Abstract: Supporting Grandparent Kinship Caregivers: Assessing Subgroups for Tailored Supports (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Supporting Grandparent Kinship Caregivers: Assessing Subgroups for Tailored Supports

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Cave Creek, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Hyung Jik Daniel Lee, PhD, Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Amanda Cruce, MSW, PhD student, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Christina Huerta, PhD, Doctoral Student, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Ke Li, Doctoral Student, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Fengyan Tang, PhD, Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Mary Elizabeth Rauktis, PhD, Faculty, University of Pittsburgh, PA
Elizabeth M.Z. Farmer, PhD, Dean, School of Social Work, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Background and Purpose: Kinship care, particularly by grandparents, has been a staple of the family support structure in both formal and informal ways throughout the history of child welfare. In the past two decades there has been a heightened attention to formalized tracking, training, reporting, and supporting grandparent. This is seen in the rise of formal kinship placements in child welfare agencies, tracking of grandparent caregivers in the census, and numerous federal child welfare laws encouraging kinship placements. While grandparents share some common circumstances, needs, and strengths, grandparent kinship caregivers are also extremely heterogeneous. There has been little attention to the potential differences among such kinship providers and the implications of these differences to provide adequate supports and resources to optimize caregiver, youth, and family functioning, success, growth, and satisfaction. Limited work suggests that there may be significant differences based on grandparents’ own characteristics, status, and networks. Given disproportionate rate of Black children in care, particularly kinship care, it seems particularly important to explore differences among grandparent kinship caregivers related to race. Limited research suggests possible differences in needs, stresses, and resource use across subgroups of foster parents, but relatively little is known about how these differences may be seen in kinship grandfamilies and how difference, particularly by race, may be relevant to research and practice designed to better support families.

Methods: Data come from kinship providers in two major metropolitan areas of a mid-Atlantic state, who were involved with agencies that provide supportive services to custodial grandparent families. The sample included 62 grandparents who provided data via electronic surveys. Data included measures of parenting stress, coping, resilience, life satisfaction, health/mental health status, and service use. Analyses focused specifically on race as a potential moderating factor in exploring differences on health, satisfaction, and support service use related to parenting grandchild(ren).

Results: Data suggested significant differences based on race. For example, Black grandparent caregivers reported higher levels of coping (p=0.042), lower levels of stress (p=0.024), better mental health (p<0.001) and higher levels of life satisfaction (p=0.033). White grandparent caregivers reported better physical health (p=0.016). In terms of service use, white grandparent caregivers generally used formal child welfare services more than Black grandparent caregivers (p=0.005) while Black grandparent caregivers used informal support groups and religious services more (p=0.019 & p=0.003 respectively).

Conclusions and Implications: Strengths, needs, and stressors vary significantly and systematically among kinship grandparent caregivers. This suggests the importance of recognizing both strengths and stressors/challenges in determining formal and informal supports for kindship caregivers. Findings also suggest the importance of considering the intersection of race with other characteristics and contexts to advance both research and practice in more adequately supporting kinship foster grandfamilies.