Abstract: Examination of Kinship Care Data Trends (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

706P Examination of Kinship Care Data Trends

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Kanisha Brevard, PhD, Research Associate, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
David Ansong, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Purpose: When children must be removed from their birth parents due to child abuse or neglect, child welfare policies prioritize children being placed with their grandparents or other relatives. Studies have found that living with a relative is less disruptive for a child and that children in these placements have similar or better outcomes for safety and stability, as well as fewer behavior problems compared to children living with non-relatives. However, many of these relative caregivers, most of whom are grandparents and of low-income status, do not receive the same levels of support as traditional foster and adoptive parents. To gain a better understanding of children in kinship placements and their eligibility for financial support, we examined trends in state child welfare data and developed recommendations for improving practice with kinship families.

Methods: Using longitudinal administrative data from a southeastern state in the U.S., we tracked the licensure rates of kinship caregivers, their utilization of the kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGAP), and the permanency outcomes of children in kinship placements. KinGAP is a permanency option that provides ongoing financial support to help ensure kin who agree to become the child’s legal guardian can meet the child’s basic needs. A series of graphs and charts were used to demonstrate trends in the licensure and permanency outcomes of children in kinship placements.

Results: We found very few children and youth were receiving monthly KinGAP payments despite the sizable KinGAP-eligible population in the state and Guardianship with Relative being ranked as the second highest permanency goal for the average case. One reason for the low usage of KinGAP is the low percentage of licensed kinship homes, which is a requirement for KinGAP. Low licensure rates among kinship families have remained consistent over the past decade. Although kinship families can submit applications to waive some of the requirements to become licensed, very few waivers have been submitted by kinship caregivers. Despite the low levels of support provided to kinship families, children placed with kin spend less time in foster care and are less likely to re-enter foster care compared to children who achieved permanency with a non-relative caregiver.

Conclusion: Kinship care offers many benefits to children. However, data trends show kinship placements are less supported than traditional foster and adoptive homes. State child welfare systems should examine the licensing process to understand factors contributing to the low licensure rates and underutilization of KinGAP. Moreover, they should educate the community about these supports, identify barriers to pursuing financial and other supports, and promote the use of waivers for non-safety-related licensure requirements to enable more kin to qualify for licensure.