There also is a National Grandparents Day every September in which there is a presidential proclamation celebrating the important role that grandparents have in sharing their wisdom, perseverance, and unconditional love to strengthen family bonds.
(Adapted from Child Welfare League of America’s Traditions of Caring and Collaborating: A Trauma Informed Model of Practice for Kinship Family Information, Support and Assessment, www.cwla.org/kinship.)
The care of children by kin has centuries of tradition, long before the formal child welfare system was created, including family foster care. Tired parents could get a rest when grandparents would take youngsters and teens for a few hours or days. Relatives stepped in when there were parental financial, medical, or other crises and tragedies. Children would live with grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings, or extended family members when parents needed to find employment and couldn’t take the children with them, including when parents were deployed to serve the country.
It was only in the early 1990’s that relatives raising their younger family members were identified as a specific child welfare program area. “Family preservation” was coined in the 1970s, and of course foster care and adoption programs date back a previous century. But there was no nationally recognized, consistent name for the policies, programs, and practices connected with relatives raising children. To address growing concerns about the need for improved outcomes for children in foster care, in 1990 the Child Welfare League of America and the National Foster Parent Association collaborated to convene a National Commission on Family Foster Care.
With the considerable increase in the number of relatives caring for their younger family members and their commensurate compelling challenges, the Commission looked for a name that would differentiate foster parenting and care by relatives. Variously described as relative care, extended family care, home of relative care, and foster care with relatives, the National Commission wanted a name that respected and reflected the significance of family relationships. The strength of kinship systems among diverse cultural and ethnic groups had long been documented, for example in the 1974 book by Dr. Carol Stack, All Our Kin – Strategies for Survival in a Black Community. Thus, the name “kinship care” was selected by the National Commission under the leadership of NFPA and CWLA. It was published as a special chapter, “The Significance of Kinship Care,” in A National Blueprint for Fostering Infants, Children, and Youths in the 1990s.
Kinship care is recognized as the full-time protection and nurture of children by relatives, members of their Tribes or clans, godparents, stepparents, fictive kin or non-related extended family members. The definition is inclusive and respectful of cultural values and ties of affection. Whether formally through child protective services or informally through family arrangements, kinship care aims to reduce the trauma of family separation and provide cultural and community ties. Within this definition there are two populations of kinship families:
Whether informally arranged among family members or formally supported by the child welfare system, it is essential to affirm and support the considerable contributions of kinship caregivers.
While much progress has been made to support kinship families – such as Navigator Programs – much more is needed. For example, while there is a National Foster Care Month, we need to advocate for a National Kinship Care Month. Some states have been able to successfully achieve state resolutions for Kinship Care Month, but a National Kinship Care Month is essential to be both celebratory and achieve essential resources for every kinship caregiving families across America. And words matter: there is the need for quality kinship care and quality family foster care. Kinship caregivers and foster parents are better together and advocate together for resources for all children!
For more information, please contact:
For more information about the NFPA Kinship Committee, please contact Bob Ruble, Chair, at this address.
For more information about the NFPA Public Policy Committee, please contact Arnold Eby, Chair, at this address.
Want to Learn More?
Find out more about this role at Child Welfare.gov. There, you'll find links and resources geared to the Kinship Caregiver.