Kinship Care: An Overview
Today, there are over 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States. These numbers are a shocking reality for thousands of families in America. 14,000 of the children in the state of Georgia are in the foster care system.
When a parent or parents can no longer provide adequate care for their child, the child may be removed from the home. From there, they can be placed into a foster home, a group home, or with a relative.
When they’re placed with a relative, it’s what’s known as kinship care. Kinship placement is often a better alternative to a traditional foster home, as the familial bond is preserved.
Keep reading to learn more about kinship care and its benefits.
What Is Kinship Care?
Kinship care involves relatives caring for a child on a full-time basis when a parent is unable to care for the child. In some states and jurisdictions, close family friends may also qualify. This is known as fictive kinship.
This type of care refers to the nurturing and protective care of a child by members of their family, Tribe or clan. A kinship caregiver may be grandparents, aunts or uncles, godparents, stepparents, and other close relatives. The relationship between the child and the caregiver also has a basis in cultural values and emotional ties.
Child welfare law and policy give priority to families when a child is removed from the home. The idea behind this is that children fare better with people they have a close familial relationship with. These caregivers are intended to give the child a more stable and nurturing home life so that they can develop normally.
Who Are Kinship Caregivers?
Children can be removed from a home for any number of reasons. Child services typically removes children from abusive, neglectful, and unsafe homes. If they suspect that any of these conditions are present in a home, they are legally allowed to remove children under the age of 18 and take them into their care.
Once a child has been removed from the home, the Department of Children and Family Services (DFCS) decides where they’ll be placed temporarily. But according to US Code 671, DFCS and the court must prioritize giving the child to family members before any other options.
The needs of the child are the biggest determining factor as to where they’ll be placed, which is why relatives are preferred over nonrelated caregivers. Beyond the US Code, the majority of state laws require that relatives are prioritized over non-relatives in child placement.
DFCS can ask the parents which relatives they should contact. In other cases, a family decision-making conference will be called. The conference brings together members of the family to decide which relative or close family friend would be best suited to caring for the child.
When a kinship caregiver is appointed, there’s a process before the child can be approved to live with them. The potential caregiver will have to undergo a number of background checks, as outlined by DFCS. Their home will also be checked to ensure it meets safety guidelines and other standards. Additionally, in Georgia, relatives and fictive kin will need to become fully licensed foster parents to receive assistance from the state.
What Are the Kinship Care Benefits?
For the child, there are a number of benefits to kinship care. As already mentioned, the trauma of entering foster care risks harm being done to the child in terms of development and feelings of safety. But kinship care benefits include a more stable and familiar environment.
Below we discuss the kinship care benefits for the child in more detail.
In general, kinship care is better for the child’s well-being. Being moved to an environment in which they’re familiar creates a sense of stability for the child.
Because they’re more likely to stay with the family member on a permanent basis, that stability is maintained. Children in the foster care system are typically moved from foster care home to foster care home.
Being removed from a parent’s care can be traumatizing for young children. Not only are they taken from their parents and the home they know, but they also have to change schools, make new friends, and are sometimes separated from their brothers and sisters.
But being placed with someone with whom they are familiar and has their best interest at heart can reduce the amount of trauma they experience. There’s also a higher chance that they won’t be separated from their siblings, which is an important connection to maintain.
Research shows a relative is far more likely to be able to create a permanent situation for the child. Nationwide studies show relatives are more likely to adopt, take custody, or become the legal guardian of the child in their care.
What Are the Barriers to Kinship Care?
Children fare better when they’re placed with a kinship caregiver. But there are some barriers to becoming a kinship caregiver.
Sometimes, the best relative for the child to go to isn’t in the financial position to care for the children. There need to be more services for relatives to help them finance the cost of an extra child or children in the home. These services should also include educational and support services that can help them cope with change, learn how to deal with potential behavioral problems and other issues related to kinship caregiving.
There are also bureaucratic processes and legal proceedings that make providing a permanent home difficult. When it comes to kinship placements, these processes should be streamlined and made more efficient. This way, children get into the caring home they need faster and with less trauma.
Partner With Us In Helping Children
Kinship care refers to a relative or close family member caring for a child when they’re removed from their parent’s home. It benefits children by minimizing trauma and providing permanency and stability. While there are barriers to becoming a kinship caregiver, efforts are being made to create a better system for children who find themselves in this tragic situation.
And if you’re interested in finding out how you can help foster parents and kinship care placements, think about getting involved in our community.