Kinship Care Leads to Better Outcomes for Children

How Chapin Hall partnerships help improve support for kinship caregivers and programs

Children placed with family have better behavioral and mental health outcomes than their peers in traditional foster care. Children in kinship care, which is broadly defined as relatives or close family friends, have fewer placements and school changes and are less likely to run away from home than children in traditional foster care. They are more likely to report that they “always felt loved” and have higher satisfaction with kin placement.

Kinship caregivers are a strength and a resource in our communities. They support children and keep them connected to their community and culture, and programs that serve them are uniquely positioned to identify strengths and gaps in services, resources, and supports because of their interaction across systems. Kinship care benefits all families, but especially those marginalized by human service systems and disproportionately impacted by child welfare intervention and family separation. Kinship caregivers are disproportionately Black and Native American, most are women, and they are more likely to be low income. Given these factors, kinship navigator programs can play an important role in establishing a more equitable and interconnected safety net.

Because the benefits of kinship care are clear, many jurisdictions are expanding kinship care services and are working to reduce the number of systemic hurdles kinship families face in getting the support they need. Chapin Hall policy experts partner with jurisdictions and organizations across the United States, including in Ohio, Maryland, Connecticut, and Michigan, to apply innovative approaches to developing, implementing, and evaluating effective kinship navigator programs. These programs are designed to help families understand and access supports available to them, while spurring systems to become more equitable and responsive to family needs.

Kinship care programs are designed to help families understand and access supports available to them, while spurring systems to become more equitable and responsive to family needs.

One challenge all jurisdictions face in effectively serving these families is the informality of many kinship arrangements, meaning they happen without child welfare system involvement or changes in legal custody. While this demonstrates the strength of families to address their own challenges, it often leaves kin families with little financial or social support to meet the needs of their families.

Consequently, children and caregivers in kinship families face greater health, social, and financial challenges than families not in kinship arrangements. Despite kinship families’ documented needs:

  • Fewer than half receive support from Medicaid or the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP—formerly the Food Stamp Program) despite eligibility.
  • Only 17% of working caregivers receive child care assistance.
  • Only 15% of low-income caregivers receive housing assistance.
  • Fewer than 12% of caregivers receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) payments, a kind of federal cash assistance.

Our team of diverse experts works collaboratively with partners to support and build their capacity to develop, implement, and evaluate kinship programs. We intentionally focus on advancing race equity and leverage the wisdom of individuals with lived expertise, practitioners, and community partners every step of the way.

Here are some ways in which Chapin Hall can help with kinship care initiatives:

  • Explore, assess, and build local organization capacity to develop, implement, and sustain kinship navigation models.
  • Provide project management support for large-scale development and implementation.
  • Engage partners and stakeholders, including individuals with lived expertise, in co-designing the model.
  • Identify an evaluation strategy, including development of measures, data collection, and reporting.
  • Create training and practice models with an intentional focus on sustainable equity.
  • Develop internal and external outreach and communications strategies.
  • Develop a program manual and supportive policies, model materials, and tools.

Explore Chapin Hall’s work with OhioKAN, an evidence-building kinship and adoption navigation model, for an example of one of our ongoing collaborations.

We also published a brief that reviews the programs currently on the Title IV-E Clearinghouse and the innovative practices and program components in developing models. A second brief summarizes obstacles faced by kinship foster families that reduce stability for the children moved into their homes.

We know living with kin offers a community-led pathway to better safety, permanency, and well-being for children. Let’s work together to strengthen this pathway and keep more children with their kin. If you are interested in exploring a partnership with us to implement and improve kinship care, contact Krista Thomas for further information.