Academic journal article Child Welfare

From the Editor: The Apple Tree Has Many Healthy Apples: Kinship Caregiving

Academic journal article Child Welfare

From the Editor: The Apple Tree Has Many Healthy Apples: Kinship Caregiving

Article excerpt

Beatriz Johnson was leaving work when she received a frantic call from her daughter, Patrice: "Mom, the police are here, and they have the kids!" Patrice had struggled with substance abuse before she became a mom. Beatriz rushed to her daughter's home. A neighbor had called the police when the children-Bobby, 6 months, and Patrick, 2- were heard crying, the door to the apartment was opened, and Patrice was found not to be at home. Child protective services were called; they waited for Patrice, and after an hour, the children were taken into custody. Beatriz knew that she was not going to let her grandsons stay in custody and immediately made a plan to take them into her home and care for them-after all, isn't that what grandmothers did? The children were placed with Beatriz, who cared for them full-time with support; Patrice entered substance abuse treatment and worked to regain custody of her children. And so begins the process of kinship care.

Twenty years ago, when this journal first addressed Beatriz's plight and others like hers in our special issue on kinship care (Wilson & Chipungu, 1996), the focus was on the formal placement of children with kin after the children were taken into public custody. This special issue focuses on the much larger number of kinship caregivers, who, as in Beatriz's situation, either intervene on their own or accept the assistance of child protective authorities that facilitate informal arrangements without taking legal custody. It is the larger combined population of formal and informal kinship placements, to which the common definition of kinship care appropriately applies: "the fulltime care, nurturing, and protection of a child by relatives, members of their Tribe or clan, godparents, stepparents, or other adults who have a family relationship to a child."

There are many benefits to placing children with relatives or other kinship caregivers, such as increased stability and safety as well as the ability to maintain family connections and cultural traditions. Whether these kinship arrangements should be kept informal or brought under the formal governance of child protective authorities is a policy question with which federal and state governments continue to struggle: How can the respect owed informal kinship relationships on the basis of emotional ties and the family's cultural values best be reconciled with the formal placement requirements of legal custody, licensing, and regular surveillance of the quality of foster family homes? …

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