Foster Care

What is Kinship Care and How Does It Work?

Keeping children in care within their family is important, and that’s what kinship care provides. Learn more about how kinship care works in our blog!

Not all parents are able to give the love and care that their children need to thrive.

When children are unable to stay with their parents, there are options out there to make sure that they get the caring and loving space that they deserve.

Foster care, for example, matches children in need to a loving family. 

But what if children could stay with members of their own family?

This is what kinship care provides. 

Let’s talk about what kinship care is, how it works, and some other important information on how it can help children thrive. 

What is Kinship Care and How Does It Work?

Kinship care places children in the care of their relatives when their parents cannot give the care and love they need. 

This could be any close relative — for example, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other extended family members. They step in to become primary caregivers for the child. 

Although kinship care keeps a child with their family, it's not always an informal process. The legal system and courts often come into play to figure out custody, looking into the life of the kinship caregiver and protecting a child's best interests. 

Once these issues are figured out, a child in need is placed with the kinship caregiver, either on a short-term or long-term basis, depending on the parents’ situation.

History of Kinship Care

Kinship care isn’t a new idea — in fact, it has been practiced for centuries. 

Indigenous cultures, in particular, have always tried to keep family bonds and cultural connections. In these societies, extended family members often rallied to provide care when parents were unable to.

In recent history, kinship care has become more formalized and gained momentum. It is now seen as a true alternative to foster care, celebrating the idea of keeping family ties during a child's early years.

Kinship Care vs. Foster Care

Both kinship care and foster care provide children with safe and nurturing spaces when their parents can’t take care of them. 

However, there are some differences between them. 

Kinship care is rooted in family ties — children are placed with relatives who may already be known to them, which can make things easier during these traumatic times. 

Even if the relatives aren’t as well-known, family connections can help a child's sense of identity and security.

In the case of informal kinship care, which leaves the parental rights with the parents themselves, the legal aspects are generally less complex than those of foster care. However, formal kinship care still involves the courts. 

Foster care, on the other hand, involves licensed caregivers who may initially be strangers to the child. Foster parents often attend pre service sessions to learn more about how to be a foster parent, go through evaluations, and are matched based on fit with a child in care.

The Benefits of Kinship Care

Being different from traditional foster care, kinship care provides many benefits to children in need.

Here are four of the most important ones:

  • Stability - Kinship care can often provide better stability. If a child is staying with a relative they know, trust, and that lives in the same area, they’ll get to keep the same friends and keep attending the same school.
  • Keeping siblings together - While foster care can also keep siblings together in some cases, kinship care typically has a better chance of keeping a child together with their brothers or sisters, further keeping their family ties. 
  • Improving education - Children in kinship care often do better in school than in traditional foster care. Being with family makes them feel more stable and trust in their loved ones makes it easier for them to focus on school. 

Kinship Care Challenges

Kinship care does come with a few challenges — however, as long as you know what to expect, you can go through the process as easily as possible. 

  • Legal issues - Custody issues may involve certain legal processes, and caregivers must ensure the child's safety and well-being within the law. However, foster and kinship care groups, such as Mentor Foster Care, can help you navigate the legal system as easily as possible. 
  • Balancing care with other responsibilities - Kinship care providers have other responsibilities, too. It’s important for potential caregivers to make sure that they have enough time to give the love and care that a child needs. 

  • Emotional impact - The emotional impact on a child in any type of care can be a lot to handle. Children may deal with feelings of loss or confusion about their family situation — this is perfectly normal and okay. Kinship caregivers should remain patient while giving them the support they need.

Support and Resources for Kinship Care

Thankfully, there are many support options and resources that kinship care providers can use. 

Legal help is important for navigating custody and guardianship issues, ensuring that the child's best interests are looked after. 

There are also financial aid options — these can help cover some of the costs of caring for the child, easing the financial burden on caregivers. Some of these can be found from the government.

For children going through trauma, support groups and services provide emotional support, helping children with challenges they’re going through. 

Kinship caregivers can also access community programs and organizations that are dedicated to providing help, guidance, and a sense of community to kinship families.

Mentor Foster Care Can Help With Kinship Care

As a provider of foster care services, kinship care is one of our specialties — Mentor Foster Care, a part of Sevita’s companies, supports children and families. 

Discover how Mentor Foster Care makes kinship care as easy as possible.

Learn More About Kinship Care

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