The Evolution of Kinship Care Policy and Practice

Future of Children
Rob Geen
January 1, 2004
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Kin caregivers can provide continuity and connectedness
for children who cannot remain
with their parents. This is one reason kinship care
has become the preferred placement option for
foster children. However, despite the growing
reliance on kin caregivers, kinship care policies
have evolved with little coherent guidance. This
article examines kinship care and finds:
Kinship foster parents tend to be older and
have lower incomes, poorer health, and less
education than non-kin foster parents. As a
result, kin caregivers face more challenges as
foster parents than non-kin caregivers.
The links between payment and licensure,
and the haphazard evolution of licensing policies
and practices, complicate efforts to provide
fair compensation for kin caregivers.
Kinship caregivers receive less supervision and
fewer services than non-kin caregivers, thus
kin may not receive the support they need to
nurture and protect the children in their care,
even though their needs for support may be
greater.
Kinship foster care questions many traditional
notions about family obligation, governmental
responsibility, and the nature of permanency for
children in care. The article concludes by discussing
these concerns, and calls for more thoughtful
consideration of the uniqueness of kinship
care in developing policies and best practices.
Rob Geen, M.P.P., is a senior research associate at the
Urban Institute.
131 www.futureofchildren.org
Geen
Volume 14, Number 1 132
Historically, kin have often served as alternate
or supplementary caregivers when
birth parents were unable to care for their
children. Surprisingly, however, when the
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980
passed, forming the basis of federal foster care policy,
kin were very rarely formally designated as foster parents
for related children. Today, child welfare agencies
increasingly consider relatives as the first placement
choice when foster care is needed and a relative is available
to provide a safe home. Once considered an
uncertain placement option, kinship care has become
central to any discussion of how best to support and
nurture children in foster care. The frequent references
to kinship care throughout the articles in this journal
issue underscore the centrality of kinship care in contemporary
child welfare policy and practice (see the
articles by Jones-Harden; Allen and Bissell; Stukes
Chipungu and Bent-Goodley; and Testa in this journal
issue). But kinship care is more than simply a placement
option for children who must be removed from
their parents? homes. Kinship care influences and is
influenced by society?s views of what constitutes safe
and stable homes for foster children and whether or
not kin should be compensated for this care. Moreover,
despite the large number of foster children who
are placed with kin, our understanding of the effects of
kin care on long-term outcomes for children is limited.
On the one hand, children placed with kin remain
more connected to their birth parents, extended families,
and communities than children in unrelated foster
care. On the other hand, kinship care providers face a
more challenging parenting environment than unrelated
foster parents, and the impact of these challenges on
child well-being, reunification possibilities, and securing
permanency is largely unknown.
This article provides an in-depth analysis of kinship
care. It begins by defining kinship care and discussing
trends in the use of kinship care for foster children, as
well as for children living with kin without the involvement
of child welfare agencies. Next, the characteristics
of children in kinship foster care and their caregivers
are discussed. Licensing policies and practices for kin
are critical in determining whether kin caregivers will
receive financial compensation and if so, how much. A
full discussion of the complexity of licensure is presented,
focusing on how licensing standards affect payment.
The article concludes by examining federal and
state kinship foster care policies and frontline kinship
care practices and discussing the unresolved tensions
and ongoing debates regarding the increasing reliance
on kinship caregivers.
Understanding Kinship Care
Relying on extended family members for support in
child rearing has been a common practice across cultures,
yet public agencies have only recently acknowledged
the role of kin caregivers as a resource for
children who must be removed from their birth parents.
To understand the evolution of kinship care policy
and practice, an understanding of the underlying
factors that have influenced that evolution is needed.
Children live with kin under a variety of different circumstances.
Therefore, how ?kin? and ?kinship care?
are defined determines what constitutes a kinship care
arrangement and the level of interaction between kin
caregivers and public agencies. Although documenting
the number of children in kinship care is difficult, the
available data suggest that kin acting as primary caregivers
has become more commonplace. In addition,
children in kinship foster care and their caregivers differ
from children in non-kin placements on several
dimensions, thus child welfare professionals must be
particularly aware of and responsive to the unique challenges
children in kinship care and their kin caregivers
often face.
Defining Kinship Care
Delineating the various types of kinship care arrangements
is critical for understanding how and when kinship
care intersects with the child welfare system.
Moreover, the way states define kin is important
because, as will be discussed later, all states treat kin differently
than non-kin. In its broadest sense, kinship
care is any living arrangement in which children do not
live with either of their parents and are instead cared
for by a relative or someone with whom they have had
a prior relationship. The word kin is often used interchangeably
with relative; however, when defining kinship
care, many state child welfare agencies include
persons beyond blood relatives?for example, godparents,
family friends, or anyone else with a strong emotional
bond to a child. A 2001 Urban Institute survey
of state kinship care policies found that almost half of
all states included only those related by blood, mar-
Kinship Care
133 The Future of Children
riage, or adoption in their definitions of kin.1 However,
almost as many states included caregivers whose
relationships to children were not based on biological
or legal connections in their definitions of kin.2
Traditionally, kinship care has been described as either
?informal,? meaning that caregiving arrangements
occurred without the involvement of a child welfare
agency, or ?formal,? meaning that kin acted as foster
parents for children in state custody. Unfortunately, the
use of the terms ?informal? and ?formal? to describe
the range of kinship care arrangements may be misleading
and inaccurate. For example, referring to kinship
caregiving outside the purview of the child welfare
system as ?informal? may incorrectly imply that such
arrangements are short-term or tenuous. Some informal
kinship caregivers have legal custody of related
children through adoption or guardianship, and others
have legal decision-making authority through power of
attorney. In short, some informal kinship care arrangements
are more formal than others.
Likewise, kinship care arrangements designated as
?formal? vary in the extent to which they are publicly
supported and monitored. Most prior researchers have
used the phrase ?formal kinship care? to refer to
arrangements in which children have been adjudicated
as abused or neglected and placed in foster care with
kin. However, child welfare may be involved in other
kinship care placements. There are instances in which
child welfare agencies help arrange the placement of a
child with a relative but do not seek court action to
obtain custody of the child. For example, during or
after a child protective services investigation, a caseworker
may advise a parent to place a child with a relative;
both the parent and the relative know that if the
parent refuses the ?voluntary? kinship placement, the
agency may petition the court to obtain custody of the
child.
Given the limitations of the terms ?formal? and ?informal,?
this article refers to all kinship care arrangements
that occur without a child welfare agency?s involvement
as ?private kinship care? and all kinship care arrangements
that occur with child welfare contact as either
?kinship foster care? or ?voluntary kinship care.?
Trends in Kinship Care
Overall, the data suggest that kin are the primary caregivers
for a significant proportion of children, and the
number of foster children living with kin has increased
substantially over the past two decades. In 1999,
? Susie Fitzhugh
Volume 14, Number 1 134
Geen
approximately 2.3 million children lived with relatives
without a parent present in the home.3 More than
three-quarters of these children were in private kinship
care. Between 1983?85 and 1992?93,4 the number of
children in private kinship care (8.4%) grew slightly
faster than the number of children in the United States
as a whole (6.6%).5 The growing number of children
living with kin has been attributed to an increase in
such social ills as homelessness, drug and alcohol
abuse, juvenile delinquency, AIDS, and child abuse and
neglect during this period, and the subsequent stress
these problems place on the nuclear family.6 Since
1994, however, both the number and prevalence of
children in private kinship care appear to have stabilized,
if not slightly declined.7
Similarly, the evidence suggests that kinship foster care
increased substantially during the late 1980s and early
1990s and may have leveled off in recent years. However,
these data are limited because of the difficulty of
accurately documenting how many children are placed
with kin.8 Based on data from 25 states, the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
reported that the percentage of all children in state custody
placed with kin increased from 18% in 1986 to
31% in 1990.9 Moreover, evidence suggests that kinship
foster care continued to increase through 1993 in
California, Illinois, and New York, the three states that
accounted for the large majority of the 1986?90
growth.10 The growth in kinship care arrangements
seemed to decline in the late 1990s. From March 1998
to March 2000, the percentage of children in out-ofhome
care placed with relatives declined from 29% to
25%, and the number of children in kinship foster care
decreased from 151,000 to 137,000.11 However, these
data may underestimate the number of foster children
in kinship care, as many states cannot identify children
in kinship care who are not supported by foster care
payments, and other states have difficulty differentiating
between kin and non-kin foster care when kin meet
the same licensing standards as non-kin. Bearing these
limitations in mind, data from the National Survey of
America?s Families (NSAF) suggest that the number of
children currently in kinship foster care may be as high
as 200,000.12
Even if state use of kin as foster parents appears to be
leveling off, this does not necessarily mean that states
are not seeking out kin. Rather, they may be using kin
in different ways. Almost all states report giving preference
to and actively seeking out kin when children cannot
remain with their biological parents.13 However, it
appears that child welfare agencies frequently use kin as
an alternative to foster care (that is, voluntary kinship
care). Data from the NSAF, the only national survey
that examined voluntary kinship care, suggest that in
1997 approximately 285,000 children were living with
relatives as a result of child welfare involvement but
were not in the custody of the state.14 (See Figure 1.)
