126 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39: 1 2019]
providers, special attention needs to be provided to the visitation schedule and needs for kinship
caregivers. When children are placed with relatives, they have more contact with parents than
children placed in nonrelative foster care.188 However, this increased contact can come at a price
for kinship care providers. For example, if the court orders monitored contact between the child
and parent, an added burden is placed on the kinship care provider who is in close contact with the
child’s parent. It is imperative for social workers servicing the family to regularly check in with
the kinship care provider to assure that they are not being overburdened and to assist with
facilitating visitation, just as the social worker would if the child was placed with a non-related
Even absent visitation needs, many kinship caregivers express a need for greater contact
with the social worker.189 Simultaneously, some kinship caregivers feel overwhelmed by the
intrusion of “others” into their family life.190 The social worker working with the kinship care
family should make themselves regularly available by, for example, extra phone calls to check on
the family. These phone check-ins should be specifically structured to listen to the family’s needs.
The social worker must be careful not to use these extra contacts to, instead, check on whether the
family is complying with the social worker’s expectations.
As our nation’s policies have grown to reflect the understanding that children placed in
out-of-home care have a better chance to thrive when placed with relatives, there has been a steady
increase in kinship caregiver placements. While these placements have the potential to provide
great stability and opportunity for growth for the children placed in a relative’s care, steps must be
continually taken to support these kinship placements. With a focus on provision of financial
support, mental health services and support, childcare and respite services, training, emotional
support, and systemic support, kinship caregivers can rise to their full potential for the children
placed in their care.
Many states have their own patchwork of programs to support kinship families. It would
be beneficial for states to create a one-year kinship care task force to assess the state’s policies and
practices that already exist and to recommend next steps to create a truly supportive policy
environment for kinship families.
188 See Le Prohn, supra note 44.
189 See Chipman et al., supra note 101, at 515.
190 See WORKING WITH KINSHIP CAREGIVERS, supra note 19; see also Children's Bureau, Kinship Caregivers and the
Child Welfare System, CHILD WELFARE INFO. GATEWAY 1, 7 (May 2016),
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/f_kinshi.pdf (noting formal kinship caregivers have less control to make
decisions about the children placed in their care).