Kinship Care: When Data and Research Confirm Common Sense
We know intuitively that when a child cannot remain safely at home, the trauma of separation can be lessened if they can be cared for by kin - a grandparent, uncle or aunt, or even a teacher or neighbor.
The term "kin" includes those individuals who share a blood relationship to a child or have a supportive relationship with them. Kin form the "village" a child needs in order to be successful.
The Department of Children and Families has embraced kinship care, with the percentage of children in Connecticut placed with kin at approximately 43% while the national average remains around 33%.
During one of the most trying times in the life of a child, kinship care affords children the opportunity to experience a familiar face, hug and voice as they are on their path towards healing and the goal of reunification with their parents.
When science and data confirm common sense, we know we are on the right track in finding solutions for children in foster care. Through research, we confirm that what makes sense for children - placing them with kin - is also validated with cold, hard science.
A study published by Casey Family Programs entitled "The Impact of Placement with Family on Safety, Permanency and Well-Being" reports that the benefits of kinship care are widespread and substantial. The report found that youth who spent more than half of their time in care with family had "fewer documented recent well-being challenges" such as those related to school, social functioning, adjustment to trauma and social development.
The study also found improved permanency. It reports that 87% of children living with family benefitted from relational permanency compared to just 57% of children with no time living with family. An impressive 83% of children in kinship care achieved legal permanency compared to 38% of children with no time living with family.
Research across multiple disciplines is clear that children involved with the child welfare system have experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), leaving them more likely to have negative health outcomes as compared to children in the general population. Research shows that a series of protective factors can mitigate the impact of ACEs and promote resiliency. These factors include positive child-caregiver relationships, stable living environments, and relationships with extended family members.
Perhaps the most important protective factor for a child is a supportive relationship with a loving adult. Grandparents and other kinship providers are often uniquely suited to be the supportive adult a child needs to help mitigate the impact of trauma.
A report by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia documents that children removed from their homes have fewer behavioral problems three years after placement with relatives as compared to being placed into traditional foster care.
- Increased stability and fewer placement changes
- A greater likelihood they will remain in their school of origin
- Lower re-entry rates into foster care after reunification
- Enhanced support as they transition into young adulthood
- Greater safety within kinship homes and a lower maltreatment rate
- A greater likelihood of children living with or staying connected to siblings
What do the children say about kinship care?
The children's voice also speaks through the research. Children report they have more positive feelings about their placement if it is with kin and want their current kinship placement to be their permanent home. They more often like with whom they reside and are less likely to run away.
And, how does one measure the impact of preserving your cultural identity and community connections that kinship care affords?
Connecticut aspires to have 70% of our children in care placed with kin. It takes everyone who plays a role in the life of a child to make this happen.
Keep this in mind when considering your efforts to find a kinship home for a child. One research study found that children in kinship care overwhelmingly state, "I always feel loved."