Several factors contributed to the growth in kinship
foster care. Although the number of children requiring
placement outside the home increased (the foster care
population has doubled since 1983), the number of
non-kin foster parents declined. In addition, child welfare
agencies developed a more positive attitude toward
the use of kin as foster parents, believing such placements
would be less traumatic than placement with
strangers. Today, extended family members are usually
given preference when children require placement.
Finally, several federal and state court rulings have rec-
Figure 1
Children in Kinship Care
Sources: National Survey of America?s Families, a project of the Urban Institute?s
Assessing the New Federalism Program, 2002, data available online at
http://newfederalism.urban.org.nsaf/; and Ehrle, J., Geen, R., and Clark, R. Children
cared for by relatives: Who are they and how are they faring? Washington, DC:
Urban Institute, 2001.
200,000
KEY:
Private Kin
Voluntary Kin
Kin Foster 79%
12%
9% 285,000
1,800,000
Kinship Care
135 The Future of Children
ognized the rights of relatives to act as foster parents
and to be financially compensated for doing so.
In some states, the proportion of foster children in kinship
care is far higher than the national average.
Nationally, approximately 25% of foster children are
living with kin. In California and Illinois, however, kinship
care accounts for 43% and 47% of the caseload,
respectively.15 Although kinship care is unevenly used
across the states, it continues to be the placement of
choice for those states with some of the highest caseloads
in the country. Kinship care rates vary across
states for many interrelated reasons, including the
availability of kin caregivers, the need for kin caregivers
due to the scarcity of non-kin foster families, and the
preference for kin caregivers among some states. Kinship
care is also used substantially in large urban centers
where placement rates are high and ethnic diversity
predominates.16
Children in Kinship Foster Care
Children in kinship foster care differ in significant ways
from children placed with non-kin, in terms of age,
race/ethnicity, and parental history. These differences
suggest that children in kinship foster care may have
different needs than children in non-kin foster care.
Prior research has shown that children in kinship foster
care are younger than children in non-kin foster care.17
They are also far more likely to be black than children
in non-kin foster care.18 For example, one study found
that 60% of children in kinship foster care were African
American, compared to 45% of children in non-kin foster
care.19 In addition, kinship care appears to be far
more common in the South than in other regions.20
Children in kinship foster care are more likely than
children in non-kin foster care to have been removed
from their parents? homes due to abuse or neglect, as
opposed to other family problems such as a parentchild
conflict or behavioral problems.21 Several smallscale
studies have also found that children in kinship
foster care are more likely to have been removed due
to neglect.22 Relatedly, children in kinship foster care
are more likely to come from homes in which birth
parents have drug or alcohol problems.23 In addition,
it appears that the birth parents of kinship care children
are more likely to be young and never married than the
birth parents of children in non-kin foster care.24
Kinship Foster Parents
Kinship foster parents differ from non-kin foster parents
in several important ways. As a result, kinship foster
parents face numerous challenges that most nonkin
foster parents do not encounter. These challenges
suggest that kinship foster caregivers may require additional
supports to ensure the healthy development of
children in their care.25 Kin caregivers tend to be older
than non-kin foster parents, with a sizable difference in
the number of caregivers over 60 years of age.26 Between
15% and 21% of kinship foster parents are over age 60,
compared to less than 9% of non-kin foster parents.27
These differences are not surprising given the fact that
kin foster parents are most often the grandparents of
the children in care.28 Studies have shown that kinship
caregivers are more likely than non-kin foster parents
to report being in poor health.29 In addition, 38% of
children who came into kinship care through the child
welfare system live with a caregiver with a limiting condition
or disability, which may be due to age.30
Almost all the studies that have collected data on the
income of kinship foster caregivers have found that
they are significantly poorer than non-kin foster parents.
31 For example, one study found that 39% of children
in kinship foster care live in households with
incomes below the federal poverty line, compared to
13% of children in non-kin foster care.32 A few key factors
may contribute to higher levels of poverty among
kinship caregivers. First, kinship caregivers have less
formal education than non-kin caregivers.33 Approximately
32% of children in kinship foster care live with
caregivers with less than a high school education, compared
with only 9% of children in non-kin foster care.34
Second, kinship caregivers appear to be much more
likely than non-kin foster parents to be single.35
Between 48% and 62% of kinship foster parents are single,
compared with 21% to 37% of non-kin foster parents.
36 Finally, one study found that kinship caregivers
are more likely to care for large sibling groups,
although there was no difference in the number of foster
children per home in kinship care arrangements
compared to non-kin foster homes.37 (See Figure 2.)
The research on the employment status of kinship caregivers
is conflicting. Some studies have found that kinship
caregivers are more likely to be employed or
employed full time than non-kin foster parents.38 In
Volume 14, Number 1 136
Geen
contrast, other studies have found that kin are less likely
to be employed.39 According to data from the NSAF,
approximately 10% of children in voluntary kin care or
kinship foster care live with a retired caregiver. Employment
status clearly impacts the time a caregiver has
available to spend with a child, but it may also affect
the resources a caregiver can offer to a child.
In addition to the socioeconomic challenges that many
kin foster parents face, kin, unlike non-kin foster parents,
usually receive little if any advanced preparation in
assuming their roles as caregivers. They may not have
time to prepare mentally for their new roles and may
not have adequate space, furniture (for example, a
crib), or other child-related necessities (for example,
toys or a car seat). Because most kinship caregivers are
grandparents, they may not have had parenting duties
for some time and may be apprehensive about raising a
child at this stage in their lives.
Of the limited research on the impact of caregiving on
kin, most has focused on differences between custodial
and noncustodial grandparents. One study found
that 45% of custodial grandparents reported being in
fair to poor physical health, compared to 24% of noncustodial
grandparents.40 Moreover, by most measures,
the emotional health and life satisfaction of custodial
grandparents was lower than that of noncustodial
grandparents. Another study found that one-third of
its sample of 72 African American grandmothers indicated
that their health had worsened since beginning
caregiving, and many directly attributed this worsening
to their caregiving responsibilities.41 Finally, in yet
another study, caregiving was directly associated with
KEY:
Kin
Non-Kin
Figure 2
Characteristics of Kin and Non-Kin Caregivers
Note: Percentages were determined by calculating the midpoint of varying ratio estimations.
Sources: Stukes Chipungu, S., Everett, J., Verduik, M., and Jones, J. Children placed in foster care with relatives: A multi-state study. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, 1998; Gebel, T. Kinship care and non-relative foster care: A comparison of caregiver attributes and attitudes. Child Welfare (1996) 75(1):5?18; Ehrle, J., and
Geen, R. Kin and non-kin foster care?findings from a national survey. Children and Youth Services Review (2002) 24:55?78; Barth, R., Courtney, M., Berrick, J., and Albert, V.
From child abuse to permanency planning. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1994; Beeman, S., Wattenberg, E., Boisen, L., and Bullerdick, S. Kinship foster care in Minnesota. St.
