Strengthening Support for Kinship Caregivers
Three Resources for Kinship Care Month
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:
- a podcast recorded for the Child Welfare Information Gateway of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF);
- a training video series produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation; and
- a strategy paper from Casey Family Programs.
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.