caregiver, not the income of the home from which the child was removed (Land v. Anderson).
  18. Only Maine and Vermont reported not giving preference to kin, though two additional States noted that relatives only sometimes receive preference, depending on the specific circumstances of the case, and one State noted that preference practices vary by county.
  19. Many kin are not eligible to receive Federal funds because they are unable to meet or not interested in meeting traditional foster home licensing standards or they care for non-IV-E-eligible children.
  20. As discussed below, States vary in how many of these different licensing categories they offer to kin.
  21. In Michigan, counties decide whether or not to allow kin caring for non-IV-E-eligible children to be fully licensed.
  22. In 1996, TANF replaced AFDC as the primary federal income assistance program for low-income families.
  23. Nine of the 10 states that allow modified kinship care provide foster care payments to kin. Of the 18 States that allow approved kinship care, 10 provide foster care payments to kin, two provide foster care for IV-E-eligible kin, and two provide an alternative rate greater than AFDC but less than foster care. Among the 24 States that allow assisted kinship care, only one provides a foster care payment to kin, and three provide an alternative rate greater than AFDC but less than foster care.
  24. Data from an annual benefit survey by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and from Urban Institute tabulations of AFDC State plan information.
  25. Faith Mullen, Senior Policy Analyst, Public Policy Institute, American Association of Retired Persons, February 19, 1999, personal communication.
  26. Private arrangements may occur as a result of parental abuse or neglect that is unknown to the child welfare agency; many researchers have suggested that this is a common reason for private kinship care (Casper and Bryson, 1998; Chalfie, 1994).
  27. Data on public kinship care families presented in this report do not include non-custodial kinship care arrangements and may not include all custodial arrangements, depending upon States’ reporting practices and the scope of specific studies summarized. See Chapter 5 for a detailed discussion of data limitations.
  28. There are no significant differences between children in public kinship and non-kin foster care in gender proportions or number of siblings (Beeman et al., 1996; Berrick et al., 1994; Dubowitz et al., 1993; Geen and Clark, 1999; Harden et al., 1997; Iglehart, 1994; Le Prohn and Pecora, 1994).
  29. Most kinship caregivers are maternal relatives of the child in care (Gleeson et al., 1995; Le Prohn, 1994; Link, 1996), and most caregivers that are not grandmothers are aunts (Dubowitz, 1990; Dubowitz et al., 1993; Geen and Clark, 1999; Harden et al., 1997; Le Prohn and Pecora, 1994; Testa and Rolock, 1999).
  30. Another study estimated that approximately 45 percent of children in private kinship care are African American (Harden et al., 1997).
  31. According to one study, approximately 62 percent of public kinship caregivers and 44 percent of non-kin foster parents are African American (Chipungu et al., 1998).
  32. Data on other ethnic groups are not available.
  33. There is only one adult in 37 percent and two adults in 44 percent of public kinship homes, compared to 26 percent and 51 percent in non-kin foster homes. Public kinship caregivers are much more likely to care for only one child (22 percent versus 8 percent), while non-kin foster parents are more likely to care for five or more children (40 percent versus 19 percent). This includes both children regularly staying in the home (biological or adoptive children) as well as children in kinship or foster care (Chipungu et al., 1998).
  34. Two small-scale studies also found that public kinship caregivers are more likely to live in public housing (Berrick et al., 1994; Le Prohn, 1994).
  35. One study found that a slightly higher percentage of non-kin foster parents than public kinship caregivers were unemployed (31 percent versus 26 percent) even though kin caregivers are more likely than non-kin providers to be retired (15 percent versus 12 percent) (Chipungu et al., 1998). However, it is important to remember that estimates of unemployment among kinship and non-kin caregivers do not provide a complete picture of family employment status. While a caregiver may be unemployed, a spouse may be working full- or part-time. Further, while only 3 percent of private kinship care providers are unemployed, 39 percent are not in the labor force (Harden et al., 1997).
  36. Data show that public kinship caregivers are more likely than non-kin foster parents to be in unskilled (8.6 versus 4.7 percent), semi-skilled (15.2 versus 12.3 percent), and clerical/technical (14.3 versus 9.7 percent) fields (Chipungu et al., 1998).
  37. Child welfare workers interviewed in another study reported that their case management practices are the same for kin and non-kin families (Chipungu, 1998). Yet even this study presents conflicting findings. Interviews with caregivers showed that on the one hand kinship care families have less frequent contact with social workers than non-kin foster care families, and on the other hand that caseworker records indicate no differences in the frequency of worker contacts with children in the two types of foster care families.
  38. Data from 30 States are included in Appendix B, Table B.4
  39. While data are limited, it appears that children in private kinship care remain in care for long periods as well. One report found that over half of grandparents with primary caregiving responsibility cared for the child for at least 3 years, and 41 percent cared for the child more than 5 years (Fuller-Thomson, Minkler, and Driver, 1997).
  40. Similarly, different studies summarized in this report are based on different segments of the public kinship care population.

View full report


"full.pdf" (pdf, 680.86Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®