Paul, MN: Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, University of Minnesota School of Social Work, 1996; Berrick, J.D., Barth, R., and Needell, B. A comparison of kinship
foster homes and foster family homes: Implications for kinship foster care as family preservation. Children and Youth Services Review (1994) 16(1?2):33?63; LeProhn, N. The
role of the kinship foster parent: A comparison of the role conceptions of relative and non-relative foster parents. Children and Youth Services Review (1994) 16(1?2):65?81.
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
Over age 60 Income
below poverty
Less than
high school
Single
18%
39%
13%
32%
55%
29%
9% 9%
Kinship Care
137 The Future of Children
high levels of depression among grandparent caregivers.
42 At the same time, some researchers have
found that caregiving can provide a meaningful role for
kin, leading them to feel more useful and productive.
Caring for a child may also be intrinsically rewarding.43
In sum, kinship caregivers are often required to provide
the same nurturance and support for children in
their care that non-kin foster parents provide, with
fewer resources, greater stressors, and limited preparation.
This situation suggests that kinship care policies
and practices must be mindful of and attentive to the
many challenges kin caregivers face.
Kinship Care Policy and Practice
Despite recent federal policies that encourage placing
foster children with kin, the federal government has
given states broad discretion, but limited guidance, as
to how to approach kinship foster care. All states have
developed policies that treat kinship foster care differently
than non-kin foster care; however, there is signi-
ficant policy variation across states. This variation
reflects state efforts to increase the numbers of kin who
can act as foster parents while acknowledging kinship
care as unique from other forms of foster care. The central
policy and practice concerns states have addressed
include identifying and recruiting available kin caregivers,
developing licensure and payment policies, determining
how best to supervise and support kin caregivers,
providing and coordinating the necessary service array,
and reconciling the increased reliance on kin caregivers
with the greater emphasis on permanency.
Identifying and Recruiting Kinship Caregivers
Recent federal policies have specifically encouraged
states to seek out and recruit kin caregivers when children
must be removed from their homes. However,
ties between birth parents and kinship caregivers can
hinder recruitment efforts. In 1996, as part of federal
welfare reform, Congress required states to ?consider
giving preference to an adult relative over a non-related
caregiver when determining a placement for a
child.?44 According to a 2001 survey of state kinship
care policies, in all but two states, Georgia and Illinois,
child welfare agencies not only give preference to kin
but also require caseworkers to actively seek out kin
when it is determined that a child cannot remain with
his or her parents.45
In addition, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of
1997 (ASFA) has increased the attention that child
welfare agencies are paying to identifying and recruiting
relatives early in a child?s foster care placement history.
46 However, identifying kin when a child is placed
may be difficult, as the main source of information
about available kin is usually the birth mother, who
may be reluctant to cooperate with a child welfare
agency. Birth parents may be reluctant to identify kin
caregivers under the false hope that child welfare agencies
will not remove children for lack of an alternative
placement. If kin were unwilling to help birth parents
in the past, birth parents may feel some resentment
toward possible kin caregivers, particularly in those
instances where kin made an abuse and neglect report
against a birth parent. Even when kin are identified,
they may not be able to meet licensing standards or
may require some time to complete requirements.
Developing Licensing and Payment Policies
Licensure is the primary means by which states assess
whether foster parents are fit and able to care for children.
Licensing policy is also critical because federal
foster care reimbursements to the states and statefunded
payments to foster parents are directly tied to
licensing standards. In the past, most kin who acted as
foster parents initially received financial assistance
through the welfare system, assistance that was and is
considerably less than foster care payments. However,
in 1979 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states must
make the same foster care maintenance payments to
kin caring for Title IV-E-eligible children as they make
to non-kin foster parents, provided that kin meet state
foster care licensing standards.47 In short, income eligibility
is tied to the status of the child. Therefore, all kin,
regardless of income, are eligible for federal foster care
payments if they care for a child who was removed
from an income-eligible home and if they meet state
non-kin foster care licensing standards.
State kinship foster care licensing policies changed
significantly with the passage of ASFA and the ASFA
final rule. The act, and the January 2000 final rule that
documented how DHHS would implement the act,
included a number of provisions that clarified the federal
reimbursement of foster care payments made for
Title IV-E-eligible children placed with kin. States may
not collect federal reimbursement for all kin caring for
Volume 14, Number 1 138
Geen
Title IV-E-eligible children. Instead, ?relatives must
meet the same licensing/approval standards as nonrelative
foster family homes.? 48 Waivers for certain licensing
standards may be issued on a case-by-case basis
only, not for kin as a group. No waivers can be granted
for safety issues. In addition, the final rule prohibits
states from claiming Title IV-E reimbursement for provisionally
licensed or emergency placement kin homes.
Partially as a result of the ASFA final rule, between
1999 and 2001, 27 states altered their licensing policies.
Of these, 18 states instituted stricter licensing
standards for kin than had previously been in place.49
Despite the broad discretion states have in developing
kin care licensing standards, in order to receive federal
reimbursement for certain foster care placement costs,
states must meet minimum procedural guidelines.
Although the federal government will not reimburse
states for foster care payments made to kin who are not
licensed, neither ASFA nor the final rule prohibits
states from assessing kin differently from non-kin, and
most do. Waiving certain licensing standards or providing
different assessment options for kin gives states
the flexibility to accommodate kin who are willing and
capable of caring for children, yet unable to meet all of
the non-kin licensure requirements. Only 15 states
require kin to meet the same licensing requirements as
non-kin foster parents.50 In 23 states, child welfare
agencies waive some licensing standards (most often
living-space requirements and training) for kin foster
parents. In addition, 20 states have a separate, lessstringent
licensing process for kin than for non-kin.
Moreover, most states will place children with kin
before they meet all foster care licensing standards.51
(See the Appendix at the end of this article for a breakdown
of licensing and payment policies by state.)
For those children who are not eligible for federal
reimbursements, states can decide whether to use state
funds to financially support kin caring for children in
state custody. This flexibility has led most states to
adopt separate foster home licensing and payment
policies for kin who are not eligible for federal reimbursement.
Most states give foster care payments to kin
who are licensed based on non-kin licensing standards.
In other words, even if the children in kin care are not
eligible for federal reimbursement, most states will provide
foster care payments to caregivers under the same
standards as non-kin. California and Oregon are the
only states that provide payments to only those foster
parents who are licensed under non-kin standards and
who are caring for children who meet federal reimbursement
eligibility requirements. A few states will
not give kin foster care payments if one or more licensing
standard has been waived. In addition, most states
will not offer foster care payments to kin who are
licensed based on a kin-specific process. Finally, several
states will not provide foster care payments if kin are
provisionally licensed. In total, 26 states may not support
kin caring for children in state custody with foster
care payments.
In practice, licensing kin to act as foster parents can
also vary greatly within states. For example, even in
states that require kin to be licensed before they can
care for a child, it is not uncommon for judges to order
a child be placed with an unlicensed kinship caregiver.52
Recent data gathered by the Urban Institute show that
localities vary considerably in a number of practices,
such as their willingness to place a child with a yet unlicensed
kinship caregiver, the licensing requirements
that these kin must meet, and the financial assistance
kin will be offered before they are licensed. Similarly,
the processes for getting a waiver, the frequency with
which workers pursue waivers, and the standards that
may be waived varied greatly among the localities studied
and even among different workers and supervisors
within the same locality.
In addition to licensing, localities vary in the frequency
with which they take children into state custody and
their pursuit of voluntary kinship arrangements. For
example, one study found that in Alabama, the vast
majority of kin are used to divert children from the foster
care system entirely, and thus kin in this state rarely
receive foster care payments.53 Yet even in Alabama,
local sites varied considerably in their propensity to
take children into custody and to offer kin foster care
payment. If Alabama is indicative of other states, then
kin may not be informed about the availability of fos-
Licensing policies and practices are critical in determining whether
kin will receive financial support and if so, how much.
Kinship Care
139 The Future of Children
ter care payment or may be discouraged from taking
the steps necessary to obtain payment.
