Kinship care is commonly defined as “the full-time care, nurturing, and protection of a child by relatives, members of their Tribe or clan, godparents, stepparents, or other adults who have a family relationship to a child.” The relationship should be respected on the basis of the family’s cultural values and emotional ties. There are many benefits to placing children with relatives or other kinship caregivers, such as increased stability and safety as well as the ability to maintain family connections and cultural traditions.
Some of the struggles in kinship care are very much like our foster care families. There are a lot of issues within the child welfare systems. Some issues revolve around the process of how children are removed and placed. Other issues are about the quality of care the children get from their family members. Additionally, kinship caregivers are dealing with the complexity of trauma in their lives of the children placed with them and often have little or no training or support. Also, when placed in these “grandfamilies,” there is much change and transition in the lives, homes and schedules of these families, leading to grief and loss as they have to consider parenting a second time around.
In a recent article in The Chronical of Social Change written by Dr. Ali Caliendo who the executive director of Foster Kinship, a nonprofit organization devoted to the support of kinship families in Nevada, Dr. Caliendo points out some of the deficits in our kinship care systems particularly in the lack of support for our kinship care families.
Here is a quote from the article:
Adverse childhood experiences predict a range of negative outcomes over a lifespan. Compared to children who live in homes with both parents, children living with neither are 332 times more likely to experience four or more of them, according to recent data from the National Survey of Children’s Health. Experts acknowledge that childhood trauma is a public health crisis, but we have yet to address this crisis in the population of children in kinship care receiving no support or services.
Dr. Caliendo has 3 recommendations for caring for our kinship caregivers.
- Tracking diversion
- Increasing formal kinship rates
- Increasing the kinship licensing rate
In summary we must be more supportive of these caregivers who are supporting children who have had trauma or adversity in their lives. In order for these caregivers to be equipped to care for trauma-impacted children they must be paid and they must be trained both in trauma-informed care and parenting. These children are extremely fragile and need a level of support that is beyond a child that is raised in a safe environment. It is such an advantage that they can be placed with family members, but we must be just as vigilant to support kinship care families with the same level of intentionality as we do foster care families. They have equal responsibility and should be getting the support they need for this vital role they are playing in the lives of children who are going through their own crises.
I deeply appreciate Dr. Caliendo’s role with these caregivers and her emphasis on improving our systems of care that affect them. Here is the link to her full article.