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Journal Issue: Children, Families, and Foster Care Volume 14 Number 1 Winter 2004

The Evolution of Kinship Care Policy and Practice
Rob Geen


Kin caregivers can provide continuity and connectedness for children who cannot remain with their parents. This is one reason kinship care has become the preferred placement option for foster children. However, despite the growing reliance on kin caregivers, kinship care policies have evolved with little coherent guidance. This article examines kinship care and finds:

  • Kinship foster parents tend to be older and have lower incomes, poorer health, and less education than non-kin foster parents. As a result, kin caregivers face more challenges as foster parents than non-kin caregivers.

  • The links between payment and licensure, and the haphazard evolution of licensing policies and practices, complicate efforts to provide fair compensation for kin caregivers

  • Kinship caregivers receive less supervision and fewer services than non-kin caregivers, thus kin may not receive the support they need to nurture and protect the children in their care, even though their needs for support may be greater.

Kinship foster care questions many traditional notions about family obligation, governmental responsibility, and the nature of permanency for children in care. The article concludes by discussing these concerns, and calls for more thoughtful consideration of the uniqueness of kinship care in developing policies and best practices.