Academic journal article Child Welfare

Using Kinship Navigation Services to Support the Family Resource Needs, Caregiver Self-Efficacy, and Placement Stability of Children in Informal and Formal Kinship Care

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Using Kinship Navigation Services to Support the Family Resource Needs, Caregiver Self-Efficacy, and Placement Stability of Children in Informal and Formal Kinship Care

Article excerpt

Studies have identified the need to provide services to kinship caregivers to maintain children safely in their homes (Littlewood, 2015; Sutphin, 2015; Wallace & Lee, 2013). Common needs include financial resources, child care, legal services, and material goods. Many grandparents raising their grandchildren are low-income and have a high need for financial resources (Ehrle & Geen, 2002; Lee, Choi, & ClarksonHenderix, 2016; Nelson, Gibson, & Bauer, 2010). U.S. Census data (2014) reports that 28.8% of grandparent caregivers have an income that places them at or below the federal poverty level (FPL). Kinship caregivers also need childcare, which is often excluded from state-provided supports for kinship caregivers (Ehrle & Geen, 2002; Gerard, LandryMeyer, & Roe, 2006). Kinship caregivers who participated in a navigation program reported statically significant reduction in needs from pre- to post-assessment in areas of self-care, financial resources, access to public assistance, and medical and dental care for the family (Littlewood, 2015).

Caregivers often lack legal information and access to legal services to help them understand legal custody options (Ehrle & Geen, 2002; Treinen, Schmidt & Espino, 2015; Wallace & Lee, 2013). In a preliminary report of this current study (Treinen, Schmidt, & Espino, 2015), over half of caregivers faced barriers in seeking and obtaining custody, guardianship, licensure, or adoption of their kinship children. Other needs of kinship caregivers included awareness of permanency options, understanding the courts or dependency process, representation in court, and understanding of benefits for which they may be eligible.

Placement Stability Outcomes of Children in Kinship Care

Kinship care can help protect children; maintain strong family, community and cultural connections; and preserve secure attachments to children's caregivers and birth family (Hegar & Rosenthal, 2009). Children in formal kinship care have equivalent or better safety and stability outcomes compared to children in non-kinship placements (Jonson-Reid, 2003). Children in kinship care experience fewer placement changes/ disruptions (Koh, 2010; Koh & Testa, 2011) than children in non-kinship foster care. Youth fare better when they experience fewer placement disruptions (Hegar & Rosenthal, 2009): they are more likely to experience fewer school changes, less trauma and distress, fewer mental health and behavioral problems, greater academic achievement, and develop secure attachments with adults. While most past studies pertain to children in formal kinship care, Littlewood (2015) demonstrated that 99% of informal kinship children whose families participated in a navigation program did not enter the child welfare system at 12 months follow-up.

Kinship Navigation Program Model

The kinship navigation program model has been developed by sites across the United States that were funded by Children's Bureau Family Connections Discretionary Grants (FCDG). Notable FCDG funded programs include the YMCA Kinship Support Services of San Diego County (Hernandez et al, 2014), Children's Home Society of New Jersey (Feldman & Fertig, 2013), and Florida Kinship Center at the University of South Florida (Littlewood, 2015). Within these models, Kinship Navigators (KNs) provide flexible and responsive services based on family needs. The goal of navigation is to assist caregivers in identifying and removing barriers to service receipt, and in accessing public benefits, legal services, and existing community systems. The model empowers caregivers to support and advocate for each other, fostering interdependence and a natural support system.

Arizona Kinship Support Services (AKSS) is a KN program operated by Arizona's Children Association and based on the above referenced models. The AKSS program model was refined and expanded from one to four Arizona counties with FCDG funds from 2012-2015. …

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