On Their Own Terms: Supporting Kinship Care Outside of TANF and Foster Care. Trends in Kinship Care

09/01/2001

Between 1983 and 1985 and again between 1992 and 1993(3), the number of children in kinship care grew at a slightly faster rate than the number of children in the United States as a whole  8.4 percent compared to 6.6 percent (Harden, Clark, and Maguire, 1997). Many researchers argue that the growth of kinship care during this period was a result of greater pressures on the nuclear family, due to social ills such as increased rates of homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, juvenile delinquency, AIDS, and child abuse and neglect (Hornby, Zeller, and Karraker, 1995; Spar, 1993). Since 1994, however, both the number and prevalence of kinship care children has decreased.(4)

The number of children in non-kin foster care has doubled since 1983 and available evidence suggests that kinship foster care increased substantially during the late 1980s and 1990s (Boots and Geen, 1999; Harden et al., 1997; Kusserow, 1992). Data on the number of foster children cared for by relatives is limited, with estimates varying from about 150,000 (U.S. DHHS, 2001) to 200,000 (Ehrle et al., 2001). In addition, states' use of kin as foster parents varies significantly with kinship foster care accounting for more than half of all placements in some states (U.S. DHHS, 2000c) and very few placements in others.

Child welfare agencies have developed a more positive attitude toward the use of kin as foster parents as research has demonstrated that children may suffer less trauma when placed with someone they already know.

Several factors have contributed to the growth in kinship foster care. While the number of children requiring placement outside the home has increased, the number of non-kin foster parents has declined. In addition, child welfare agencies have developed a more positive attitude toward the use of kin as foster parents as research has demonstrated that children may suffer less trauma when placed with someone they already know. Finally, several federal and state court rulings have recognized the rights of relatives to act as foster parents and to be compensated financially for that role.