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especially for a kinship caregiver. However, regular and consistent visits with biological parents
are an essential element of family preservation efforts and important in maintaining the attachment
relationship between parents and children. 45 At least one study has found that frequent contact has
a positive impact on child well-being and on reunification rates. 46 Since foster care by definition
is temporary, visitation with biological parents and continued contact can help facilitate a smooth
transition from foster care back to residing with biological parents. 47
III. CHALLENGES OF KINSHIP CARE
Notwithstanding its previously stated benefits, kinship care also presents numerous
challenges for both the children placed with their relatives and the kinship caregivers. Kinship
caregivers may be less prepared to assume childcare responsibilities than non-relative foster
parents since it is often a crisis that prompts the need for kinship care, while non-relative foster
parents have been prepared through education and training and have elected to raise a foster child. 48
Most kinship caregivers did not plan nor intend to be parenting their relative’s children. Kinship
caregivers must learn to manage the stress inherent in child rearing and the kinship care
arrangement, particularly if the kinship placement was sudden and unanticipated. The
demographic profiles of kinship caregivers differ from non-relative caregivers in regards to age,
health, income, and educational levels. 49 Kinship caregivers may be a more vulnerable population
than non-kinship foster parents for a variety of reasons. 50 These reasons are highlighted in the
following section. However, it is important to note that kinship caregivers are a heterogeneous
group, as there is not a typical profile of a relative that becomes a kinship caregiver, since it could
be an older sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent, cousin, relative by marriage, or other kin.
Kinship caregivers tend to be older than non-relative foster parents. 51 This finding is not
surprising, considering the fact that 69% of kinship caregivers are grandmothers. 52 A potential
concern about the older age of kinship caregivers is their ability to continue to parent young
children into adolescence, if needed, due to the kinship foster parents’ concern about both their
advancing age and declining health status.
The older age of kinship caregivers is often accompanied by physical health problems.
Kinship caregivers may have limitations to their mobility, which makes raising an active child a
challenge. Additionally, kinship caregivers may face mental health challenges. 53 The addition of a
45 Meredith Kiraly & Cathy Humphreys, A tangled web: Parental contact with children in kinship care, 20 CHILD &
FAM. SOC. WORK 106 (2013).
46 Lenore M. McWey et al., The Impact of Continued Contact with Biological Parent upon the Mental Health of
Children in Foster Care, 32 CHILD. & YOUTH SERVS. REV. 1343 (2010).
47 See generally id. at 1338-45.
48 Id. at 1140-42.
49 See J.P. GLEESON, Kinship care for children and young people: international perspectives, in THE ROUTLEDGE
HANDBOOK OF GLOBAL CHILD WELFARE 245 (Pat Dolan & Nick Frost eds., 2017).
50 PAUL NIXON, RELATIVELY SPEAKING: DEVELOPMENTS IN RESEARCH AND PRACTICE IN KINSHIP CARE, RESEARCH
IN PRACTICE 55 (2007).
51 Femke Vanschoonlandt et al., Kinship and non-kinship foster care: Differences in contact with parents and foster
child's mental health problems, 34 CHILD. & YOUTH SERVS. REV. 1533, 1533 (2012).
52 See, e.g., Jennifer Ehrle & Rob Geen, Children cared for by relatives: What services do they need?, THE UR. INST.
1, 2 (June 2002).
53 Susan J. Kelley et al., Psychological distress in grandmother kinship care providers: the role of resources, support,
and physical health, 24 CHILD ABUSE & NEGLECT 319 (2000).