When children enter protective custody, child welfare social workers begin looking for appropriate and suitable homes for the children to be placed in. Often, they begin the search by looking into relatives and other persons the children know and have relationships with. In other words, they begin the search for a kinship placement.
This process will vary from state to state. Some states, such as Missouri, have dropped the name of “kinship home” and are now referring to all families who know or are related to the child as relative homes. Just like the name or process may differ from state to state, so will the various responsibilities, requirements, and training of prospective kinship providers.
The goal behind kinship foster care is to find and approve families who have a connection to children brought into care. In some instances, a child may be immediately placed in a kinship home upon being brought into protective custody. In other circumstances, the child may be placed in a foster home until the interested kinship family has been fully approved. Again, some of the processes and protocols determining placements may differ depending on the state in which the children reside.
Placements into kinship homes are beneficial to children because of the connection to family, friends and the community. However, there may be some situations where a family member or friend of the family has stepped forward to be approved as a placement for the child, even though the child is no familiar with the person. In these situations, the prospective kinship provider will be assessed for appropriateness of placement. A professional team will decide whether the child will be placed. A judge could also rule in favor of or in opposition to the kinship placement.
Kinship foster care providers can also file a petition to adopt once Termination of Parental Rights has occurred. In some cases, there may be competing petitions. Ultimately, the team and the judge will decide based on the best interests of the child.
Out-of-state kinship homes can also be approved; however, states are required to go through the appropriate ICPC (Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children) channels and follow guidelines set forth by ICPC. If the case goal is reunification, an ICPC kinship placement may not immediately occur so that appropriate reunification efforts can be made. If the goal changes to adoption, an ICPC placement may be made per the recommendations of team members.
Kinship placement providers must have the same background checks that foster parents are required to have. They will also go through an assessment and training process, but the duration and thoroughness of the assessment and training may differ from each state. The bottom line is that kinship providers are required to go through an approval process.
Kinship foster care may not always be a suitable option for children in foster care. However, there are great benefits to foster children being placed with people they are familiar with. They can continue with relationships and learn about their family history and roots. Children in foster care experience a lot of unknowns about their futures, but with kinship foster care, their concerns and fears may be softened.
If you are interested in learning more about kinship foster care, contact your local child welfare agencies.