Foster Care Vs Kinship Care

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There is a significant difference in child outcome when it comes to kindship care verse foster care. The most common issue that result in children being removed from the care of their parents are child abuse and neglect. The children placed with other family members or foster families. Traditionally, people in the community where recruited and chosen by social workers to foster children who were removed from their parents (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Usually these people were not relatives and did not know the child before placement. The traditional way is no longer seen as the best option for children. Now researchers believe placing the child with family members or friends of the family have a more positive impact and reduce trauma (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Children in kinship care do better than children in foster care when it comes to their behavior, mental health, and placement stability. Children in foster care placements are at a higher risk of re-entry in to foster care and placement disruption meaning moved to different foster homes over a period of time (Cochrane-Winokur 2014).

Kinship care is defined as the nurturing and protection of children, who must be separated from their parents, by relatives or close family friends (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Kinship care is implemented around the world but called different names. In the United Kingdom it is referred to as family and friends care and kith and kin care in Australia (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). There are different types of kinship care, including formal, informal, and private placements. In formal kinship care, child welfare agency has custody of the child but there is a legal arrangement between the agency and the relatives (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Informal kinship care is when a child welfare agency decides the placement of a child but does not have custody (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). In private kinship care, the birth parents and family members decide the living arrangement without the involvement of a child welfare agency (Cochrane-Winokur 2014).

There are many benefits for children placed in kinship care. It allows children to live with people they know and trust, causes less trauma for the children from being placed in a home with strangers, and it helps build children’s sense of identity and self-esteem by continuing to be around family traditions and culture (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). The primary goal of kinship care placement is to keep the children close to their family, in which the overall goal is reunite with birth parents. Kinship care is considered to be a long?term arrangement when reuniting children with their parents is not possible or the goal is adoption or guardianship by relative caregiver(Bell 2017). Kinship care is also considered to be the and safest placements for children.

Over the years there has been a dramatic rise in kinship care placements. It is now more common for child welfare agencies to first attempt to find a safe living arrangements with relatives or people who know the child before searching for alternatives (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Based on studies conducted, children in kinship care experience a better chance of having a permanent home which is lowering the rate of reentry. This gives the child placement stability in comparison to children living with foster families (Bell 2017). Children in kinship care do tend to have lower rates of adoption and reunification.

One of the main reasons for the growth of kinship placement option is due to the overflow of abused and neglected children, concern about poor outcomes for children leaving care, and a shortage in foster care homes. There has been a change in policy toward relatives as appropriate caregivers with all of the legal rights and responsibilities of foster parents (Bell 2017). Foster care is a legal placement for children by child protective service. The foster care system takes children who need a home temporarily and place them in the care of a family who could meets their needs. The amount for time a child spends foster care varies (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Some children stay in the system a few months, while others stay for years. After a while some of the children are able to be adopted. This happened when the rights of parents have been voluntarily or involuntarily relinquished. The goal is for children to be reunited with their parents and not to be in the system a long time.

Child protective services goal for foster care and kinship care is to reunite with parents. Placing a child in the care of nonrelative families creates a risk for those who are interested in foster adoption. It may also be harder for foster parents to detach themselves of a child after caring for him or her into their home (Bell 2017). Abuse, neglect, or lack of safety are the reasons children end up in foster care. A result of foster care and kinship care is usually some type of trauma (Bell 2017). The trauma the child suffers from commonly comes out through negative behaviors. This trauma can be worse if the child is placed in the home of someone they do not know (Perry 2018). The child my need emotional or psychological support to help them work through the hard time (Perry 2018).

The child’s behavior may be affected by both the trauma experienced in the home and the lack of stability from having to move from their home (Perry 2018). Being taken away from their parents is a significant adjustment for the child and for the person caring for them. The child needs to be in a environment where they can heal, feel safe, and loved (Bell 2017). Children will be more comfortable and feel safe with the right relative caring for them. Kindship care also helps keep siblings together during the transition (Perry 2018). In traditional foster care, sometimes the siblings are not always kept together. This is true for adoption as well. At time foster families may not take a group of siblings because they don’t have room in their home. When children are placed with relatives and are separated they are more likely to connect with their siblings on a regular bases (Bell 2017).

