On Their Own Terms: Supporting Kinship Care Outside of TANF and Foster Care. The Goals of Alternative Kinship Care Programs

09/01/2001

The three basic goals of the child welfare system are to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of children. The vast majority of identified alternative kinship care programs seek to achieve one or more of these goals.

Of 57 alternative programs, 34 are subsidized guardianship programs with the primary goal of making the kinship care placement permanent. Of the remaining 23, 18 also seek to make kinship care arrangements more permanent. Most of the programs also seek to increase the stability of kinship care arrangements (21 of the 23 programs not providing subsidized guardianship). Programs in Florida and Pittsburgh and Kentucky's child welfare alternative program all seek to increase permanency (the services these programs provide to increase permanency are described below). In contrast, only eight of the programs seek to reunify children in kinship care with their birth parents. Of the programs visited, Pittsburgh's program makes the most concerted effort to reunify kinship care children with their biological parents.

Most programs, whether child welfare-focused or not, also seek to improve the overall well-being of kinship care families. Of the 23 programs identified not providing subsidized guardianship, 21 cite improving the well-being of kinship care children as a program goal and 20 seek to improve the well-being of kinship caregivers. In addition 17 seek to prevent foster care placements.

Several of the programs we visited also have goals to improve more generally service delivery to kinship caregivers. Kentucky officials noted that one of the goals of its child welfare alternative program is to increase the use of relatives as foster parents. Some, such as Oklahoma's program, seek to improve overall community awareness of the needs of kinship care families and integration of available services. Some programs, such as the Kinship Support Network in San Francisco, focus on providing a wide array of community-based services for kin and the children in their care. Pittsburgh's program also has the goal of making kinship foster care services more culturally responsive and family focused.