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Journal Issue: Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect Volume 8 Number 1 Spring 1998

When Children Cannot Remain Home: Foster Family Care and Kinship Care
Jill Duerr Berrick


Despite the best efforts of child welfare agencies, community agencies, and individuals, some children are not safe in their homes and must be placed in substitute care settings by child welfare authorities. Increasingly, as this article points out, child welfare agencies are placing children in the homes of their relatives rather than in traditional foster family homes (31% of all children in out-of-home care in the early 1990s were living with kin). This article discusses how such factors as the availability of foster homes, the demand for foster care, attitudes toward the extended families of troubled parents, and policies regarding payment for the costs of care have contributed to the rapid growth in kinship foster care. It discusses differences in the personal characteristics of kin and traditional foster parents and in the supports provided to the caregivers by child welfare agencies. Research findings suggest that kinship homes can promote the child welfare goals of protecting children and supporting families, but they are less likely to facilitate the prompt achievement of legal permanence for children. To forge a coherent policy toward kinship caregivers, officials must balance the natural strengths of informal, private exchanges among family members with the power of government agencies to provide both resources and oversight.