In sum, licensing policies and practices are critical in
determining whether kin will receive financial support
and if so, how much. The federal government will
reimburse states only for foster care payments to kin
who meet non-kin licensing standards and who care for
children who meet income-eligibility requirements.
For those kin who are not eligible for federal reimbursement,
states have broad discretion in developing
licensing requirements and in determining what financial
support they will provide to kinship foster parents,
if any. Moreover, many states have developed multiple
assessment options. As a result, the amount of financial
assistance kinship caregivers receive can vary due to the
eligibility status of the children in their care, the assessment
criteria and licensing requirements of individual
states, and even the discretionary decisions made by
child welfare line supervisors and caseworkers.
Supervising and Supporting Kin Caregivers
Providing adequate and appropriate supervision and
support for either kin or non-kin foster parents is a
challenge for child welfare agencies. Given that kin typically
have less experience with the child welfare system,
may not have completed foster parent training, and
may allow birth parents to have more frequent and/or
unsupervised access to their children, kinship caregivers
may require even greater support and supervision
than non-kin caregivers. However, research
indicates that kin caregivers often do not receive this
support. In fact, kin caregivers often receive less support
and supervision than non-kin caregivers.
Most state kinship care policies require caseworkers to
provide the same level of supervision for children in
kinship care as for those placed in non-kin foster care.54
In practice, however, several studies show that child
welfare workers tend to supervise kinship care families
less than non-kin foster families.55 For example, one
study found that caseworkers conduct less-frequent
home visits to kinship caregivers than to non-kin foster
parents, and they telephone less often.56 Another study
found that more than one in four kinship caregivers
went a year or more without having any contact with a
caseworker.57 In addition, research has shown that
caseworkers provide less information to kinship caregivers
than to non-kin foster parents and are less likely
to discuss the role of the child welfare agency with kinship
caregivers.58
One explanation suggested for why workers provide
less information and supervision to kinship caregivers is
that workers view kinship placements as separate from
and possibly outside of the child welfare system, or as
fundamentally safer than placements with non-kin foster
parents.59 In addition, workers may not initiate or
sustain regular contact with kinship caregivers, believing
that kin prefer limited contact with the agency.60
The limited supervision that kin receive raises concerns
about the safety of kinship care placements, especially
in light of past research that has found that birth parents
have much more frequent and unsupervised contact
with children in kinship placements.61 Child
welfare workers report that they often have difficulty
preventing unsupervised parental contact when children
are placed with kin. Parents often make unscheduled
visits with children in kinship care and are also
much more likely than are parents of children in nonkin
foster care to see their children in the foster home
rather than at an agency or visitation center.62 Research
indicates that frequent, constructive, and appropriately
supervised parental visitation can help maintain the
bond between birth parents and their children and
facilitate reunification. Educating kinship caregivers
about the potential risks of unsupervised visits, providing
avenues for appropriately monitored parental visitation,
and reevaluating child welfare supervision
practices for kinship care placements may help reduce
the degree of unsupervised contact birth parents have
with their children.
Services for Kinship Foster Parents
Although state policies indicate that kin are generally
eligible to receive the same services as non-kin foster
parents,63 past research has clearly shown that in practice,
kin foster parents and the children in their care
receive fewer services. Kin are offered fewer services,
request fewer services, and receive fewer services for
which they have asked.64 Experts have offered several
explanations for these disparities. They may reflect differences
in the service needs of kin and non-kin foster
Volume 14, Number 1 140
Geen
parents. Child welfare caseworkers may also treat kin
and non-kin foster parents differently.65
Kin also fail to receive assistance they are eligible for
from non-child welfare agencies. All kin who do not
receive foster care payments from a child welfare
agency are eligible to receive child-only TANF assistance;
however, many do not.66,67 Similarly, many kin
who are eligible for Medicaid health insurance coverage,
food stamps, child care subsidies, or housing assistance
fail to receive this assistance.68 Several factors
account for the low level of services provided to kin.
Many kin report that they are not aware they are eligible
for benefits, do not want a handout, want to avoid
involvement with public agencies, or have applied for
public assistance and were mistakenly denied.69 In
addition, kinship caregivers may ignore outreach materials
that discuss services available to ?parents.?
Because they are a relatively small group, kinship care
families are often overlooked by program administrators
and policymakers. Studies have also found that eligibility
workers may be unaware of the services that
kinship care families can receive.70
Many states are developing programs to better meet
the needs of all kinship care families.71 Several states are
providing kin who do not receive foster care payments
with welfare payments that are higher than those kin
would typically receive under established TANF policy.
Many states have funded kinship support groups that
are similar to those organized by foster parent associations.
Other states have developed comprehensive kinship
support centers that provide kinship care families
with information and referral services, case management,
and a wide range of support services for both
kinship caregivers and their children.
Reconciling Permanency Planning with Kinship Care
Kinship care arrangements question long-standing principles
regarding what constitutes a permanent placement,
thus kinship foster care can present both
opportunities and challenges for expediting children to
permanency. As reflected in ASFA, one of the primary
goals of our nation?s child welfare system is to ensure
that children who have been removed from their parents?
homes are reunified with their parents or placed in
another permanent placement (that is, adoption or legal
guardianship) in a timely manner. ASFA was the first
federal legislation to address kinship care as a potential
permanent placement. The act specifies that acceptable
permanency options include reunification, adoption,
legal guardianship, and permanent placement with a ?fit
? Jim Arbogast/Getty Images
Kinship Care
141 The Future of Children
and willing relative,? and that states must have a ?compelling
reason? if they select any other type of permanent
placement. DHHS guidance notes that ?the term
[compelling reason] was adopted because far too many
children are given the permanency goal of long-term
foster care, which is not a permanent living situation for
a child.? Advocates of kinship care may applaud that
ASFA acknowledges the unique circumstances of kinship
care and considers new ways of thinking about permanency.
However, opponents could claim that the act
allows children to be placed in what amounts to longterm
foster care without a compelling reason.
Research has demonstrated that states have used the
flexibility afforded under ASFA to treat kin differently
than non-kin in permanency planning. For example, a
2001 Urban Institute survey found that many states
are routinely not terminating parental rights, even
though ASFA requires a termination petition be filed
for any child who has been in foster care for 15 of the
previous 22 months.72 In 10 of the 36 states that provided
an estimate, officials reported that they did not
terminate parental rights in more than half of the cases
in which children were living with kin yet met the termination
requirements. In addition, 43 states reported
that they allow children to remain in long-term foster
care with kin.
A recent study found that child welfare agencies have
placed greater emphasis on permanency planning with
kin following ASFA, yet long-term foster care remains
a common outcome for children placed with kin.73
Workers report that they are much less likely to pursue
terminating parental rights when children are placed
with kin.74 Also, children in kinship care are less likely
than children in non-kin foster care to be adopted.75
Many child welfare agencies do not strongly encourage
kinship caregivers to adopt, and others do a poor job
of explaining how adoptions differ from other permanency
options. Moreover, there are often significant
financial disincentives for kin to adopt children in their
care, such as a loss of child care assistance or eligibility
for other government subsidies.
Although placement with kin helps children stay connected
with their families and may be the best placement
option for some children, one of the stronger
and more troubling findings of the research is that
birth parents appear to be significantly less likely to
complete case plan requirements for reunification
when their children are placed with kin. Caseworkers,
administrators, and kin agree that greater access to
children and the reduced stigma associated with kinship
care reduce the motivation of birth parents to
reunify with their children.76 Noncompliance with case
plans and a lack of motivation to reunify are particularly
problematic with substance-abusing parents, who
often continue their addictions while their children are
being cared for by kin.
The Ongoing Debate
In spite of the explicit governmental preference for kin
and states? continued heavy reliance on kin as foster
parents, kinship care remains a field of policy and practice
that is mired in controversy and complexity. For
example, policymakers are still ambivalent about the
appropriate responsibilities of kin in the child welfare
system. Whether kin play a role in child welfare that
corresponds to that of traditional foster parents, or
whether they should be considered family providing
informal supports, remains a tension that is yet to be
resolved.77 This tension plays out in debates about how
child welfare agencies should financially support kin, as
well as how policymakers assess how well kinship care
meets the child welfare goals of safety, permanency, and
well-being.78
Financial Compensation
Paying kinship foster parents remains controversial,
largely because this issue taps into broader societal and
policy concerns regarding the responsibility family
members have to each other and the incentive structure
of government subsidy programs. For example,
some argue that kin should not be paid for caring for a
related child since such care is part of familial responsibility.
