Academic journal article Child Welfare

New Directions for Kinship Care Policy and Practice: A Position Paper from the Kinship Summit at Albany, New York, September 2016

Academic journal article Child Welfare

New Directions for Kinship Care Policy and Practice: A Position Paper from the Kinship Summit at Albany, New York, September 2016

Article excerpt

Collaborative partnerships are a major factor in achieving positive outcomes for children, youth, and families. They can lead to a common and unified understanding of the needs of children, youth, and families; identification of gaps in services and supports; and coordinated efforts to address those gaps across child welfare and other human and social services. While it is recognized that progress has been made in developing policy and defining standards of practice related to supporting kinship families, there remains a need for continuous assessment of current policy and practice and future directions for enhancing outcomes.

University at Albany, New York State Kinship Navigator, and the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) formed a collaborative partnership to plan and host a Kinship Care Summit in Albany, New York in September 2016.1 The Summit included presentations by authors of kinship manuscripts that were accepted for this special issue. Building on the information shared by authors and reactors to the presentations, the latter half of the Summit was devoted to an examination of selected current kinship care issues. Summit participants worked in groups to discuss the issues and develop recommendations for the future. The focus was on all kinship families-those in which child welfare is involved, and particularly those without child welfare involvement.

The remainder of this paper presents the seven selected issues and related recommendations developed by the participant work groups:

1. Continuity and permanence of kinship care.

2. Child welfare engagement with kinship caregivers.

3. Barriers to transition into public kinship care.

4. Utilization of Voluntary Placement Agreements.

5. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) child-only grants, adoption and guardianship financial supports.

6. Kinship System of Care and Kinship Navigator services.

7. Kinship care research.

There are many important issues related to kinship care policy and practice, that can be considered from many perspectives. This paper represents one perspective for the reader's consideration.

Shared Kinship Care Philosophy and Values

The Summit Work Groups shared a common kinship care philosophy and set of values as a starting point for their discussions on the seven selected kinship care issues. The philosophy and values were centered around understanding the history of kinship care as a child welfare program and service, and principles outlined in the 2000 Report to Congress (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000) that address kinship as a means of achieving child and youth safety, well-being, and permanence. It was acknowledged that much progress has been made in recognizing the importance of kinship relationships as sources of family and child support, a focus of improved policy and practice, and the subject of research over the past 20 years. The goal of the discussions was to develop recommendations that can enhance kinship care policy, practice, and research for the future and for families in all types of kinship family arrangements.

Kin as Family Resources and Kinship Care Arrangements

Child welfare engagement with kin still is evolving. Kinship care policy and practice was preceded by recognition of its historical roots as an informal tradition among many cultural and ethnic communities. Work by several sociologists supported this recognition. Carol Stack's All Our Kin: Strategies for Survival in a Black Community highlighted the value and strength of kinship networks.2 Sociologist Robert B. Hill authored Informal Adoption Among Black Families in 1977.3 Both of these works illustrate early recognition of kin as a family resource that addresses the well-being of children and youth. The impact of social conditions in the 1980s, such as substance use and poverty, on family functioning resulted in an increased need for alternative living arrangements for children and youth. …

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