With the increase in the number of children placed in foster care, kinship placement has become a critical factor. Placement with kin results in better outcomes for children with greater placement stability and safety. About 32% of children in the child welfare system are living with a relative. Placement with relatives has increased by approximately one percentage point each year from 2009-2017.
In order to create a “kin first culture” several organizations developed a wikiHow for kinship care with the following seven steps:
Step 1 – Lead with a kin first philosophy
Step 2 – Develop written policies and protocols that reflect equity for children with kin and recognize their unique circumstances
Step 3 – Identify and engage kin for children at every step
Step 4 – Create a sense of urgency for making the first placement a kin placement
Step 5 – Make licensing kin a priority
Step 6 – Support permanent families for children
Step 7 – Create a strong community network to support kin families
Each step includes examples from states that have implemented them. To view the wikiHow visit http://www.grandfamilies.org/wikiHow-for-Kinship-Foster-Care.
Children whose families are involved in abuse and neglect often experience trauma. Although this trauma affects both the child and kin family, the kin placement also provides the best antidote to trauma: a positive, supporting relationship with a loving adult. Children placed with relatives have fewer school changes, better behavioral and mental health outcomes, and are more likely to report that they “always feel loved.”
Generations United has prepared an excellent report on trauma and the positive effects of kin placement: https://www.gu.org/app/uploads/2018/05/Grandfamilies-Report-SOGF-2017.pdf
Kin caregivers provide better outcomes for children along with a priceless relationship but there is a cost. Kin often have lower income, less access to resources, and poorer health than non-kin caregivers. The federal government has funded kinship navigator programs to connect grandparents and other relatives who take primary responsibility for the care of children with resources. In the past, these navigator programs were funded through grants and about half the states had navigator programs. The Family First Prevention Services Act provided seed funding, effective October 1, for all states to develop a navigator program. The dollar amount ranges from $206,630 for Wyoming to just over $1 million for California. Almost all states have submitted a request form to receive the funding.
There is additional funding available for kin and kinship navigator programs through other portions of the Family First legislation. To help unravel the complicated guidelines for funding, Jennifer Miller, an expert on kin care from Child Focus, provided the following information:
To receive ongoing funding for kinship navigator programs, states will need to establish their program as evidence-based practice. However, the challenge is that there are few navigator programs currently meeting EBP standards. Efforts are underway to identify and establish such programs.
Kin are also eligible to receive direct services through Family First funding. The most likely services they will receive are parenting skills training and mental health prevention and treatment services.
For more information on kinship navigator programs and resources visit http://www.grandfamilies.org/Resources/Kinship-Navigator-Programs.
For information on Kinship Care—Best Practice, visit the Preserving Families Blog at https://preservingfamiliesblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/23/kinship-care-best-practice/
Posted by Priscilla Martens
NFPN Executive Director