Abstract: Measuring the Quality of Kinship Foster Care (Society for Social Work and Research 21st Annual Conference - Ensure Healthy Development for all Youth)

Measuring the Quality of Kinship Foster Care

Saturday, January 14, 2017: 8:20 AM
Preservation Hall Studio 4 (New Orleans Marriott)
* noted as presenting author
Katherine Stene, BA, MSW Student, University of British Columbia, Kelowna, BC, Canada
Susan J. Wells, PhD, Professor, University of British Columbia Okanagan, Kelowna, BC, Canada
Dylan Ermacora, BA, MSW student, University of British Columbia, Kelowna, BC, Canada

Background and Purpose: While kinship care is an increasingly common form of out-of-home care across North America, there is no standardized method available to evaluate the quality of care these children receive. Arrangements for kinship care vary significantly due to situational factors as well as varying requirements regarding screening, monitoring, and evaluation procedures among states, provinces, and territories. Additionally, children in kinship care are more likely to live in conditions of extreme poverty with less adequate healthcare coverage and fewer agency services. Although tools exist for screening and evaluating foster homes and caregivers, such instruments are not sufficient when addressing the quality of kinship care.

Methods: The present study is a secondary analysis of existing data using new analytic methods. In this secondary data analysis, polychoric correlations and ordinal alphas were used to develop the subscales and to assess the subscales’ statistical independence from one another. The subscales were then tested for convergent and discriminant validity using Pearson's Correlations. To ensure the contemporary relevance of the instrument, a review of the literature was completed and compared to the literature upon which the instrument was originally based. Caregiver participants were recruited from a sample pulled from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) administrative database in 1998. The list of potential participants included 114 caregivers, of which the research team was able to contact 52. Of those contacted, 37 completed interviews and 15 did not participate. From these interviews, an initial scale was constructed, consisting of 10 subscales. 

Results:  Item analysis resulted in a measure consisting of five subscales: neighborhood; caregiver’s capacity to meet child’s developmental, emotional, and social needs; caregiver’s social functioning; caregiver’s commitment to the child and acceptance of his or her role; and child maltreatment. Polychoric ordinal alpha values demonstrated good internal consistency and ranged from .76 to .92. In addition, the five subscales demonstrated negligible to moderate correlations with one another (= .02-.45).

Conclusions and Implications: A literature review revealed that the constructs included in the measure show contemporary relevance for the evaluation of kinship care. Although data collected in 1998 produced an initial instrument, further analysis with newly available methods yielded fewer more coherent scales and the identification of the most relevant items. Through polychoric correlation analyses, five reliable subscales were evident, with the potential for the development of a sixth subscale regarding the caregiver’s economic functioning. As there are significant differences between kinship care and other out-of-home placement formats, it is necessary that a standardized measure be introduced to this field. Although this instrument demonstrates significant internal consistency, further research with a larger sample will be needed to establish the scale’s validity.