How To: Creating a Kin-First Culture in Child Welfare

Posted September 26, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog howtocreatingakinfirst 2017

Wik­i­How is an online instruc­tion man­u­al for every­thing from build­ing a patio to review­ing a jour­nal arti­cle. With a new install­ment on kin­ship care, child wel­fare prac­ti­tion­ers can get step-by-step guid­ance on how to ensure more chil­dren are placed with rel­a­tives when their par­ents can­not care for them.

A new Wik­i­How post on kin­ship fos­ter care high­lights sev­en fun­da­men­tal steps to cre­at­ing a kin-first cul­ture. Pub­lished joint­ly by Child Focus, Gen­er­a­tions Unit­ed and the Amer­i­can Bar Asso­ci­a­tion Cen­ter on Chil­dren and the Law, the arti­cle includes detailed guid­ance on how to imple­ment the step, fol­lowed by exam­ples of promis­ing poli­cies and prac­tices in use across the country.

Research shows that stay­ing con­nect­ed to fam­i­ly is crit­i­cal to healthy child devel­op­ment and a sense of belong­ing. Chil­dren cared for by rel­a­tives often gain key ben­e­fits. They may adjust more eas­i­ly to their new sur­round­ings and have few­er school dis­rup­tions, behav­ioral prob­lems, psy­chi­atric dis­or­ders and moves than kids in oth­er fos­ter care settings.

All chil­dren deserve lov­ing homes and per­ma­nent fam­i­ly con­nec­tions,” says Tracey Feild, direc­tor of Casey’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group. The guide on Wik­i­How is an inno­v­a­tive tool to encour­age child wel­fare sys­tems to place kids with kin, main­tain fam­i­ly con­nec­tions and pro­vide more tai­lored ser­vices and sup­ports for kin­ship fos­ter families.”

Laws enact­ed in the past decade — such as the fed­er­al Fos­ter­ing Con­nec­tions to Suc­cess and Increas­ing Adop­tions Act — have direct­ed child wel­fare sys­tems to bol­ster their sup­port for kin­ship care, but progress varies wide­ly among states. Even in areas where kin­ship care is preva­lent, many care­givers are not get­ting the sup­port that they qual­i­fy for and need.

We want­ed to cre­ate a tool to help spur more dra­mat­ic increas­es in the use of and sup­port for kin­ship care,” says Jen­nifer Miller, a found­ing part­ner of Child Focus. This doc­u­ment reflects the col­lec­tive wis­dom of peo­ple doing the work on the ground and includes very prac­ti­cal tools and models.”

The guide’s sev­en steps detail how to lead with a kin-first phi­los­o­phy and iden­ti­fy and engage kin in mak­ing deci­sions for chil­dren. They describe how to insti­tute equi­table poli­cies that sup­port kin care, cre­ate a sense of urgency for kin place­ments, pri­or­i­tize kin licen­sure, help chil­dren reuni­fy with their par­ents safe­ly and per­ma­nent­ly when pos­si­ble and build strong com­mu­ni­ty sup­ports for kin families.

Improved by feed­back from prac­ti­tion­ers, the wik­i­How post links to a vari­ety of proven tools that sys­tems can use to expand reliance on kin care, includ­ing pol­i­cy doc­u­ments, pre­sen­ta­tion mate­ri­als, staff mem­o­ran­da and licens­ing guide­lines. The goal, says Feild, is to make kin place­ments the expec­ta­tion, not the excep­tion, when kids can­not remain safe­ly at home and must enter fos­ter care.

Child wel­fare sys­tems have been geared toward plac­ing kids with fos­ter par­ents they don’t know,” says Meha Desai, a con­sul­tant to Casey’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group. This guide offers a clos­er look at what it real­ly means to be a kin-first organization.”

Read How To Cre­ate a Kin First Fos­ter Care Sys­tem”” on WikiHow

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