Moreover, some experts have argued that the
higher foster care payment rates compared to payments
for child-only cases under TANF may provide an
incentive for private kinship caregivers to become part
of the child welfare system.79 If only 15% of the children
living in private kinship care arrangements were
included in child welfare systems, the kinship foster
care population would double, and experiences in Illinois
have shown that making foster care payments
available to private kin can lead to significant increases
in kinship foster care.80
Volume 14, Number 1 142
Geen
These arguments, however, view kinship care from the
perspective of the caregiver rather than the maltreated
child. Alternatively, one study found that placement
stability is enhanced when kinship caregivers receive
the full foster care subsidy.81 Other experts suggest that
kinship care payments should derive from the governmental
responsibility for children in state custody,
rather than on the licensing status or relative status of
the caregiver.82 These experts argue that states assume
the same level of responsibility for children in their custody
regardless of where a child is placed and that states
should not provide less financial assistance on behalf of
a child in kinship care solely because a kinship caregiver
is unable to meet certain licensing criteria.
Policy regulations under ASFA also complicate efforts
to adequately compensate kin caregivers by prohibiting
kin who are provisionally licensed from receiving federally
reimbursed foster care payments. Almost all kinship
caregivers are provisionally licensed, as they
typically begin caring for a related child with little
advance warning. Given that the licensing process in
many states takes six months or more, kin may lose
considerable financial assistance by being denied foster
care and supplemental payments until they are licensed.
At the same time, ASFA allows states, under certain circumstances,
to recoup foster care expenses for children
who were already living with kin when child welfare
became involved. These placements are often called
constructive or paper removals, as the child is not physically
removed from the home but is taken into state
custody. Child welfare agencies face a difficult decision
in determining the circumstances under which they
should take a child into custody, particularly when the
child may already be in a safe and stable home.
A related concern centers on when it might be appropriate
for child welfare agencies to divert children from
the foster care system by using voluntary kinship care
placements. Because of their caregivers? voluntary status,
these children may effectively be excluded from
public agency supervision and from the specialized
health, mental health, and school-related services that
might be available through foster care. Moreover, their
parents may be denied the services they need in order
to effectively reunify with their children.
Placement Safety
Questions about the safety of kinship care placements
arise from concerns that children in foster care may
come from families with intergenerational histories of
abuse. For years, kinship care advocates fought to overcome
the negative perception among many child welfare
workers and administrators that ?the apple does
not fall far from the tree??in other words, that parents
who are abusive were probably abused themselves.
To date, few studies have directly assessed the safety of
foster children placed with kin. Although some studies
lend credence to the theory of an intergenerational
cycle of abuse, it appears that most children in kinship
care are placed there because of parental neglect rather
than abuse.83 Two studies that compared the rate of
abuse by kin and non-kin foster parents found conflicting
results, with one finding children in kinship care
more likely to suffer abuse84 and the other finding the
opposite.85 Perhaps the most salient safety concern
with kinship care placements is the lack of caseworker
supervision and the often unencumbered access birth
parents have to their children.
Concerns about the safety of kinship care placements
were the primary impetus for the DHHS mandate that
?relatives must meet the same licensing standards as
nonrelative family foster homes? in order for states to
receive federal foster care reimbursement. DHHS
notes that ?given the emphasis in ASFA on child safety...
we believe that it is incumbent upon us, as part of
our oversight responsibilities, to fully implement the
licensing and safety requirements specified in the
statute.? However, it seems inconsistent for federal
policy to suggest that, because of safety concerns, kin
must be licensed for states to receive federal reimbursement,
but not to require states to license those
kinship care homes for which they do not seek federal
reimbursement.
Compared with children placed in non-kin foster care, children
placed with kin are less likely to be reunified with their parents
and are less likely to be adopted.
Kinship Care
Permanency
Ensuring permanent homes for children is paramount.
However, kinship foster care challenges traditional
notions of permanency. Prior research has documented
that the permanency outcomes for children placed with
kin may be different than outcomes for those placed
with non-kin. Research has shown that children placed
in kinship foster care tend to remain in care significantly
longer than children placed in non-kin foster care.86
Compared with children placed in non-kin foster care,
children placed with kin are less likely to be reunified
with their parents87 and are less likely to be adopted.88
Lower rates of reunification may be the result of
reduced motivation among birth parents when children
are placed with kin, a problem that child welfare agencies
may have difficulty overcoming. However, the adoption
of children by kin could be enhanced by better
dissemination of information by caseworkers and elimination
of barriers and fiscal disincentives to adoption.
Federal law reflects the ambivalence toward kin caregivers
in its policy approach to permanency. Whereas
ASFA clearly encourages permanency (that is, adoption
or legal guardianship) for children in non-kin care who
cannot be reunified and specifically disallows long-term
foster care for non-kin, it includes explicit provisions
for long-term care for children placed with relatives.
Although placement stability is much greater for children
placed with kin than with non-kin,89 it is hardly
guaranteed and, according to recent work, is as likely
to break down over time as is placement with non-kin.90
Whether kinship foster care achieves the goal of permanency
depends partially on how one thinks about
permanence. As Testa outlines in this journal issue, two
alternative definitions of permanence, one as ?lasting?
and the other as ?binding,? are at the root of the
debate. Those who see the goal of permanency as
establishing a ?lasting? bond between a family and a
child emphasize the importance of psychological bonding
and giving a child a sense of social belonging and
identity, along with a permanent home. However, others
believe permanency is best achieved by establishing
legally ?binding? relationships, with adoption being
the most binding permanency option. (See the article
by Testa in this journal issue.) The debates about
whether existing kinship foster care practices promote
permanency and whether agencies should follow a
hierarchy of permanency goals that would increase the
pressure on kin to adopt are significantly shaped by
these two differing perspectives.
Effects on Child Well-Being
Whether children fare better when placed with relatives
is still undecided. Because children are more likely to
be familiar with a kin caregiver, many experts suggest
that these placements are less traumatic and disruptive
for children than placements with non-kin.91 Many
argue that placement with kin is less psychologically
harmful to children than placement with strangers.92
Further, studies of children?s experiences in care suggest
that the vast majority of children feel ?loved? by
their kin caregivers and ?happy? with their living
arrangements.93
In addition, kinship foster care also helps maintain family
continuity by increasing the contact between children
in foster care and their birth families. Children in
kinship foster care have much more frequent and consistent
contact with both birth parents and siblings
than do children in non-kin foster care.94 Further, they
are more likely to be placed with siblings than children
in non-kin foster care.95 Kinship foster care also helps
children maintain a connection with their communities.
Research has indicated that they are more frequently
placed in close physical proximity to the homes from
which they were removed.96 Given that children are
placed with relatives, they are also more closely connected
with their cultural heritage and traditions. Prior
research has also shown that children in kinship foster
care are significantly less likely than children in non-kin
foster care to experience multiple placements.97
Despite these benefits, there is currently no methodologically
rigorous research demonstrating that children
in kinship foster care have better developmental
outcomes than children in non-kin placements. One of
the few longitudinal studies of children in kinship foster
care found little discernable difference in adult
functioning for children who were placed with kin
rather than non-kin.98 It is possible and perhaps probable
that kinship care is in the best interest of most foster
children (depending upon the child, the kin
available, and the birth parent), but it may not be
appropriate for many others. However, we currently
lack the research to make such an assessment. More-
143 The Future of Children
Volume 14, Number 1 144
Geen
over, we lack research to determine how different state
policies and practices affect both the ability of kin to act
as foster parents and the well-being of foster children
placed with kin.
Conclusion
Kinship foster care has emerged as a vital element of
federal, state, and local foster care policy and practice.
