Academic journal article Child Welfare

Measuring Social Support among Kinship Caregivers: Validity and Reliability of the Family Support Scale

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Measuring Social Support among Kinship Caregivers: Validity and Reliability of the Family Support Scale

Article excerpt

The scope of research about kinship care has expanded. One area of interest is the impact social support has on kinship caregivers (Kelley, Whitley, & Campos, 2011). The Family Support Scale (FSS) has been used to measure social support among kinship caregivers (Kelley et al., 2011; Leder et al., 2007); however, there has been no rigorous examination of the psychometric properties of the FSS when administered to kinship caregivers. This study used a sample of 255 kinship caregivers to conduct a principal component analysis and developed a four-component structure for the FSS. The results suggest that the four-component structure identifies four sub-scales that have adequate face validity and internal consistency validity with this population.

The number of children being raised by kinship caregivers without biological parents' involvement has increased over the previous two decades. According to the 2010 Current Population Survey, more than 1.8 million children are being cared for solely by grandparents (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2011). This increase in children being raised by grandparents is attributed to a rise in social problems, including parental substance abuse, incarceration, teen pregnancy, child abuse and neglect, HIV/AIDS, and parent death. In addition, there is an increasing trend in child protective agencies placing children with relative rather than non-relative caregivers based on a belief that children will do better when raised by family members than foster parents (Kelley et al., 2011; Kelley, Whitley, Sipe, &. Yorker, 2000).

Research suggests that outcomes for children in kinship care are positive. According to Winokur, Holtran, and Valentine's 2009 Campbell Systematic Review, if the goal of kinship care is to enhance the behavioral development, mental health functioning, and placement stability of children, then the evidence base is supportive (Winokur, Holtran, & Valentine, 2009). In addition, it is less costly for child welfare agencies to place children with relative caregivers compared to foster parents, because child welfare agencies do not provide the same level of financial support to kinship caregivers who are not licensed as foster parents, which undervalues and inadequately supports these families (Schwartz, 2002). Due to adverse situations that children often experience prior to entering kinship care, and the attachment disruption that results from being separated from their parent(s), many children in kinship care are at an increased risk of experiencing emotional and behavioral problems (Poehlmann,2003). Kinship caregivers also often experience problems, including poverty (Burnett, 1999a), elevated levels of psychological distress (Kelley et al., 2000), increased physical health problems (Burnett, 1999b), and a decline in informal social support including decreases in contact with friends and family, as well as decreased marital satisfaction (Burnett, 1999b).

Social Support

The scope of research about kinship care has expanded over the past two decades, with many studies focusing on the problems presented by children in kinship care and the impact that caring for children has on the caregivers, specifically grandmothers (Burnette, 1999a, 1999b; Kelley et al., 2011; Kelley et al., 2000; Leder, Nicholson, Grinstead, 6c Torres, 2007; Lumpkin, 2008; Mayer, 2002). One area of interest in many studies is the availability and impact that social support has on kinship caregivers (Burton, 1992; Jendrek, 1993; Kelley et al., 2011; Kelley et al., 2000; Lindhiem 6c Dozier, 2007; Minkier, Roe, 6c Robertson-Beckley, 1994). Capian (1974) defines social support as formal and informal relationships with individuals and groups through which a person receives the emotional, cognitive, and material supports necessary to master a stressful experience. Both family systems theory and social ecological theory can be used as a basis for understanding the kinship family's complex system and how the relations between the family and environment can promote social support. …

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