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Celebrating Kinship Care

September is Kinship Care Month, recognizing relatives, members of tribes and clans, and non-related extended family members who provide round the clock protecting and nurturing for their younger family members.

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.

Background

(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 Today

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:

  • informal, where children live with grandparents or other relatives and are not in the custody of a public child welfare agency;
  • formal, where children are in the care of a relative or non-related extended family member and in the custody of a public child welfare agency.

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.

Advocacy

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:

www.grandfamilies.org

https://www.aecf.org/topics/kinship-care

https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/outofhome/kinship/

https://www.cwla.org/kinship-care/

https://www.casey.org/what-are-kinship-navigators/

https://www.gu.org/

For more information about the NFPA Public Policy Committee, please contact Arnold Eby, Executive Director, at arnie@nfpaonline.org.


Want to Learn More?

September Is Kinship Care Month

Kinship care, in its various forms, has become increasingly important in meeting the needs of children involved with the child welfare system. It helps maintain familial and cultural connections and promotes stability, permanency, and the well-being of children in need of out-of-home placement.

Historically, kinship care has been used in many communities of color to sustain family relationships and protect and preserve the culture and history of these communities. Research has proven that placing children in the care of relatives or kin reduces the trauma of family separation and helps children maintain a sense of family, belonging, and identity.

This September, join the Children's Bureau in prioritizing these important connections and recognizing that when children cannot remain safely with their parents, kinship care must be the first path we take.

Join the webinar, “Lifting the Voices of Kinship Caregivers,” on September 7 to hear two state Kinship Navigator programs share best practices related to uplifting the well-being of kinship caregivers. Register now!

Resources to Support Your Work With Kinship Caregivers

podcast

On the Podcast

“Advances in Supporting Kinship Caregivers” is a new podcast series exploring how different child welfare agencies from around the country are increasing engagement, training, and support for kinship caregivers. Listen to Parts 1, 2, and 3! And tune in to Part 4 and 5 on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsStitcher, and SoundCloudSubscribe to E-lert! to receive the new episodes when they are released!

 

Reflections: Stories of Foster Care

reflections_stories of foster care

Personal storytelling is a powerful way to connect real-life scenarios to important practice issues and raise awareness about how the foster care system can support youth and families. These stories highlight the important role kinship caregivers play in the lives of children and youth in foster care and best practices for how kinship support programs and other foster care service agencies can act as a support to children, youth, and families.

 

Examples of Best Practices and Other Resources

best practices_resources

Visit the National Foster Care Month website to find year-round support for ways to increase and enhance your partnerships with kin caregivers.

 

Explore resources that demonstrate how prioritizing the placement of children and youth in foster care with biological family, or kin, can help transform the child welfare system into one that truly supports families and maintains connections. This includes an emphasis on family finding and other child-specific recruitment strategies, best practices for family engagement, and licensing relative caregivers who understand their unique ability to partner with parents to support reunification. 

 

Outreach Tools

Use these messages and GIFs in your outreach throughout the month (and year-round!) to raise awareness in your communities about the benefits of kinship care!

Find out more about this role at Child Welfare.gov. There, you'll find links and resources geared to the Kinship Caregiver.

Child Welfare Information Gateway - Kinship Care Overview

Child Welfare Information Gateway - Resources





Placing children in need of out-of-home care with relatives can help them maintain connections to family, community, and culture. Discover important resources on kinship care to help you support the important work kin caregivers do for the children in their family.

Click HERE to see the September 'Kinship' issue!



Are you a GRANDPARENT who is a Kinship Caregiver?

Be sure to visit the resources at RetireGuide.com, 'Taking Care of Yourself While Raising Your Grandchildren'.

You'll find information on:

  • Legal issues and resources;
  • Facts and Demographics about grandparents raising grandchildren;
  • Reasons why grandparents become guardians of their grandchildren;
  • Opportunities to subscribe for more news and updates;
  • Kinship Navigator Programs;
  • Maintaining good health;
  • And more!

Visit https://www.retireguide.com/guides/self-care-raising-grandchildren/ to learn more.

The National Foster Parent Association is a champion for the thousands of families that open their hearts and their homes to the over 400,000 children in out-of-home placement in the US. The NFPA believes in the importance of family-based care for foster children and that every child deserves support and a permanent family.

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