What is Kinship Care?

Posted February 5, 2014, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Were you raised by a grandparent? An aunt? A close friend of the family? Across every generation and culture, relatives step forward to raise children when their parents can’t care for them. This time-honored tradition is called kinship care. Today, more than 2.7 million children in this country are in kin care, an increase of nearly 18 percent in a decade.

There are two types of kin care:

  • Private or informal kin care. These are arrangements that are made by families, with or without legal recognition of the caregiver’s status.
  • Public kin care. This includes all children who have come to the attention of child welfare agencies and live with a relative or close friend of the family. Most—400,000 children—are not in state custody. Approximately 104,000 are in kinship foster care, meaning they live with relatives but remain in the legal custody of the state.

Some facts about kinship care:

  • 1 in 11 children lives in kinship care at some point before turning 18
  • 1 in 5 black children spends time in kinship care at some point

Compared to children in the general foster care population, kids in kinship care tend to be:

  • Better able to adjust to their new environment
  • Less likely to experience school disruptions
  • Less likely to experience behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders
  • More stable—they move less than kids in non-family foster care settings

Kids and their kin caregivers need assistance; often caregivers do not realize they are eligible for financial help:

  • Fewer than 12 percent of kin caregivers receive help from TANF, although nearly all are eligible
  • Only 42 percent of low-income kin families get SNAP benefits (food stamps)
  • Only 42 percent of children are covered by Medicaid
  • Assistance with child care and housing costs are received by only 17 percent and 15 percent, respectively

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