When a child cannot live with his or her parents, kinship caregivers often take over the full-time responsibility of caring for that child, providing ongoing stability, support and guidance. The definition of a kinship caregiver also goes beyond the scope of relatives and may include an adult who has a relationship with the child or the family.
Kinship care can be temporary, until the child is able to return home or has to move to another home. Kinship care can also be permanent, meaning the kin caregivers will care for the child until he or she becomes an adult.
Kinship care takes many forms. When the child goes to live with a relative or close family friend, the court may give that person temporary custody of the child. Or, the court may grant the local public children services agency custody while the child lives with the kin caregiver.
Kinship care offers stability for the child—placing him or her in the care of someone they know and trust—in an otherwise unstable and turbulent time. There is a connection to the child’s family and support network which can be difficult to maintain in a traditional foster care situation when strangers are caring for the child. Kinship care offers many benefits, including:
- Familiar and trustworthy caregivers
- Decreased trauma from family separation
- Continuation of cultural and family traditions
- Maintained identity and self-esteem
- Increased stability in the placement situation
- Preservation of sibling groups
- Less negative stigma than foster care for the child
Regardless of the type of kinship arrangement, the kinship caregivers’ commitment to step up and devote their lives to the children under their care can be a courageous, life-changing decision.