Kinship Foster Care Pros and Cons

Kinship Foster Care

Today, children entering foster care are often placed in the homes of family members or family friends instead of traditional foster families. Is kinship foster care better than sending abused and neglected children to live with strangers?

Up until a few years ago, children who could not live safely with their birth parents mainly went to live in “stranger” foster care – the home of a person or people unknown to the child. Lately, the trend has turned to placing these children in kinship foster care – the home of a family member or family friend.  There are many reasons for this change.

Pros of Kinship Foster Care

Children Placed in Kinship Foster Care May Know (and Love) Their Caregiver

When children go into traditional foster care, there are new parents; new rules; new neighbors; often a new school; and sometimes, new siblings, if the foster parents have children of their own or other foster children in the home.  These changes, even when they are positive over time, are often traumatic for children in care.

Placement into kinship foster care can soften the blow for these already traumatized children. Whether it’s a beloved grandmother, a best friend’s parents, a caring teacher or even a distant cousin who believes in keeping the family together, the less disrupted the positive aspects of the child’s life can be, the better.

Kinship Foster Care Keeps a Child’s History Intact

When children enter foster care, they often lose everything they’ve ever known or loved. Depending on their age and situation, they may lose contact with other family members, including siblings.

It can be comforting for children to hear stories about their parents from someone who knows them. A grandmother may be able to reassure a child in care that his mother loves him, but is unable to take care of him, in a very real way.

Cons of Kinship Foster Care

Children Placed in Kinship Foster Care May Be More Likely to Have Unwelcome / Unauthorized Contact with Their Birth Parents

Imagine having to tell your daughter that she can’t see her own child, or that she is unwelcome in your home.  That’s what grandparents raising grandchildren often have to do.

Because of the emotional connection to the birth parent, kinship caregivers may have more difficulty in enforcing the child welfare designated rules about contact with the child than a traditional foster parent. To help them better prepare for these situations, grandparents raising grandchildren can take free foster parent training courses on issues in kinship care, which are offered for free in some states, like New Jersey.

Kinship Foster Care Givers May Not be Adequately Prepared to Deal with the Child’s Special Needs

Because they are abused and neglected, foster children often have special needs that kinship caregivers may not be aware of or understand.  In some cases, what grandparents or other kinship foster care givers may see as simply “bad behavior” may be physical or psychological issues that need to be addressed.

Luckily, there are resources that can help. There are a number of free foster parent training courses that kinship caregivers can take to help them overcome these challenges and assist the children in their home.

Kinship Foster Care Givers May be Unwilling / Unable to Comply with the Additional Demands of the Child Welfare System

When family members take in a child, they are expected to follow certain rules that may not have been issues for them when the child was living with his birth parents.  A swat on the bottom when a child goes to stick his finger in a socket, or even something as simple as giving the child a haircut, is now forbidden. Some family members may have difficulty accepting these restrictions.

Kinship care providers take children into their homes purely based on emotion; in most cases, they don’t have time to make the conscious decision to parent these children that foster parents do. There is still a need for traditional foster families, who will always be the safety net for abused and neglected children who have no relatives willing or able to take them in, or who need special medical attention that requires certification. But grandparents raising grandchildren and other kinship foster care providers can be a comfort to kids who have lost so much that was familiar and who long for roots and a place to call home.

Author: fafsblog

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19 thoughts on “Kinship Foster Care Pros and Cons

  1. Thanks for this. It goes with what I have said needs to be done in ALL States for ALL families caring for children they did not give birth to. Kinship parents-particularly Grandparents need free and easy access to trainings in how to care for neglect/abuse traumatized children. Otherwise the struggle can be too much and placements can fail or they simply fail to provide the children with the best possible outcome. This training should not only be offered to potential Foster Kinship Parents but should be offered (if not mandated) for informal Kinship Parents as well. It is those informal (non-licensed) homes that the biggest potential for failure lies because they have no supportive services in place, and often become isolated. And, the problem of dealing with their own child who is the biological parent of the child they are now raising can become heart wrenching as well, particularly if there are no guidelines set by the court or child welfare system.

  2. As a 10-year kinship care provider, I can honestly say that kinship care is never what you signed up for. Especially when the child’s parent’s are involved. Parent’s who are very sensitive to the situation and more than likely related to you. Kinship care providers not only require the services given to foster parents, but also need guidance on how to deal with the family dynamics as well.

  3. We are well over 2 1/2 years caring for our granddaughters. To us, most shocking, is that Kin/Grandparents have no rights. We are looked at/treated as foster parents, and that’s it. It has been has a beautiful (raising our granddaughter since 2 months old, and a horror with the rest.

