One of the most recent stunning changes in the child welfare system has been the major growth in the number of children in state custody who are living with their relatives. Kinship care refers to the full time care and protection of children by relatives, extended family members or any person that has a family-like relationship with a child. Kin is defined as “one’s family and relations.”

The practice of kinship care has become an important part of the child welfare system in the U.S. Kinship care arrangements fall into three categories: informal, voluntary or formal. Informal kinship care does not involve the child welfare or juvenile system. Voluntary kinship care is a situation in which children live with relatives and the child welfare system is involved. Formal kinship care involves being placed in the legal custody of the State and places by the child welfare systems with grandparents or other kin.

There are many benefits to placing children into kinship care. Relatives are able to offer family support and more frequent contact with birth parents and siblings. Therefore, kinship placements have become the preferred option of child welfare agencies. Research shows that children in kinship care experience greater stability when compared to children in non-relative foster care. Also, children who reunify with their birth parents after kinship care are less likely to re-enter foster care than those who had been in non-relative foster placements or in group care facilities.

Today, child welfare agencies increasingly consider kinship care as the first placement choice when foster care is needed and kin are available and able to provide a safe home. Being separated from a parent, even an abusive or neglectful one, is traumatic for a child. By placing a child with someone he or she already knows, child welfare agencies hope to minimize this trauma.

Purdue University is conducting a research study to evaluate the effectiveness of parenting classes that are specifically designed for kinship caregivers (close family and friends who are caring for a child because their parents no longer can).

For more information about participating in the research study and enrolling in the parenting classes, contact Karen Foli, MSN, PhD, RN at 765-494-4023 or at kfoli@purdue.edu or Stephanie Woodcox, MPH, CHES at 765-494-8253 or at swoodcox@purdue.edu. This study is being funded by The National Institute of Food and Agriculture: Award Number 2014-46100-223500.

Source: Hertz, K. (2014, May). Kinship Care and the Fostering Connections to Success. National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections.