During September, Kinship Care Month, we are reflecting on how kinship care has become increasingly important in meeting the needs of children involved with the child welfare system.
When examining the concept and benefits of kinship care, it’s important to broaden the definition of “kin” beyond biological ties. After all, many children have bonds with family friends that are just as strong. These bonds may be even stronger than those with blood relatives. When looking to place these children with the people who can best care for them, we should treat fictive kin the same as relatives.
Fictive kin might be godparents, friends, neighbors, teachers, mentors, or even former caseworkers. They step into the role of a parent or guardian for a child, offering a nurturing environment and emotional support. Although they lack a biological connection, their dedication and love for the child are no less profound. Their involvement may be temporary or long-term, depending on the circumstances.
Fictive kin offer the same benefits to a child as familial kinship caregivers:
1. Fictive kin provide much-needed stability to children during tumultuous times. They offer a familiar face and a stable environment, helping children cope and thrive in their new circumstances.
2. Fictive kin offer invaluable emotional support. They listen, understand, and empathize with the child’s feelings and experiences. This emotional connection can significantly impact a child’s ability to trust and form meaningful relationships in the future.
3. Fictive kin help preserve a child’s identity. This aspect is vital for maintaining a strong sense of self, especially when the child may feel disconnected from their biological family.
4. Fictive kin effectively create a sense of belonging for the child. When a child feels loved and accepted by their caregivers, they are more likely to experience a healthier emotional and psychological development.
5. Fictive kin often become fierce advocates for the children in their care. They navigate the complex web of child welfare systems. This dedication can lead to better access to resources, education, and support services for the child.
6. Permanency and Stability: For some children, fictive kin relationships eventually transform into permanent placements, leading to adoption or legal guardianship. These lasting bonds offer stability and a permanent sense of belonging, which are vital for a child’s well-being.
In striving for the best outcomes for children in foster care, kinship care, including fictive kin, is a valuable tool in strengthening families and facilitating successful reunification efforts. CASA advocates play a part in supporting these relationships by helping children sort through their thoughts and feelings about foster care, identifying possible relatives for placement, AND connecting kinship families with resources.