Session: Safeguarding Family Connections: Perceptions of and Experiences with Shared Parenting in Kinship Families (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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202 Safeguarding Family Connections: Perceptions of and Experiences with Shared Parenting in Kinship Families

Saturday, January 14, 2023: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Camelback B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
Cluster: Child Welfare
Ramona Denby-Brinson, Ph.D., MSW, College of Social Work
Amanda Klein-Cox, Ed.D. (Educational Leadership), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Angela Provenzano, OTD (Doctor of Occupational Therapy), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Charlene Ingram, MSW, Child Welfare League of America and Dot Erickson-Anderson, MS, Ohio Family Care Association
Kinship caregivers, comprising those connected to a child biologically, legally, and/or fictively, provide care through voluntary, public, private, informal or formal arrangements, usually resulting from birth parents' illness, incarceration, absenteeism, or inability to keep children safe and meet their needs. Shared parenting, or co-parenting, occurs when kinship caregivers partner with birth parents to raise the child and prepare for reunification (Child Welfare Information Gateway, n.d.). Regardless of the reunification outcome, children benefit from having a relationship with their birth parent, in improved well-being, permanency outcomes, and behaviors (Hedin, 2015; Le0n et al., 2017; McWey et al., 2010; Washington et al., 2014).

Because the child's birth parent is often related to the kinship caregiver, tension and resentment may be present. The relationship between caregivers, children, and birth parents tends to be complex with mixed feelings, with some being close and cooperative and others being more conflictual and distant, often due to the parent's difficulties (Dolbin-MacNab, Smith, & Hayslip 2021; Dolbin-MacNab & Keiley, 2009; Strozier et al., 2011). To build collaboration, caregivers and birth parents need to develop healthy relationships, share information about the child's life, make joint decisions for the child, engage in shared activities, and have regular visitations (Hedin, 2015; Green & Goodman, 2010). Caregivers are encouraged to promote positive relationships with the birth parents while ensuring that the child's interest is at the forefront (Child Welfare Information Gateway, n.d). However, such relationships are not always possible.

This roundtable session will be framed by triangulating the perspectives of caregivers, professionals, and researchers where we consider: (1) challenges faced by kinship families attempting shared parenting and benefits seen by those who have achieved successful collaboration; and (2) the complexity of family dynamics, strained relationships, and varying viewpoints on the topic.

We will facilitate a conversation about the dynamics affecting the feasibility of meaningful shared parenting within kinship care and the resulting range of attitudes about the practice. A researcher, who has conducted focus groups on this topic, will provide an overview of the limited, extant literature on shared parenting and the current movement for the practice. Then, a researcher and facilitator of online support groups for kinship caregivers and a member of a kinship family will share differing viewpoints they have heard from caregivers pertaining to the topic, as well as their own experience. A former kinship caregiver and strong community advocate will share about their relationship with the children's birth parents and their perspective on shared parenting. A child welfare professional will offer the benefits and challenges of shared parenting that they see in practice with kinship families and possible supports in this area.

The goal for this session is to have an open and honest dialogue about the reality of shared parenting- the barriers to effective collaboration between caregivers and birth parents, success stories and facilitators to shared parenting, impacts on the children in care, and scenarios where shared parenting may not be possible or safe. Implications for practice, policy, and research will be discussed.

See more of: Roundtables