Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Supervision and Information Provided to Public Kinship Care Families


Several studies show that child welfare workers tend to supervise public kinship care families less than non-kin foster families (Beeman et al., 1996; Berrick et al., 1994; Brooks and Barth, 1998; Chipungu et al., 1998; Dubowitz, 1990; Gebel, 1996; Iglehart, 1994). For example, one study found that caseworkers conduct less frequent home visits and telephone kinship caregivers less often than non-kin foster parents, with African American kinship families receiving the least supervision (Gebel, 1996). Another study found that more than one-quarter of public kinship caregivers went a year or more without having contact with a caseworker (Dubowitz, 1990).37
Studies have also found that child welfare caseworkers provide less information to kinship caregivers than to non-kin foster parents (Chipungu and Everett, 1994 Chipungu et al., 1998). For example, one study showed that caseworkers are much less likely to discuss the role of the child welfare agency with kinship caregivers, who usually do not receive foster parent training (Chipungu et al., 1998). Consequently, kinship caregivers have less understanding of the child welfare agency’s role. While kinship caregivers may not request information from caseworkers as often as non-kin foster parents do, one study found that child welfare workers are less likely to respond to requests for information from public kinship caregivers (Chipungu and Everett, 1994).

With this combination of less attention and supervision, child welfare staff may have limited familiarity with their kinship caseloads. For example, one report found that a third of teenagers in public kinship care are not well known to the child welfare worker responsible for them (Iglehart, 1995). Experts have argued that public kinship caregivers receive less supervision from child welfare staff because workers view kinship placements either as separate from and possibly outside the child welfare system or as fundamentally safer than placements with non-kin providers (Berrick et al., 1994). In addition, caseworkers may fail to initiate or sustain regular contact with public kinship care families because they think that kinship caregivers prefer limited contact with the agency (Thornton, 1987, as cited in Coupet, 1996).

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