The older the child of the more trauma they may have experienced in their home. Foster parents means often deal with older children having issues such as drug abuse, mental health issues, and anger management. Child protective service can provide resources to assist with healing the trauma (Perry 2018). Moving from different homes can cause children to be vulnerable and uncertain of their future. The biological parents have issues of their own that they need to fix and it could take a long time (Wu 2015). Sometimes children will return to their home to live with their parents and later reenter into foster care again. This instability can create problems for children who really need routine and a stable environment (Perry 2018). Places a child in foster care puts them at risk of being moved from house to house with strangers and not being given the opportunity to build relationships and feel loved.

For a child to build bonds and attachments with strangers will take some time. Children need a loving and stable family that continuously provides a security and a loving environment that meets all the child’s needs (Perry 2018). When a child is placed with a relative a lot of time they already have an attachment to that person. With traditional foster care many times children go from one household to another for different reasons. The instability in their living environment creates more trauma (Perry 2018). Children who are not given a secure and loving home environment there may be issues with developing attachment to others (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). This can have a long term impact on the child’s behavior and ability to form new relationships (Perry 2018). Healing is possible if a child is given a secure and loving family.

While the child is in foster care the biological parents can usually visit. These visits are more likely to happen easily when the child is in kinship care (Wu 2015), The focus of these visits are to keep a relationship between parents and children while they’re in the care of someone else (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Parents prefer their children to be in the care of relatives (Perry 2018). Sometimes the parents take their anger and frustration out on foster parents. This can lead to problems with both families as and makes it hard to have visitation and work on relational issues (Perry 2018). Most children really want to be able to have contact with biological parents and family.

There is strong research based evidence that children in kinship care have less behavior problems and less mental health problems than children in foster care (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Kinship care can lead to more stable placement and reduces the likelihood of re-entry and fewer change in caregiver, than non-kinship foster care (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Children age 6 or older in kinship care are less likely to have behavioral problems than children in foster care (Wu 2015). The risk for developmental delays in infants in kinship care is lower than those in foster care (Cochrane-Winokur 2014).Research has shown that African American children have less behavior problems when they are in kinship care of relatives who are younger or healthier in comparison to those who live with older caregivers who are less healthy (Rufa 2016). Laws that have been created for kinship care have led to a larger number of kinship placements and stability of placement and of child safety(Rufa 2016).

There is a greater chance for children in kinship care to reunite with their parents as children in foster care (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Children who are place in unlicensed kinship care are more likely to reunite with their parents than children in licensed kinship care (Ryan 2016). There are fewer adoptions and more guardianships in kinship care than non-kinship foster care (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Kinship caregivers do not typically use mental health services for the children they are fostering in comparison to the traditional foster parents due to having better relationships with the children and not always needing to use certain resources (Cochrane-Winokur 2014).

Through research, it has been suggests that kinship caregivers are more committed to a child than foster caregivers. Many children are moved from home to home because of their behavior issues due to trauma. Kinship caregivers feel closer to these children and are more likely to keep the child in their care despite behavioral problems and other issues (Wu 2015). Caseworkers usually seek care for the children from their grandparents because the placement is typically permanent (Wu 2015). Kinship caregivers should seek financial and service support to increase the quality and permanency of the child’s home environment. (Rufa 2016).

Academics are effected by foster care placement. Due to frequent change in placement children in foster care experience more school absenses and frequent school changes (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). This is more common among younger children. This instability in school may contribute to high rates of school failure and later result in the child dropping out later in high school (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Kinship care is more stable and permanent solution. Child tend to improve academically when in the care of relatives which is likely due to them caring more about the child’s overall outcome. There is a high risk of poor educational outcome for children in foster care verse kinship care (Perry 2018). Foster care children more likely to experience grade retention, suspensions, more absences from school, and lower score on standardized (Perry 2018). The frequent change in a child’s living placement causes challenges for educational requirements to be met (Bell 2017).

When children are place in homes with kinship caregivers they tend to have better behavioral and mental health outcomes (Stephen 2015). Researchers have found that children who moved to kinship care after being in foster care for some time had more behavior problems than children who originally entered kinship care (Stephen 2015). The long-term effects of kindship care and the child’s ability to form close relationships have a more positive outcome on the mental health when the child becomes an adult (Stephen 2015). The family connection and support is very important for older children (Stephen 2015). In order for children to reach their full potential and to reduce the risk of negative outcomes, they must have permanent emotionally nourishing and committed relationships (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). This helps to lower the risk of homelessness and criminal activity (Perry 2018). It is recommended to increase efforts to support and utilize relatives by promoting kinship adoption and guardianship. (Perry 2018).