  4. Help!!!!! My niece and nephews are in foster care and I went through all the formalities to get them from out of foster care, being though I’m the only family member who can take them. The system accepted all my paperwork and I have been told that the children do not want to leave the foster parents care. What can I do….. Since the foster care parents have no court order to keep bio family from the children. They will not the BIO family see the children at all. What should my next move be. I’m considering litigation to get my BIO family members.

    1. Hi Charlene, Please email us at and let us know your location. If you are in NJ, we will be able to assist you. If you’re not in New Jersey, we can offer limited assistance but will do what we can to connect you with an agency or nonprofit in your state that can help.

  5. I am a foster parent of my biological grand daughter. However it wasn’t done as kinship. Just foster, the other grandmother is giving me a very hard time. Calling making subtle threats , screaming on voice-mail etc. What can I do ?

    1. Hi Tams,

      Our advocates urge you to notify your caseworker about the threats being made by the other grandmother. You can also contact your local police department to file a complaint and obtain a temporary restraining order. If there is anything we can do for you, please don’t hesitate to call us at 609.520.1500.

  6. In the state of North Carolina can I claim a child on my taxes if we have kinship custody that was placed by our county social services and had the child over 8 months.

  7. My cousin and his partner just had their 4thr child taken from them yesterday morning. She is a newborn and my husband and I want to be concidered in her permanent placement/adoption. The last one was a newborn as well and we only heard through rumors that she was removed from them and no family was asked to take her that We are aware of. She went to a foster family. This newest baby is in Washington and we live Two hours from her in Oregon. Can you give us any advice or help in knowing how to and who to talk to?

    1. It can be very stressful knowing that a family member is involved with Child Protection Services. If the child is in Washington State, you should contact Washington State Department of Social and Human Services. The links below will lead you to their website. If you are aware of the county the child is in, you can use the bottom link to search for the direct office that should have the child’s case. You will also need to know the biological parents names in order to find the appropriate caseworker for the child.

  8. I have a 1 year old grandchild that I have been raising for one year the mother is in prison and the father is my son that lives here often on and maybe going to prison too I want to make sure my grandchild is well taken care of I would like to continue to care for him but financially we are on a set income also I would like both parents to have to go to court and make sure they do what they got to do so the baby is well taken care of if they take him out of my home also I would like to have visitation weekends holidays stays in the summer if they do take him.. the mother is a from originally from Arizona and I’m from Iowa so this may become a problem the other grandmother is upset with me but I was told he could not leave Iowa I do not want no problems I just want my grandson to be well taken care of. both the parents of the baby are not capable of keeping care of they are both using drugs no jobs no homes of Their Own and in trouble with the law of course the mother dose not like like me. And won’t sign over and my son of course dose not like the mothers mother … Us grandparents dose not know each other well we been texing and visited once…. We both agree on the kids can’t keep care of the child… I have taken the repext care class… What else can I do to keep him with us some financial help and not let him go to Arizona only if the other grandmother mother will agree to bring him back so it’s court ordered and also the kids have to go through treatment and go to the courts to get him back and I can still have this atation when they get their life in order can you help me need help fast don’t have much money to work with thanks do you have a phone number I can call

    1. Caring for grandchildren can be challenging especially when other grandparents reside in other states. If your grandchild has been in your care for a year, it would seem unlikely that the child would be moved from your care. If you are concerned about the child being moved it is best to discuss this concern with the child’s direct caseworker. As for financial assistance, if the child is placed through Iowa Child Protection Services, kinship families such as yourself are eligible for financial assistance through the state. If you are not receiving this assistance you would also need reach out and discuss with your caseworker. Iowa also has Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association which provided further information regarding financial assistance for kinship families.

  9. My parents are being assessed for kindship can I still fighting to have my children returned to my care and what are legal requirements and time frame for this

    1. While your children are in the custody and care of a Child Protection Agency, you can still have your children reunified with you even when they are in a kinship placement. To do this, you must comply with the Child Protection Agency. You can hire an attorney to assist you or be assigned a public defender if you wish. Every case is different and every states policy regarding child protection is different so timelines also depend on the state you reside in. However, as per US Federal Law, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 requires that States move towards termination of parental rights for children who have been in foster care for 15 out of 22 months. There are acceptations to this requirement and attorneys and court process can delay this timeline greatly. With this federal guideline it is also important to keep in mind that the clock of 15 out of 22 months does not stop. Therefore, if your children were removed from your care prior for 10 months and then removed again this federal timeline technically does not stop but again areas such as court can delay the process.

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