Kinship care placements are the federally prioritized placements that occur when children
are unable to be cared for by their parents and are brought into the child welfare system. As an
increasing number of children in foster care are being placed with kinship caregivers, reform of
child welfare policy and practices must accompany the shift away from congregate care
placements and non-kinship foster placements for foster youth. “Ongoing policy work as it pertains
to kinship care must answer a fundamental question: What policies and practices best support the
meaningful development of enduring relationships between children and their kin?” 3 This paper
addresses the myriad of benefits of formal kinship care when children are placed in the care of kin
through the child welfare system while also highlighting the challenges for kinship caregivers and
the children placed in their homes. The strengths inherent in kinship caregiving are presented, as
well as the needs of these families. Resources needed to support kinship families are identified,
utilizing California as an example of how policies have shifted to support kinship placements.
Future policy directions and additional programmatic needs are identified as best practice models
to support kinship families.
When removed from their parents’ home by the child welfare system, children may be
placed in various placement settings. They may be placed in institutions (or shelter placements),
group homes (typically defined as homes with six or more beds for foster children), non-relative
foster family homes, or relative foster family homes, also known as kinship placements (where the
caretaker is related to the child through blood or kinship). Over the last ten years, there has been
strong momentum to move away from group or congregate care for children on a national level. 4
Group homes are restrictive residential placements that often provide a placement option
for youth with significant social, emotional, and/or behavioral problems who require more
intensive environments. 5 Frequently, prior to group home placement, these children have cycled
through numerous foster homes and the placements have not been maintained for a variety of
reasons. Consequently, children in group care are often termed “foster home placement failures.”
In 2014, the American Orthopsychiatric Association issued a consensus statement on group care
for children and adolescents. 6 Citing the importance of children having a secure attachment with a
parental figure, among other factors, they asserted that group care has detrimental effects on the
healthy development of children at all ages. 7 Mary Dozier and colleagues also reported that group
care increases the likelihood of risky and antisocial behavior. 8
Children need to be raised in the context of a safe family home and with a stable and
consistent relationship with a caregiver. To best meet the needs of children, group care should be
reserved as a last and time-limited option for children who require intense therapeutic treatment.
Attachment needs of children can be best met in family-based settings. Regarding long-term
3 RAMONA DENBY, KINSHIP CARE: INCREASING CHILD WELL-BEING THROUGH PRACTICE, POLICY, AND RESEARCH 74
(Stephanie Drew & Michael O’Connor eds., Springer Publishing Company 2015).
4 CALIFORNIA CHILD ADVOCATES FOR CHANGE, POLICY BRIEF: DEVELOPING A ROBUST CONTINUUM OF CARE TO
SUPPORT FOSTER YOUTH IN FAMILY BASED SETTINGS 2 (June 2016), https://kids-alliance.org/wp-
5 See generally Mary Dozier et al., Consensus statement on group care for children and adolescents: A statement of
policy of the American Orthopsychiatric Association, 84 AM. J. OF ORTHOPSYCHIATRY 219, 219-25 (2014).