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Children and Youth Services Review   Volume: 24 (1-2) 2002

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Kinship Care: An Evolving Service Delivery Option

Guest Editors : Rob Geen (The Urban Institute), Jill Duerr Berrick (University of California , Berkeley)

Kinship care: an evolving service delivery option 1--14
Rob Geen (The Urban Institute), Jill Duerr Berrick (University of California , Berkeley)

It has been eight years since the Children and Youth Services Review first special issue on kinship care. That issue was prompted by the large increase in kinship care placements that occurred in the mid-to-later 1980s and the developing research base documenting the relatively new and often controversial practice. Eight years later, state child welfare agencies continue to rely significantly on kin to act as foster parents. Moreover, federal and state policies have added legitimacy and support for kinship care placements. However, when and how kin should be used as foster parents remains an issue of immense debate. This volume adds more fuel to the fire, providing much needed research to inform the debate, yet at the same time raising more questions than it answers.

Kin and non-kin foster care-findings from a National Survey 15 -- 35
Jennifer Ehrle, Rob Geen (The Urban Institute)

This article uses national data to look at the differences between children in kinship and non-kinship care arrangements. Three groups are compared: children in non-kin foster care, children in kinship foster care, and children in “voluntary” kinship care. Children in voluntary kinship care have come to the attention of child welfare services, are placed with kin, but unlike those in kinship foster care, these children are not in state custody. Findings suggest that children in the kin arrangements faced greater hardships than those in non-kin care. They more often lived in poor families and experience food insecurity. They were more likely to live with a non-married caregiver who is not working and does not have a high school degree. And fewer kin than expected received services to overcome these hardships. In addition, nearly 300,000 children live in voluntary kinship care arrangements; these children are of particular concern because they are not in state custody and therefore may or may not be monitored by a child welfare agency.

The evolution of federal and state policies for assessing and supporting kinship caregivers 37 -- 52
Jacob Leos-Urbel, Roseana Bess, Rob Geen (The Urban Institute)

The use of relatives as foster parents increased substantially in the 1990s and the federal and state governments are struggling to adapt existing foster care policies and practices to reflect the unique circumstances of these placements. We examine the evolution of policies affecting kinship caregivers based on data from a 1999 national survey of state child welfare administrators, a follow-up survey to one conducted in 1997. In 1999, 10 states required kin to meet the same standards as non-kin foster parents to care for children in state custody. The other 41 offer kin at least one other assessment standard that is different than non-kin standards. Of these 41, 25 states provide foster care payments to kin meeting these different standards. We also found that 39 states help place children with kin in some instances without seeking state custody. In addition, we found that at least 16 states made changes to their kinship care policies between the 1997 and 1999, illustrating that kinship care policies are still in flux. Finally, we note that recent federal policy changes that took effect after the survey period will likely have a significant impact on states’ licensing and payment of kinship foster parents.

African American extended families and kinship care: how relevant is the foster care model for kinship care? 53 -- 77
Stephanie Brown, Don Cohon, Rachel Wheeler ( Edgewood Center for Children and Families )

In supporting kinship care as a “new” solution to old child welfare problems, we should acknowledge the history of the extended family and of informal kinship care in individual families. In this article, we review the role of extended family in the lives of 30 youth currently residing in kinship care households. We find that these youth have extensive experience living with kin prior to their formal placement in kinship care, and that these youth continue to rely on extended family networks after their official placement with kin. This familiarity with extended family households suggests that youth in kinship care may find these arrangements neither novel nor disruptive. We recommend that service providers and researchers working with kinship care understand the adaptable and flexible nature of the family and acknowledge that this flexibility often protects families facing social and economic adversity. We further suggest that continued idealization of the nuclear family—including its use in the conceptualization of foster care—may hinder service provision because it obscures the resources of extended families.

The gift of kinship foster care 79 -- 108
Mark F. Testa, Kristen Shook Slack
This study examines kinship foster care as a gift relationship. Reunification rates and replacement rates into non-related foster care are analyzed within the statistical framework of competing risks to examine the effects of reciprocity, payment, empathy, and duty on the dynamics of kinship foster care. The study makes use of a unique set of survey data on 983 kinship foster children in Cook County, Illinois. Survey responses are linked to computerized administrative records from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to create a 5-year longitudinal file on placement changes from June 30, 1994 to June 30, 1999. Children whose parents were reported as regularly visiting and working toward regaining custody (reciprocity) were more likely to be reunified and less likely to be replaced than children whose parents were reported as non-cooperative with visitation and service plans. Controlling for reciprocity, children were also less likely to be replaced if caregivers retained the full foster care subsidy (payment), reported a good relationship with the child (empathy), and grew-up in the American South and attended church regularly (duty). The sensitivity of these findings to alternative specifications of the competing risks of foster care replacement and kinship transfers is reported.
Foster parent and teacher assessments of youth in kinship and non-kinship foster care placements: are behaviors perceived differently across settings? 109 -- 134
Nancy Shore (University of Washington), Kelly E. Sim & Nicole S. Le Prohn (Casey Family Programs), Thomas E. Keller (University of Chicago)

With a growing number of children living in kinship foster care, it is important to understand how youths are faring in kinship care  compared to youths in non-kinship care. In the present study, we first evaluate teacher ratings of problem behaviors exhibited in school by youths in kinship and non-kinship foster care. We then examine whether correspondences between parent and teacher ratings of problem behaviors across home and school settings differ by kinship status. The youths in the study represent an ethnically diverse sample (N = 185), with significantly more children of color in kinship placements. Across the majority of problem behavior scales on the Teacher's Report Form (TRF: Achenbach, 1991), teacher perceptions of youth behavior did not differ significantly according to  kinship or non-kinship care placement. Furthermore, the youths in this study had elevated scores relative to general population norms on only a few  TRF problem behavior scales. A sub-sample (N = 122) with foster parents assessments on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL: Achenbach, 1991) permitted comparison of perceptions of youth behavior  across the home and school settings for youths in kinship and non-kinship placements. Correlations between the TRF and CBCL composite scale scores (internalizing, externalizing, and total problem behaviors) indicated slightly higher agreement between teacher and foster parent ratings for kinship placements. The non-kinship foster parents reported higher levels of problem behavior at home relative to school. The paper interprets these results and suggests implications for practice and future research directions.



Book Review
Kinship Care: Improving Practice through Research . James P. Gleeson and Creasie Finney Hairston, Editors. Washington D.C.: CWLA Press, 1999. 320 pp. 135 -- 138
Jill Duerr Berrick

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