Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. VI. Gaps in Research, Evaluation and Other Information


Issue: What are the gaps in our understanding of kinship care that should be addressed in the coming years?

Discussion: While we were able to identify considerable relevant research, which is described in the research review that accompanies this policy discussion, there remain many gaps in our knowledge about kinship care and its use within and outside the child welfare system.

During the Advisory Panel’s discussion, some panelists argued that the most pressing research gaps to be addressed were those that would provide full answers to the questions raised by the Congress in asking for this report. Others proposed specific topics or research questions they believed were especially pressing, regardless of policy interest. Participants uniformly said that the Federal government needs to do a better job of conducting and disseminating basic descriptive research. Some cautioned that the States should not be burdened with additional data collection, and some pointed to the demonstration pilots as the best method of gathering additional information.

Panelists listed many areas in need of further research including:


  • the service needs of relative caregivers;
  • understanding the variation in State guardianship laws;
  • children’s perceptions of permanency in kinship care;
  • the availability of adoptive homes;
  • the social context of children in kinship care;


  • why and with whom children are placed;
  • whether kinship care placements are more stable than others, and if so, why;
  • whether it matters who we define as kin, with a focus on cultural differences;
  • the use of kinship care in Native American communities;


  • the impact of legal permanence on children;
  • the effects on children of placement changes, caseworker turnover and other instability in the child welfare system;
  • the relationship between worker characteristics and outcomes for children;
  • developmental outcomes of children in kinship care;
  • outcomes of children adopted, compared to children in guardianships;
  • the results of concurrent permanency planning; and
  • the effects of cross-cultural adoption.

HHS Position: The Department is looking to two existing research efforts to better inform kinship care policy. These include: (1) the evaluation of child welfare demonstration waiver projects regarding kinship care and subsidized guardianship which are underway in several States; and (2) the National Study of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, a longitudinal study of children who have been abused or neglected which includes some children in kinship care arrangements. We will carefully consider the research and information needs suggested by panel members as we plan our future research and evaluation agenda.

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