Yet despite the centrality of kinship foster care in child
welfare, our understanding of how best to utilize and
support kin caregivers, and the impact of kinship foster
care placement on child development, is limited. Kin
foster parents and the children in their care differ in
significant ways from non-kin foster families. These differences,
particularly the age, health, and resource limitations
of many kinship caregivers, suggest that child
welfare policy and practice must develop new ways for
serving and supporting this group of caregivers. The
emotional ties between kin caregivers and birth parents
(often the caregivers? own children) can complicate
efforts to meet the needs of children in care in several
ways. For example, if there are tensions between kin
caregivers and birth parents, the kin foster family could
interfere with efforts to build healthy bonds between
birth parents and their children. Alternatively, if kin
caregivers are too close to birth parents, they may not
provide adequate supervision to protect children from
further harm during visitations or support efforts to
secure alternative permanent placements should
reunification not be possible. The complex web of policy
and practice that has evolved around licensure and
payment is another factor that complicates efforts to
adequately and equitably compensate kin caregivers.
Moreover, the resolution of these concerns is
significantly influenced by broader societal and political
debates about where the line should be drawn between
family obligation and governmental responsibility.
Kin have been an ever-present family resource, often
providing varying levels of caregiving support to family
members. As the child welfare system continues to
rely on kin to act as foster parents, policymakers and
practitioners must ensure that policies and practices
designed with non-kin foster parents in mind are not
blindly or haphazardly applied to kin. Thoughtful consideration
of the uniqueness of kinship care and rigorous
review of best practices are needed if children in
kinship care are to experience optimally healthy environments
in which to grow.
The vast majority of children feel ?loved? by their kin caregivers
and ?happy? with their living arrangements.
? AP/Wide World Photos
1. Jantz, A., Geen, R., Bess, R., et al. The continuing evolution of state
kinship care policies. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, 2002.
2. The remaining states (five) reported having no definition of ?kin.?
3. Ehrle, J., and Geen, R. Children cared for by relatives: What
services do they need? Assessing the New Federalism, Policy Brief
B?47. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, 2002.
4. U.S. Census Bureau. Current Population Survey, March: Annual
Demographic Files (1968?2001). Data are provided based on
two- or three-year averages because the number of children in
kin care in a single year?s CPS sample is relatively small, and estimates
are unreliable. In addition, because of the introduction of
improved data collection and processing procedures, data before
1994 are not comparable to data from later years.
5. Harden, A., Clark, R., and Maguire, K. Informal and formal
kinship care. Volume I: Narrative reports. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, 1997.
6. Hornby, H., Zeller, D., and Karracker, D. Kinship care in America:
What outcomes should policy seek? Child Welfare (1996)
75(5):397?418; and Spar, K. ?Kinship? foster care: An emerging
federal issue. Congressional Research Service Report for
Congress, Order No. 93?856 EPW. Washington, DC: Library
of Congress, 1993.
7. Based on Urban Institute analysis of Current Population Survey
data, the number of children in kinship care declined from an
average of 2.16 million in 1995?97 to an average of 2.14 million
in 1998?2000, and the prevalence declined from 3.05 to 2.98.
8. Boots, S.W., and Geen, R. Family care or foster care? How state
policies affect kinship caregivers. New Federalism: Issues and
Options for States, No. A?34. Washington DC: Urban Institute,
1999; see note 5, Harden, et al.; and Kusserow, R. State practices
in using relatives for foster care. Washington, DC: U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector
General, 1992.
9. See note 8, Kusserow.
10. See note 5, Harden, et al.
11. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Report to the
congress on kinship foster care. Washington, DC: U.S. Government
Printing Office, 2000; and U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. The AFCARS report. Washington, DC: DHHS,
2001. Available online at http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/
cb/publications/afcars/june2001.pdf.
12. Ehrle, J., Geen, R., and Clark, R.L. Children cared for by relatives:
Who are they and how are they faring. Assessing the New
Federalism, Policy Brief B?28. Washington, DC: Urban Institute,
2001.
13. See note 1, Jantz, et al.
14. See note 12, Ehrle, et al.
15. Needell, B., Webster, D., Cuccaro-Alamin, S., et al. Performance
indicators for child welfare services in California. Berkeley, CA:
Center for Social Services Research, 2001. Downloaded from
http://cssr.berkeley.edu/CWSCMSreports/ on June 19, 2003;
and Wulczyn, F., and Hislop, K.B. Unpublished data from the
Multi-State Foster Care Data Archive. Chicago: Chapin Hall
Center for Children, 2001.
16. Wulczyn, F., Brunner, K., and Goerge, R. An update from the
multi-state foster care data archive. Chicago: Chapin Hall Center
for Children, 1997.
17. Berrick, J.D., Needell, B., and Barth, R.P. Kinship care in California:
An empirically based curriculum. Unpublished report for
the Child Welfare Research Center, University of California at
Berkeley, 1995; Stukes Chipungu, S., Everett, J., Verduik, M.,
and Jones, J. Children placed in foster care with relatives: A multistate
study. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, 1998; Cook, R., and Ciarico, J. Unpublished
analysis of kinship care data from the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, Children?s Bureau, National Study of Protective,
Preventive and Reunification Services Delivered to Children
and Their Families, 1998; Dubowitz, H., Feigelman, S.,
and Zuravin, S. A profile of kinship care. Child Welfare (1993)
72(2):153?69; Iglehart, A. Kinship foster care: Placement, service,
and outcome issues. Children and Youth Services Review
(1994) 16:107?22; Landsverk, J., Davis, I., Ganger, W., et al.
Impact of child psychosocial functioning on reunification from
out-of-home placement. Children and Youth Services Review
(1996) 18(4?5):447?62; and LeProhn, N., and Pecora, P. The
Casey foster parent study: Research summary. Seattle: The Casey
Family Program, 1994.
18. See note 17, Berrick, et al.; note 17, Iglehart; note 17, Landsverk,
et al.; note 17, Cook and Ciarico; Bonecutter, F., and Gleeson, J.
Broadening our view: Lessons from kinship foster care. Journal
of Multicultural Social Work (1997) 5(1/2):99?119; Dubowitz,
H. The physical and mental health and educational status of children
placed with relatives, final report. Baltimore: University of
Maryland Medical School, 1990; Grogan-Kaylor, A. Who goes
into kinship care? A study examining the factors influencing the
placement of children into kinship care. Unpublished report,
1996; and Scannapieco, M., Hegar, R., and McAlpine, C. Kinship
care and foster care: A comparison of characteristics and outcomes.
Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human
Services (September?October 1997):480?88.
19. There appear to be no significant differences between the proportions
of Hispanic foster children living with kin and non-kin.
Data on other ethnic groups are not available. See note 17,
Stukes Chipungu, et al.; and note 17, Cook and Ciarico.
20. See note 5, Harden, et al.
21. See note 17, Cook and Ciarico.
22. Gleeson, J., Bonecutter, F., and Altshuler, S. Facilitating permanence
in kinship care: The Illinois project. Kinship Care Forum.
New York: National Resource Center for Permanency Planning
at the Hunter College School of Social Work, 1995; note 18,
Grogan-Kaylor; note 17, Iglehart; and note 17, Landsverk, et al.
23. See note 11, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
2000; Altshuler, S. Child well-being in kinship foster care: Similar
to, or different from, non-related foster care? Children and
Youth Services Review (1998) 20(5):369?88; Beeman, S., Wattenberg,
E., Boisen, L., and Bullerdick, S. Kinship foster care in
Minnesota. St. Paul, MN: Center for Advanced Studies in Child
Welfare, University of Minnesota School of Social Work, 1996;
Benedict, M., Zuravin, S., and Stallings, R. Adult functioning of
children who lived in kin versus nonrelative family foster homes.
Child Welfare (1996) 125(5):529?49; note 17, Cook and Ciarico;
and note 22, Gleeson, et al.
