What is Kinship Care?

What is Kinship Care?

By "Doug"




This explanation of Kinship Care was formerly published in June 2001on the Join-Hands web site www.join-hands.com.

The posting "What is "Kinship Care" ? - Re: Help me please ..." seems to have been removed from the Join-Hands site, so it is published here because it is important for parents whose children are being taken into public care to know that they have the right to demand placement of their child/children in their extended family.

It is also important to make social workers aware of the fact that children who are removed from their parents fare much better and have a greater chance to a normal life if they are placed in Kinship Care.





M Vanderpool" asks:

Please explain to me what Kinship Care is.



Hi, M Vanderpool!

Kinship care is a buzzword used by child protective agencies to describe placing a child who has been removed from his parents with a member of the child's extended family.


Family members are often puzzled why state agencies go to such lengths to avoid placing children with grandparents or other relatives that the children know and love. Rather, the agencies prefer to incarcerate the children with strangers or in state institutions, called "group homes" or "residential care facilities."


Actually, the reason is quite simple. It's all about how the system is financed. State agencies receive substantial amounts of money (about 90% of its federal child welfare funding) for each child placed into the foster care system. These entitlements are uncapped and paid on a per-head basis.


They amount to much more than the actual cost of maintaining the child and, since they are "fungible" monies, they are used to finance administration of the agency. Agencies do not receive these funds if the child is placed with her grandparents or other relatives.


Congress has put considerable pressure on the states to turn to "kinship care" to relieve an already overburdened and abusive foster care system.

States have resisted because it does not pay them to do so. In 1998, 29% of foster children were placed with relatives (AFCARS, 2000). In 1999, that number had dropped to 26% (AFCARS, 2001). This decrease has occurred during a period where the number of children removed from their homes has risen dramatically.


Agency workers will claim that they are reluctant to place kids with their extended families based upon their assumption that "bad parents" are products of "bad families." Social service workers labor under what is called the "medical model" -- a theoretical approach that holds that child abuse is a disease. This approach leads to many system malfunctions and errors in judgment among them discrimination against extended families.


The medical model has been under intense attack by national child welfare experts for nearly a decade and the literature abounds with studies that solidly disprove its effectiveness in field practice (Costin, et al., 1996; Pelton, 1989; Lindsey, 1994). Until Congress repeals the way it distributes Title IV-E and Title XX funds, state agencies will continue to incarcerate children with strangers or in institutions. It simply does not pay to place them with extended family members, who will care for the children out of love rather than for money.


Puzzling? Let me explain.


Uncapped Title IV-E entitlements, like most federal funds, require states to provide some matching funds. The best way for states to open up the gates to the stream of federal "fungible" funds is to dedicate almost all of their state funds to paying foster caregivers, institutions, etc. That way, the states are free to use the primary source of funding -- federal matching funds -- for everything else in their budget. For instance, Maryland spent 96% of its 94,614,355 state budget on out of home services and adoption. The remaining 4% was spent on administration (Urban Institute, 1999:47).


Nebraska, where newsgroup poster Ron hangs out, spent 82% of its state budget of 30 million on out of home services and another 5% on adoption

(Urban Institute, 1999:61). The remaining 13% was spent on administering out of home care.


As you may guess, states generally do not pay family members participating in kinship care.

While "kinship care" remains the most viable and humane way of caring for children forcibly removed from their parents, it does not resonate with a state agency's agenda of maximizing federal dollars.


I hope this helped answer your question.







Costin, Lela B., Karger, Howard J. et. al. (1996) The politics of child abuse in America New York: Oxford University

Lindsey, Duncan (1994) The welfare of children New York: Oxford University Press

Pelton, LeRoy (1989). For reasons of poverty. New York: Praeger.

The Urban Institute (2000). State child welfare spending at a glance. New York: Author. Available online.

US Department of Health and Human Services (2001). The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System: AFCARS Report 4 and 5. Washington, D.C.: Author. Available online at:







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