Strengthening Support for Kinship Caregivers

Three Resources for Kinship Care Month

Posted September 14, 2022, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

A young Hispanic girl enjoys a day outdoors with her grandparents. They hold each other in a tight embrace. All are smiling.

Sep­tem­ber is Kin­ship Care Month, a time to high­light the ben­e­fits of main­tain­ing famil­ial bonds for the esti­mat­ed 2.7 mil­lion chil­dren in Amer­i­ca whose care­givers are their grand­par­ents and oth­er relatives.

Three kin­ship resources offer best prac­tices for agen­cies and case­work­ers who want to strength­en ser­vices for kin­ship fam­i­lies. They include:

All of these resources agree that young peo­ple and their rel­a­tives should play a role in the plan­ning and man­ag­ing of fos­ter care rela­tion­ship dynam­ics — from the moment the child is removed from their home through the chal­lenges of recruit­ing rel­a­tive care­givers. This allows chil­dren to iden­ti­fy rel­a­tives who are sup­port­ive and lets care­givers express con­cerns about the effect of their new roles on their own well-being. By mak­ing fam­i­lies’ needs a pri­or­i­ty, kin­ship care can pro­vide pos­i­tive out­comes for youth. 

Resources for Kin­ship Care Providers

Rhode Island’s Approach to Kin­ship Care

On the Child Wel­fare Infor­ma­tion Gateway’s pod­cast, employ­ees of Rhode Island’s Depart­ment of Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies (DCYF) dis­cuss their cus­tomer-ser­vice approach to kin­ship care. In the episode enti­tled Advances in Sup­port­ing Kin­ship Care­givers, Part 1,” pre­sen­ters DCYF’s Melis­sa E. Aguiar-Rivard, chief of prac­tice stan­dards, Recruit­ment, Devel­op­ment and Sup­port; Lori D’Alessio, deputy chief of licens­ing; and Dorn Dougan, region­al direc­tor, DCYF Region dis­cuss how DCYF cul­ti­vates rela­tion­ships with fam­i­ly mem­bers and oth­ers who are close­ly con­nect­ed to chil­dren in need of a home.

DCYF has estab­lished a team ded­i­cat­ed to fam­i­ly search and engage­ment — a col­lec­tion of strate­gies that help locate and engage fam­i­ly mem­bers and fic­tive kin for chil­dren who enter fos­ter care. Peers who have expe­ri­ence in kin­ship rela­tion­ships men­tor the care­givers. The state pro­vides finan­cial sup­port for kin­ship care, and in recent years, has expand­ed and enhanced its fam­i­ly-based care ser­vices. The Casey Foun­da­tion pro­vid­ed the state tech­ni­cal assis­tance on child wel­fare ser­vices, includ­ing kin­ship sup­port, from 2014 to 2019.

Lis­ten to the pod­cast series on sup­port­ing kin­ship care­givers at Child Wel­fare Infor­ma­tion Gateway.

Kin­ship Rela­tion­ships Improve Youth Outcomes

Engag­ing Kin­ship Care­givers: Man­ag­ing Risk Fac­tors in Kin­ship Care,” is a five-part video train­ing series for child wel­fare pro­fes­sion­als led by Joseph Crum­b­ley, a ther­a­pist, author and pub­lic speak­er with exper­tise in kin­ship care.

Crum­b­ley dis­cuss­es feel­ings around fam­i­ly loy­al­ty, loss, hope and guilt — all stirred when a child is moved from a birth par­ent to a relative.

Pro­duced by the Casey Foun­da­tion, the train­ing aims to improve out­comes for chil­dren by strength­en­ing case­work­ers’ under­stand­ing and skills for sup­port­ing kin­ship rela­tion­ships. The series also includes a dis­cus­sion guide.

Recruit­ing and Sup­port­ing Rel­a­tive Caregivers

Strong Fam­i­lies: What Are Some Exam­ples of Effec­tive Fam­i­ly Search and Engage­ment?, a strat­e­gy paper from Casey Fam­i­ly Pro­grams, describes promis­ing approach­es used to find rel­a­tives who can become care­givers for chil­dren and teens.

Strong Fam­i­lies rec­om­mends train­ing case­work­ers in grief and loss and equip­ping them with the knowl­edge to help chil­dren under­stand the impor­tance of a per­ma­nent con­nec­tion with a trust­ed adult.

Suc­cess­ful­ly link­ing chil­dren with per­ma­nent con­nec­tions often requires child wel­fare and men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als to work togeth­er to pro­vide finan­cial, med­ical, and ther­a­peu­tic sup­port,” the paper notes.

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