24. See note 23, Altshuler; and note 17, Cook and Ciarico.
25. See note 12, Ehrle, et al.
26. Barth, R., Courtney, M., Berrick, J., and Albert, V. From child
abuse to permanency planning. New York: Aldine de Gruyter,
1994; Berrick, J.D., Barth, R., and Needell, B. A comparison of
Kinship Care
145 The Future of Children
ENDNOTES
Volume 14, Number 1 146
Geen
kinship foster homes and foster family homes: Implications for
kinship foster care as family preservation. Children and Youth
Services Review (1994) 16(1?2):33?63; see note 17, Stukes
Chipungu, et al.; Davis, I., Landsverk, J., Newton, R., and
Ganger, W. Parental visiting and foster care reunification. Children
and Youth Services Review (1996) 18(4?5):363?82; Gaudin,
J., and Sutphen, R. Foster care vs. extended family care for children
of incarcerated mothers. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation
(1993) 19(3?4):129?47; Gebel, T. Kinship care and non-relative
foster care: A comparison of caregiver attributes and attitudes.
Child Welfare (1996) 75(1):5?18; note 5, Harden, et al.; and
LeProhn, N. The role of the kinship foster parent: A comparison
of the role conceptions of relative and non-relative foster parents.
Children and Youth Services Review (1994) 16(1?2):65?81.
27. See note 17, Stukes Chipungu, et al.; and note 26, Gebel.
28. See note 5, Harden, et al.; note 18, Dubowitz; note 22, Gleeson,
et al.; note 26, Gebel; note 26, LeProhn; Brooks, D., and Barth,
R. Characteristics and outcomes of drug-exposed and non-drugexposed
children in kinship and non-relative foster care. Children
and Youth Services Review (1998) 20(6):475?501; Ehrle, J., and
Geen, R. Kin and non-kin foster care-findings from a national
survey. Children and Youth Services Review (2002) 24:55?78;
and Link, M. Permanency outcomes in kinship care: A study of
children placed in kinship care in Erie County, NY. Child Welfare
(1996) 75(5):509?28.
29. See note 26, Barth, et al.; note 26, Berrick, et al.; and note 17,
Stukes Chipungu, et al.
30. National Survey of America?s Families, a project of the Urban
Institute?s Assessing the New Federalism Program, 2002, data
available online at http://newfederalism.urban.org.nsaf/.
31. See note 5, Harden, et al.; note 17, Stukes Chipungu, et al.; note
26, Berrick, et al; note 26, Gebel; note 26, LeProhn; note 28,
Brooks and Barth; note 28, Ehrle and Geen; note 26, Barth, et
al.; and Zimmerman, E., Daykin, D., Moore, V., et al. Kinship
and non-kinship foster care in New York City: Pathways and outcomes.
New York: City of New York Human Resources Administration,
and Administration for Children?s Services, United Way
of New York City, 1998.
32. See note 28, Ehrle and Geen.
33. See note 17, Stukes Chipungu, et al.; note 23, Beeman, et al.;
note 26, Barth, et al.; note 26, Berrick, et al.; note 26, Gebel;
note 26, LeProhn; and note 31, Zimmerman, et al.
34. See note 28, Ehrle and Geen.
35. See note 17, Stukes Chipungu, et al.; note 18, Bonecutter and
Gleeson, 1997; note 18, Scannapieco, et al.; note 18, Dubowitz;
note 26, Gaudin and Sutphen; note 26, Gebel; note 26, LeProhn;
note 26, Barth, et al.; Stukes Chipungu, S., and Everett, J. The
power of information: Exchange patterns between African-American
foster parents and child welfare workers. Journal of Multicultural
Social Work (1994) 3(3):17?33; Pecora, P., LeProhn, N.,
and Nasuti, J. Role perceptions of kinship and other foster parents
in family foster care. In Kinship foster care: Policy, practice and
research. R. Hegar and M. Scannapieco, eds. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1999.
36. See note 17, Stukes Chipungu, et al.; note 26, Berrick, et al.;
note 26, Gebel; and note 26, LeProhn.
37. See note 26, Berrick, et al.
38. See note 17, Stukes Chipungu, et al.; note 26, Barth, et al.; and
note 26, Berrick, et al.
39. See note 23, Beeman, et al.; and note 26, Gebel.
40. Solomon, J. and Marx, J. The physical, mental, and social health
of custodial grandparents. In Grandparents raising grandchildren:
Theoretical, empirical, and clinical perspectives. B. Hayslip and R.
Goldberg-Glen, eds. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2000.
41. Minkler, M., Roe, K.M., and Price, M. The physical and emotional
health of grandmothers raising grandchildren in the crack
cocaine epidemic. The Gerontologist (1992) 32(6):752?61.
42. Minkler, M., Fuller-Thomson, E., Miller, D., and Driver, D.
Grandparent caregiving and depression. In Grandparents raising
grandchildren. B. Hayslip and R. Goldberg-Glen, eds. New York:
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43. Emick, M.A., and Hayslip, B., Jr. Custodial grandparenting: New
roles for middle-aged and older adults. International Journal of
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(1996) 43:135?54; and Giarrusso, R., Feng, D., Wang, Q.,
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44. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act
of 1996 (PRWORA). Public Law 104?193. Title V, section 505.
45. See note 1, Jantz, et al. In the remaining two states, one gives
preference to kin who come forward, and the other determines
preference for kin on a case-by-case basis.
46. Malm, K., and Bess, R. Identifying and recruiting kin to act as
foster parents. In Kinship care: Making the most of a valuable
resource. R. Geen, ed. Washington, DC: Urban Institute. In press.
47. Miller v. Youakim, 44 U.S. 125, 99 S. Ct. 957 (1979).
48. Jantz, A., Geen, R., Bess, R., Andrews, C., and Russell, V. The
continuing evolution of state kinship care policies. Washington,
DC: Urban Institute, 2002.
49. See note 1, Jantz, et al.
50. See note 1, Jantz, et al.
51. Only nine states require kin to meet all licensing standards before
they can start caring for children.
52. Templeman, A. Licensing and payment of kinship foster parents.
In Kinship care: Making the most of a valuable resource. R. Geen,
ed. Washington, DC: Urban Institute. In press.
53. See note 52, Templeman.
54. See note 1, Jantz, et al.
55. See note 17, Stukes Chipungu, et al.; note 17, Iglehart; note 18,
Dubowitz; note 23, Beeman, et al.; note 26, Berrick, et al.; note
26, Gebel; note 28, Brooks and Barth; and Geen, R., and Malm,
K. Casework practices with kinship foster parents. In Kinship
care: Making the most of a valuable resource. R. Geen, ed. Washington,
DC: Urban Institute. In press.
56. See note 26, Gebel.
57. See note 18, Dubowitz.
58. See note 35, Stukes Chipungu and Everett; note 17, Stukes
Chipungu, et al.; and note 55, Geen and Malm.
59. See note 26, Berrick, et al.
60. See note 55, Geen and Malm; and Thornton, J.L. Permanency
planning for children in kinship foster homes. Child Welfare
(1991) 70(5):593?601.
61. See note 17, Stukes Chipungu, et al.; note 26, Barth, et al.; note
26, Berrick, et al.; and note 55, Geen and Malm.
Kinship Care
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62. See note 17, Stukes Chipungu, et al.; and note 55, Geen and
Malm.
63. See note 1, Jantz, et al.
64. See note 17, Stukes Chipungu, et al.; note 17, Cook and Ciarico;
note 26, Barth, et al.; note 26, Berrick, et al.; note 35,
Stukes Chipungu and Everett; and Geen, R. Providing services
to kinship foster families. In Kinship care: Making the most of a
valuable resource. R. Geen, ed. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
In press.
65. See note 64, Geen.
66. They can receive assistance for themselves and the children in
their care if they are poor. All kin, regardless of income, can
receive assistance for related children in their care.
67. See note 3, Ehrle and Geen.
68. See note 28, Ehrle and Geen.
69. Geen, R., Holcomb, P., Jantz, A., et al. On their own terms: Supporting
kinship care outside of TANF and foster care. Washington,
DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant
Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, 2001.
