Kinship care is considered the primary placement preference for children entering the child welfare system. Taiwan, a signatory to the UNCRC, has regulated that placing a child with relatives should be a prior option. However, in Taiwan in 2019, only about 10% of children in out-of-home care were in kinship care, compared with 24% in foster families and 66% in residential care. While traditional Taiwanese culture emphasizes the importance of kinship networks, the Taiwanese child protective services (CPS) do encounter challenges searching for and assessing proper kinship caregivers. The current study aims to explore the Taiwanese kinship care placement decision-making and practical strategies.
In-depth qualitative interviews and focus groups were conducted with 71 child protective services social workers and supervisors from 18 cities/counties in Taiwan. Participants were asked about their experiences of placement decision-making, especially regarding kinship care assessment, kin searching strategies and challenges, and permanency planning. The analytic process was based on thematic analysis and repeated coding and comparisons.
Findings are presented with four major themes: (1) the unclear kin definition, (2) the undefined assessment standard, (3) challenges in placing children with relatives, and (4) challenges in working with kinship caregivers. First, the qualification of kinship caregivers varies by cities in Taiwan. Some local CPSs exclude fictive kin (e.g., god parents, babysitters) or grandparents as formal kinship caregivers. These caregivers may be qualified for limited services and payments in different cities. Second, social workers often face a dilemma of assessing the properness of kinship care. Compared with foster family, kinship care is considered poorer quality and less safe. CPS workers have debates about either lowering the standard of kinship assessment or placing children in other types of placement which are viewed more reliable. Third, there are not always relatives available, willing, or ready to provide the care when placement decisions need to be made in a short period of time. Also, many cases brought to the attention of CPS have limited kinship support to protect the child. Finally, unlike foster parents, kinship caregivers often refuse to attend required parenting workshop and are sometimes against the rule of parental contact for children in care, raising concerns about child safety under the care of relatives. CPS workers, thus, have to work closer with kinship families to understand a more complex dynamic in the extended family.
Conclusions and Implications:
The current kinship placement decision-making process in Taiwan suggests the central government to regulate a clear definition of kinship caregiver and develop a consistent assessment, so that when being contracted with CPS, kinship families can receive adequate services and are more motivated to care for children removed from their birth parents. Strategies for working with kinship caregivers need to be developed, such as the family group conferencing model and integrated service delivery. While formal kinship care placement has not been widely known by other social service providers, CPS practitioners should become advocates for kin and children’s needs and involve formal and informal networks to support the kinship family.