Kinship care or Foster care : Which is better?

Kinship Care or Foster Care –

Kinship care refers to a relative (including grandparents) who takes care of the child with the inability of the parents to do so. Kinship Foster Carers can be paid or unpaid. This varies by the State Government/County depending on policy,funds available, and preference and financial situation of the kin. Foster care is when a non-related,unknown family takes charge of the child and receives a stipend to cover costs. And then there are hidden foster carers, where the parents are theoretically incharge but the hidden foster carers are in practice responsible for the child.

In each of the above scenarios, the carers are kind and caring people and we salute them.

A lot of research has been done by the Social Welfare academic community as to whether kinship care or foster care has better outcomes for the child. As far as we could tell from the academic research, it depends a lot on the cultural and social context of the child.

In multi-ethnic America many communities are close knit and when parents fail relatives and friends are happy to take charge. The child achieves permanency or stability and avoids being shunted from one foster home to another or foster care drift.

Marc Winoker of Colorado State University alongwith Amy Holton and Keri E Batchelder has a nice meta- analysis from 2014 of prior research on the kinship question. We quote and highlight some parts of their results and conclusions:

One‐hundred‐and‐two quasi‐experimental studies, with 666,615 children are included in this review. The ‘Risk of bias’ analysis indicates that the evidence base contains studies with unclear risk for selection bias, performance bias, detection bias, reporting bias, and attrition bias, with the highest risk associated with selection bias and the lowest associated with reporting bias. The outcome data suggest that children in kinship foster care experience fewer behavioural problems (standardised mean difference effect size ‐0.33, 95% confidence interval (CI) ‐0.49 to ‐0.17), fewer mental health disorders (odds ratio (OR) 0.51, 95% CI 0.42 to 0.62), better well‐being (OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.38 to 0.64), and less placement disruption (OR 0.52, 95% CI 0.40 to 0.69) than do children in non‐kinship foster care. For permanency, there was no difference on reunification rates, although children in non‐kinship foster care were more likely to be adopted (OR 2.52, 95% CI 1.42 to 4.49), while children in kinship foster care were more likely to be in guardianship (OR 0.26, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.40). Lastly, children in non‐kinship foster care were more likely to utilise mental health services (OR 1.79, 95% CI 1.35 to 2.37).

winoker,holton,Batchelder (2014)

If you think about it, many cultures have a strong community feeling. Quite simply a child feels “at home” if a member of the specific community steps up.

From the above, its intriguing why foster care has more adoption while kinship care seems to have more guardianship.

Becci A. Aikin of Kansas University in her Ph.D. theses (2010, pages 117-18) makes the point that current policy (as of 2010) thinks of permanency as a hierarchical process viz. reunification, adoption and guardianship. Adoption takes longer and happens more with unrelated foster parents while African Americans are more culturally accepting of guardianship. If quick permanency is the goal, maybe guardianship should be promoted.

The goal of permanency can be seen as providing a stable home and human connection. And this is probably the central question that all types of prospective foster parents need to ask themselves.

The goal for everyone is to do what is best for the child. The judgement call of kinship care vs. foster care is for the social worker on the ground.

In management this is decentralized decision making. Sure, there are laws,rules and guidelines at the Federal,State and County level but because we are dealing with a human situation – its best to let the social worker decide.

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