70. Chalfie, D. Going it alone: A closer look at grandparents parenting
grandchildren. Washington, DC: AARP, 1994; and Horby,
H., Zeller, D., and Karracker, D. Kinship care in America: A
national policy study. Portland, OR: Edmund S. Muskie Institute
of Public Affairs, 1995.
71. See note 69, Geen, et al.
72. See note 1, Jantz, et al.
73. Geen, R. Permanency planning with kinship foster parents. In
Kinship care: Making the most of a valuable resource. R. Geen, ed.
Washington, DC: Urban Institute. In press.
74. See note 73, Geen.
75. See note 73, Geen.
76. See note 73, Geen.
77. Berrick, J.D., and Needell, B. Recent trends in kinship care:
Public policy, payments, and outcomes for children. In The Foster
Care Crisis: Translating Research into Policy and Practice. P.A.
Curtis, G. Dale, Jr., and J.C. Kendall, eds. Lincoln, NB: University
of Nebraska Press and the Child Welfare League of America,
1999; and Testa, M., and Slack, K.S. The gift of kinship foster
care. Children and Youth Services Review (2002) 24:55?78.
78. Shlonsky, A.R., and Berrick, J.D. Assessing and promoting quality
in kin and nonkin foster care. Social Service Review (2001)
75(1):60?83.
79. Berrick, J.D., Minkler, M., and Needell, B. The policy implications
of welfare reform for older caregivers, kinship care, and
family configuration. Children and Youth Services Review (1999)
21(9?10):843?64; and Johnson, I. Kinship care. In When drug
addicts have children. D. Besharov, ed. Washington, DC: Child
Welfare League of America, 1994.
80. Testa, M. Kinship foster care in Illinois. In Child welfare research
review, vol. II. J.D. Berrick, R.P. Barth, and N. Gilbert, eds.
New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.
81. See note 77, Testa and Slack.
82. Geen, R., and Berrick, J.D. Kinship care: An evolving service
delivery option. Children and Youth Services Review (2002)
24(1?2):1?14.
83. See note 17, Iglehart; note 17, Landsverk, et al.; note 18, Grogan-
Kaylor; and note 22, Gleeson, et al.
84. See note 17, Dubowitz, et al.
85. Zuravin, S., Benedict, M., and Somerfield, M. Child maltreatment
in family foster care. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry
(1993) 63(4):589?96.
86. See note 17, Cook and Ciarico; and Courtney, M. Factors associated
with the reunification of foster children with their families.
Social Service Review (1994) 68(1):81?108.
87. See note 11, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
2000; note 17, Berrick, et al.; and note 80, Testa.
88. See note 17, Berrick, et al.; and note 77, Berrick and Needell.
89. See note 17, Cook and Ciarico; note 23, Beeman, et al.; Benedict,
et al.; and Berrick, J.D. When children cannot remain
home: Foster family care and kinship care. The Future of Children
(1998) 8(1):72?87.
90. Testa, M. Kinship care and permanency. Journal of Social Service
Research (2001) 28(1):25?43.
91. Gleeson, J., and Craig, L. Kinship care in child welfare: An
analysis of states? policies. Children and Youth Services Review
(1994) 16(1?2):7?31; see note 79, Johnson; and Zwas, M. Kinship
foster care: A relatively permanent solution. Fordham Urban
Law Journal (1993) 20:343?73.
92. National Commission on Family Foster Care. A blueprint for fostering
infants, children, and youths in the 1990s. Washington,
DC: Child Welfare League of America, 1991.
93. Wilson, L., and Conroy, J. Satisfaction of children in out-ofhome
care. Child Welfare (1999) 78(1):53?69.
94. See note 17, Stukes Chipungu, et al.; note 17, LeProhn and
Pecora; note 26, Barth, et al.; note 26, Berrick, et al.; note 26,
Davis, et al.; and U.S. General Accounting Office. Kinship care
quality and permanency issues. Washington, DC: GAO, 1999.
95. See note 26, Berrick, et al.; Gleeson, J., O?Donnell, J., and
Bonecutter, F. Understanding the complexity of practice in kinship
foster care. Child Welfare (1997) 76(6):801?26; and Testa,
M., and Rolock, N. Professional foster care: A future worth pursuing?
Child Welfare (1999) 78(1):108?24.
96. DiLeonardi, J. Kinship care, permanency planning and substance
abuse. Unpublished report distributed by Lifelink-Bensenville
Home Society, Bensenville, IL, no date; see note 80, Testa; and
note 95, Testa and Rolock.
97. See note 17, Stukes Chipungu, et al.; note 17, Iglehart; note 17,
LeProhn and Pecora; note 23, Beeman, et al.; note 23, Benedict,
et al.; note 31, Zimmerman, et al.; Berrick, J.D., Needell, B.,
and Barth, R.P. Kin as a family and child welfare resource: The
child welfare worker?s perspective. In Kinship foster care: Practice,
policy and research. R.L. Hegar and M. Scannapieco, eds. New
York: Oxford University Press, 1999; and Goerge, R. The
reunification process in substitute care. Social Service Review
(September 1990): 422?57.
98. In fact, one of the few longitudinal studies of the well-being of
children in kin and non-kin foster care found little difference in
the adult functioning of these children. See Zuravin, S., Benedict,
M., and Stallings, R. The adult functioning of former kinship
and nonrelative foster care children. In Kinship foster care:
Policy, practice, and research. R. Hegar and M. Scannapieco, eds.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Volume 14, Number 1
Appendix
Kin Licensing and Payment Polices by State
State 2001 Licensing Options for Kin Who Receives Foster Care Payment
Samea Kin waiversb Kin-specificc
Alabama| All kin
Alaska| Kin licensed same as non-kin
Arizona| All kin
Arkansas| All kin
Californiad| Kin caring for Title IV-E-eligible children who are not provisionally licensed
Colorado| All kin
Connecticut| All kin
Delaware| Kin licensed same as non-kin, all non-related kin
District of Columbia| All kin
Florida| Kin licensed same as non-kin who are not provisionally licensed
Georgia| Kin licensed same as non-kin
Hawaii| All kin
Idaho| All kin
Illinois| All kin
Indianad| Waived kin if caring for Title IV-E-eligible children
Iowa| All kin
Kansas| Waived kin not provisionally licensed
Kentucky| All kin
Louisiana| Kin licensed same as non-kin
Maine| All kin
Maryland| Kin licensed same as non-kin
Massachusetts| All kin
Michigan| Kin licensed same as non-kin who are not provisionally licensed
Minnesota| All kin
Mississippi| Waived kin
Missouri| All kin
Montana| Waived kin
Nebraska| Waived kin not provisionally licensed
Nevada| Waived kin
148
Geen
Kinship Care
State 2001 Licensing Options for Kin Who Receives Foster Care Payment
Samea Kin waiversb Kin-specificc
New York| All kin
New Hampshire| All kin
New Jersey| All kin
New Mexico| All kin
North Carolina| Kin licensed same as non-kin
North Dakota| All kin
Ohio| Kin licensed same as non-kin
Oklahoma| Waived kin not provisionally licensed
Oregond| Kin caring for Title IV-E-eligible children who are not provisionally licensed
Pennsylvania| All kin
Rhode Islandd| Waived kin caring for Title IV-E-eligible child
South Carolina| Waived kin not provisionally licensed
South Dakota| Kin licensed same as non-kin who are not provisionally licensed
Tennessee| All kin
Texas| Kin licensed same as non-kin who are not provisionally licensed
Utah| Kin not provisionally licensed
Vermont| All kin
Virginia| All kin
Washington| Kin licensed same as non-kin who are not provisionally licensed
West Virginia| Kin not provisionally licensed
Wisconsin| Kin licensed same as non-kin
Wyoming| All kin
Total 28 23 20
aKin and non-kin must meet same licensing standards.
bState may waive some licensing requirements for kin.
cState has kin-specific licensing option.
dKin caring for title IV-E-eligible children receive foster care payments, others receive TANF.
Note: Data from Jantz, A., Geen, R., Bess, R., et al. The continuing evolution of state kinship care policies. Washington, DC: Urban Institute, 2002.

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