Service networks for relative caregivers are difficult to navigate and underdeveloped. As a result, kinship caregivers face barriers to accessing services and support for themselves and the children in their care. In 2019, in partnership with Washington State’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families and the Department of Social and Health Services - Aging and Long Term Supports Administration, researchers at the University of Washington implemented a Kinship Navigator pilot program to provide a higher level of service (enhanced case management) to kinship caregivers in seven pilot counties.
At the intervention sites, navigators complete a needs assessment and establish goals with the caregivers. Navigators and caregivers work together for up to six months to address critical needs and track caregivers’ progress towards goals set at intake. Fifteen counties that continued providing Kinship Navigator services as usual were selected as comparison counties.
This study presents the results of a satisfaction survey that measures caregiver satisfaction with navigator services, and levels of service usage across the intervention and pilot sites.
Caregivers in the intervention sites were invited by staff at the Aging and Long Term Supports administration to take a satisfaction survey at case closure and six months after case closure. Participants in the comparison sites received the survey six months after services.
The final sample included 148 caregivers from comparison sites and 92 intervention caregivers. To ensure that any differences between the intervention and comparison groups were due to group assignment and not underlying demographic differences, we used propensity-score matching when sufficient data existed for analysis. Average treatment effect on the treated (ATET) estimation was used on the matched pairs to determine differences in service usage, program satisfaction, and caregiver wellbeing, and a Friedman test was used to analyze changes in satisfaction over time.
Caregivers in the intervention group were more likely to participate in kinship support groups (odds ratio=2.82, p < .01). Those in the control group were more likely to receive referrals for training (odds ratio = 2.06, p < .05), housing (odds ratio = 3.16, p < .01), and aging resource centers (odds ratio = 3.06, p < .01). Program satisfaction for both the intervention and the comparison groups were high, and caregivers in the intervention sites maintained high levels of satisfaction over time. Intervention caregivers were more likely to report that participation in the kinship navigator program improved their overall health, wellbeing, and ability to cope with raising their kinship child (odds ratio=3.74, p < .001).
This research contributes to building evidence for Kinship Navigator programs. If Washington State’s Kinship Navigator program model is accepted into the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse as an evidence-based program, states will be able to draw down Title IV-E prevention funds to support children in kinship care as a strategy to prevent foster care entry and re-entry through the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).