Every Kid Needs a Family: Putting Kin First in Washington, D.C.

Posted May 19, 2015
Blog everykidneedsafamilykin 2015

When young peo­ple come into the care of the child wel­fare sys­tem and can­not live with their own par­ents, the next best thing a case­work­er can do is to find a lov­ing rel­a­tive or close friend who can keep the child close to home in every sense. Called kin­ship fos­ter care, this liv­ing arrange­ment helps keep a child’s life as nor­mal as pos­si­ble dur­ing a time of great insta­bil­i­ty, tran­si­tion and hurt.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, 1 in 7 chil­dren removed from their homes lives in group place­ments. Many of these young peo­ple, espe­cial­ly teens, spend their very first night in the care of child wel­fare in such a set­ting, even though fed­er­al law calls for them to live in a fam­i­ly when­ev­er possible.

Some child wel­fare agen­cies have rec­og­nized that when they make a greater effort to find rel­a­tives or close fam­i­ly friends to care for chil­dren, group place­ments go down. 

Wash­ing­ton, D.C.’s Child and Fam­i­ly Ser­vices Agency has made find­ing kin a top pri­or­i­ty, cre­at­ing a rapid turn­around process to make it as easy as pos­si­ble for kin to take on the respon­si­bil­i­ty of car­ing for a young per­son. The pro­gram, called Kin­First, cre­at­ed an approach for front­line case­work­ers to fol­low when work­ing with parents. 

The process begins when child pro­tec­tion work­ers first encounter par­ents in need of help, so that fam­i­ly mem­bers are active­ly engaged in iden­ti­fy­ing oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers from the begin­ning. A Dili­gent Search Unit scours a series of data­bas­es to find oth­er rel­a­tives who may be able to take in the child. An expe­dit­ed kin licens­ing process takes as lit­tle as four hours. Col­lab­o­ra­tion with case­work­er unions, agree­ments that cross local juris­dic­tions and emer­gency flex­i­ble funds to help fam­i­lies in cri­sis con­tribute to a com­pre­hen­sive approach to the agency’s goal of help­ing kids grow up in fam­i­lies, not institutions.

And when chil­dren are for­mal­ly removed from home, notices of those removals must include the list of iden­ti­fied rel­a­tives, with com­ments explain­ing why rel­a­tives could not be imme­di­ate place­ment resources.

Learn more about the Kin­First pro­gram and oth­er prac­tices that help chil­dren in the child wel­fare sys­tem live in fam­i­lies by read­ing the Every Kid Needs a Fam­i­ly KIDS COUNT pol­i­cy report.

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families