There is a major need to provide better supports to relatives who become kinship caregivers (Stephen 2015). Many times kinship care givers are lower income than other foster parents (Stephen 2015). There is great value in mentoring relationships with children and their close relative. Researchers found that relationship mentoring contributed positively to socio-emotional development, problem-solving, and identity development (Stephen 2015). Mentoring was found to be very valuable to children during transitions into and out of care (Bell 2017).

The trauma children experience from the removal of their home is minimized with kinship care (Bell 2017). Removing a child from their home causes them to lose much of what they are used to such as their parents, home, siblings, friends, school, and pets (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). When a child is placed in the care of other family members they don’t usually loss as much. In most cases relatives are willing to take in all the siblings to keep them together (Perry 2018). Relative may also live in the same area therefore allowing the children to continue attending the same school. Kinship provides more comfort to the child and allows them to live with someone the child knows and shares a relationship with.

It is a priority to place children with grandparents, relatives, or close family friends when it comes to child welfare law and policy (Rufa 2016). The 42 U.S.C. 671, says states must consider giving preference to an adult relative over a nonrelated caregiver when determining placement for a child, provided that the relative caregiver meets all relevant state child protection standards (Rufa 2016). Priority for placement with a relative is supported by most state laws and policies (Rufa 2016). In 2008, the importance of the relative’s role in the life of a child was acknowledged in the federal Fostering Connections Act to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (Rufa 2016).

The foster care experience can be difficult for children to cope with. Many foster care families provide good homes that meet the children’s need but emotionally being placed with a family member is better for children (Perry 2018). The AECF, conducted a study that compared to children in the traditional foster care to those in kinship care and found they typically adjust better (Perry 2018). These children are less likely to have behavior problems and mental health issues (Perry 2018). Child Trends researchers conducted a study and participants reported that the parents often drive kinship diversion in cases such as the parent is incarcerated or hospitalized (Perry 2018). The decision for kinship care is the choice of the parent and must agree with the plan before a child is placed with a relative (Perry 2018).

Traditional foster care can have such a negative impact on children. There have been many reports of children being abused physically, mentally, and sexually by their foster parent (Wu 2015). Their academics are greatly affected from the constant moving. And they are often less social from the change in their environment and not able to build long lasting relationships (Wu 2015). Children in foster care usually attend public schools that are lower performing academically (Wu 2015). Statics show that children in foster care are less likely to graduate from high school than children in the care of relatives (Bell 2017).

There have been many studied conducted on the overall health of foster care children. Relatives are more likely to take better care of children and are more aware of the child’s health (Bell 2017). Mental health issues, anxiety, depression, and overall developmental health is a higher concern for foster children (Bell 2017). Children placed in foster care tend to have low self-esteem, less happiness, and do not find satisfaction in life (Bell 2017). Social and behavior problems are at a high risk for children who re-enter foster care as older children or teens (Bell 2017). It is best to put children with relatives from the start to minimize the chances of re-entry (Stephen 2015).

Due to behavior and emotional issues, former foster care children are more likely to be teen parents, and greater social isolation than those who were placed in kindship care (Stephen 2015). Crime rates for male former foster children are a lot high than crime rates those who had been living with relatives (Stephen 2015). The child’s biological family typically provides better economic support even after the child becomes an adult. The relative support is ongoing whereas support from foster parents are likely to end when the child ages out (Cochrane-Winokur 2014). Many time when the child becomes an adult they are still allowed to live with the relative whom had been caring for them. (Wu 2015). This reduces the chance that the now adult foster child will commit crimes to survive. There is a large amount of former foster children who end up homeless. This is due to the lack of support during the transition from foster care to the adult world (Wu 2015).

The overall goal is to protect children and provide them with a health environment even if that is not with their parents. It is important for caseworkers to prompt kinship care to make the transition easier on the child. Placing a child in kinship care is better for their overall health. Children usually prefer to be with relatives than strangers in the traditional foster care system. Being removed from home is very disruptive to the child’s life. The child may experience trauma from the parents and from the move which can cause behavior issues. When a child is with a relative he or she is less likely to behave badly because they already know the person they are being cared by. It is important to provide the child with the best support and environment when being taken out the home. If there are relatives who are willing to take in the child and they meet the requirements for care, they should always be considered the first option before placing a child with a stranger.”

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Foster Care vs Kinship Care. (2021, Jun 07). Retrieved from

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