Methods: Data from two sites were collected as part of the federally-funded National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation (N = 937). First, bivariate descriptive analyses compared the demographic and wellbeing characteristics of adoptive and guardianship families with relative versus non-relative caregivers. Second, multivariate ordinary least squares and logistic regression analyses estimated the relationship between caregiver type (i.e., grandparent, aunt/uncle, other relative, and non-relative) and three wellbeing outcomes measured with standardized scales and survey items: child behavior difficulties, family belonging and emotional security, and placement stability.
Results: Bivariate comparisons showed that, in relative families, children were slightly older, caregivers were less likely partnered or married, guardianship was more likely the permanency type, children were less likely to have lived outside of the home, and caregivers reported less child behavior problems, as compared to non-relative families. Multivariate analyses indicated that adoption as the placement type, racial match between the caregiver and child, and a caregiver being a grandparent were associated with less child behavior difficulties. Some multivariate results showed that belonging and emotional security for the child was associated with having a grandparent caregiver, as well as different demographic characteristics of the child and caregiver, such as a younger caregiver age. Only a younger child age was associated with placement stability in multivariate analyses.
Conclusions: This study supports that adoptive and guardianship families with relative caregivers are substantively different than those with non-relative caregivers, in ways that possibly impact the experiences of families. Multivariate results showed that having a relative caregiver was also a protective factor associated with less child behavior problems, higher family belonging and emotional security, and more placement stability, after controlling for demographic characteristics. These findings suggest that practitioners and researchers should explore and enhance the strengths of families with relative caregivers, particularly grandparents. Future studies should disaggregate findings for relative and non-relative families to more precisely understand the opportunities and risks faced by families after adoption or guardianship from foster care.