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.
Children are placed in foster care when they are unable to safely remain in their parents’ care. Traditional foster care placements can provide essential support. However, kinship care is an uniquely beneficial option for the child, family, and child welfare system.
- Kinship Care minimizes trauma for the child.
Children placed in kinship care are more likely to have a smoother transition than those in traditional foster care. This is because there is typically less trauma related to being separated from their family of origin. The children are surrounded by a pre-existing support network. Their caregivers are already familiar with their background, needs, and preferences. This stability lessens anxiety. It also creates an environment where children can maintain connections to their heritage, language and traditions. This cultural continuity enhances their sense of self and belonging.
- Kinship Care fosters trust among family members.
Placing a child in the care of a relative sends a powerful message that a family is committed to ensuring the child’s well-being. It allows the kinship caregivers to model positive parenting practices. At the same time, it creates opportunities for family members to come together, address underlying issues, and heal past wounds. Kinship care can become a foundation for reconciliation.
- Kinship caregivers can be a bridge for the child welfare system.
Traditional foster care placements occasionally struggle to maintain harmony among everyone involved, including the child, biological parents, and foster caregivers. Placing children with relatives builds on trust that is hopefully already in existence. It thereby prevents added tension, misunderstandings, and challenges. It also allows for more accessible visitation opportunities and keeps family communication channels open. This lays necessary groundwork for reunification, if it becomes possible.
In striving for the best outcomes for children in foster care, kinship care 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 a placement, AND connecting kinship families with resources.