Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Well-Being of Kinship Caregivers and Children

06/01/2000

Data show that the well-being of kinship caregivers is generally lower than that of non-kin foster parents. Kinship caregivers experience a variety of economic, health, and emotional difficulties and often have difficulty making ends meet. For example, they are more likely than non-kin foster parents to borrow money from friends, to be without telephone service, and to have an insufficient amount of food (Geen and Clark, 1999). Kinship caregivers are also more likely than non-kin foster parents to report being in poor health (Barth et al., 1994; Berrick et al., 1994; Chipungu et al., 1998), perhaps because kinship caregivers tend to be older. They are significantly more likely to report feeling “downhearted and blue” and “unable to be cheered up” (Geen and Clark, 1999).

In contrast, children in kinship care appear to have significantly higher well-being than children in non-kin foster care. Several studies have found that children in public kinship care have fewer physical health problems (Chipungu et al., 1998; Cook and Ciarico, 1998; Grogan-Kaylor, 1996; Landsverk, 1996) and fewer mental health problems (Beeman et al., 1996; Cantos et al., 1996; Chipungu et al., 1998; Cook and Ciarico, 1998; Iglehart, 1995).

They also appear less likely to have behavioral problems, including truancy, delinquency, or running away (Benedict et al., 1996; Chipungu et al., 1998; Cook and Ciarico, 1998). Children in public kinship care also have fewer educational problems (Barth et al., 1994; Berrick et al., 1994; Brooks and Barth, 1998; Cook and Ciarico, 1998; Dubowitz et al., 1994; Iglehart, 1994; Iglehart, 1995; Le Prohn and Pecora, 1994; Scannapieco et al., 1997). They are less likely to be in special education (Barth et al., 1994; Berrick et al., 1994; Chipungu et al., 1998; Cook and Ciarico, 1998), and two small-scale studies found that they are less likely to repeat a grade (Barth et al., 1994; Iglehart, 1995). Finally, one study examining a variety of potential problems that foster children may face found that children in kinship care have fewer problems overall than children in non-kin foster care (Cook and Ciarico, 1998).

 

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