More research is needed to determine why the differences between public kinship and non-kin foster care exist. Key questions that future studies may want to address include:
While the information presented in this report reflects the best currently available on kinship care, a number of limitations make generalization and cross-state comparisons problematic.
Public kinship care increased significantly in the 1980s and 1990s and now represents a significant portion of the nation's children in foster care. Kinship care, both public and private, appears to be very different from non-kin foster care, and States have developed policies to address the specific needs and circumstances of public kinship careg
This chapter includes all available information on three of the items for which Congress specifically requested information: services provided to kinship caregivers and to birth parents, birth parents’ access to their children in care, and permanency plans for children in kinship care. Listed below are additional information needed and potential
Caseworkers treat public kinship care families differently from non-kin families, and the experiences of public kinship care families appear to differ markedly from those of non-kin foster families.
To date, no reliable data have been gathered on the differences in the health or well-being of either children or providers as a result of public kinship care. Public kinship children and caregivers do differ from non-kin on a number of point-in-time indicators (Chapter 3), but it is uncertain whether such differences result from the care arrangem
Public kinship care appears to offer stable placements for children; however, if these placements are not considered acceptable permanent goals, they may impede other options for permanent placement. Children in public kinship care are less likely to be reunified with their parents (AFCARS, 1998; Berrick et al., 1995; Testa, 1997), but those who a
Most studies show that children in public kinship care remain in care significantly longer than children in non-kin foster care. 39 These findings raise concerns about permanency planning. Child welfare experts have argued that children are left in public kinship care without a permanency plan or that some child welfare agencies and workers rega
Caseworkers’ goals for the permanent living arrangements of children in public kinship care appear to differ from those for children in non-kin foster care. It is difficult to determine the proportion of kin and non-kin foster children for whom permanent reunification with their birth families is a goal because the data are inconsistent. Some da
Permanency refers to the child welfare goal of securing, as quickly as possible, a stable living arrangement for children who must be removed from their parents’ homes. As discussed below, the unique nature of kinship care often makes traditional plans for permanency—specifically, reunification with parents or adoption— problematic. Moreover
Given the differing standards to which many public kinship caregivers are held by child welfare agencies, policy makers and child welfare experts alike have questioned the safety of these arrangements (Kusserow, 1992). Three types of concerns have been raised: that public kinship caregivers may themselves be abusive parents; that they may not prev
Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Family Continuity, Access of Birth Parents to Children
Foster care can be extremely disruptive for children, threatening their sense of belonging and causing anxiety over the temporary nature of their living situation (Dore and Kennedy, 1981; Laird, 1979; Pecora et al., 1992). Public kinship care placements appear to minimize this disruption, may be less traumatic than placements with non-kin provider
Foster parents seek to provide a safe, stable, and family-like setting for children who cannot live with their parents. Foster care is meant to be temporary, with children returning home or finding an alternative permanent placement as soon as possible. Unfortunately, being placed in foster care can be traumatic for children. Moreover, studies hav
Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Services Provided to Public Kinship Caregivers and to Birth Parents
Not only are public kinship caregivers less likely than non-kin foster parents to receive services, their needs are more often overlooked. Public kinship caregivers are referred for, offered, and actually receive fewer services for themselves and for the children in their care (Barth et al., 1994; Berrick et al., 1994; Chipungu and Everett, 1994;
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
Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Child Welfare Service Delivery and Supervision of Kinship CARE Families
Many States have developed different policies for public kinship and non-kin foster care (Chapter 2). Available data suggest that child welfare workers’ service delivery and supervision practices for public kinship care families also differ.
Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Chapter 4 Experiences of Public Kinship Care Families
Given the differences in their circumstances and characteristics, it is not surprising that the experiences of public kinship care families differ from those of non-kin foster care families. Specifically, it appears that child welfare caseworkers treat public kinship care families differently than they do non-kin foster families. They provide less
This chapter includes all available information on two of the items for which Congress specifically requested information: the conditions under which children enter care and the characteristics of kinship caregivers and their households. Listed below are additional information needed and potential sources of this information.
Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Summary of the Characteristics of Kinship CARE Households
Kinship care families appear to be very different from non-kin foster families in several key ways:
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 tel