As the number of kinship families grows, the need for more support services for grandparents raising grandchildren and other relatives taking children into their home increases.
The greatest difference in foster care that I’ve observed from when I started fostering over twenty years ago until today is the focus on placing children with relatives or close family friends (kinship families).
When I began fostering, I cared for many children who would stay for a few months and then leave my home to go to the home of a relative. Almost always that relative was available from day one when the child entered foster care, but at the time they were required to take training and have their home inspection prior to the child being placed with them. Now children are placed immediately in kinship foster care under presumptive eligibility in my home state of New Jersey.
Going forward, I think more children will be placed with kinship families when possible.
I think foster families who are not kinship families will need to be more specialized to meet the needs of children who are not placed with kin. Sometimes this means caring for a larger sibling group, for children with specialized medical needs, and for teens.
Kinship families face many unique challenges, and it is important for grandparents raising grandchildren and other kinship caregivers to be able to access resources to help them meet those challenges with knowledge and moral support. New Jersey’s foster parent support group meetings are open to all licensed resource parents who live in the state. An online support network is also offered, to accommodate caregivers’ busy schedules. Both options offer kinship caregivers new to child welfare policies and procedures and dealing with the child welfare system, support from experienced foster parents who provide helpful tips and information.
What is it like for kinship families in the state where you live? What are your greatest challenges? Comment and let us know.