Academic journal article Child Welfare

Kinship Care for Children Who Are American Indian/Alaska Native: State of the Evidence

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Kinship Care for Children Who Are American Indian/Alaska Native: State of the Evidence

Article excerpt

The well-being of children in the child welfare system who are American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) is a critical topic for AI/AN communities. The data about the impacts of different placement types on the well-being of these children available are limited, and yet, research is used in child custody cases to argue for specific types of placement for these children. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) guides child placement decisions for children who are AI/AN. Kinship care is defined as placement with relatives, including extended family, which may be defined differently across tribal cultural contexts. This is thus different from foster care placement with non-relatives. This paper examines the impact of kinship care placement on children and related research in AI/AN communities.

Cultural factors are critical to consider in child welfare placements for children who are AI/AN, although cultural variables have not been extensively included in quantitative studies of placement outcomes. Historically, kinship care has been a cultural norm in AI/AN communities, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other extended family members involved as primary caregivers for children for brief or extended periods of time when biological parents are unable to provide primary care (Attneave, 1969; T. Cross, 1986; Red Horse, 1997). These traditional family systems remain important sources of support for children in AI/AN communities today, and therefore kinship placement is culturally consistent with AI/AN values, broadly considered.

Research comparing outcomes for children who are AI/AN in different types of placement is sparse, but there are some quantitative and qualitative studies that provide information useful in placement considerations. This paper will present a systematic review of the evidence on kinship placement for children who are AI/AN. This review of the literature was conducted in order to find out what evidence was available for the effects of kinship care placement for children who are AI/AN. Google Scholar, PsycINFO, and PubMed were searched for articles. The number of articles on this topic was quite limited, and so a general literature review on kinship care was also conducted. This general review yielded recent meta-analyses and a quantitative study with a large sample size (discussed in more detail below). Given the paucity of studies found for AI/AN communities in the United States, a separate search in the above databases was also conducted for kinship care related research for Canadian First Nations communities. For AI/AN communities, a handful of studies were identified, most of which were qualitative and focused on grandparents raising grandchildren. These studies were closely read and then their major themes organized systematically with broad level coding (see Table 1). The results of this literature review show that there are some overlapping factors between AI/AN communities and the non-AI/AN population in the United States in kinship care, but there also are unique cultural and historical factors that impact children who are AI/AN and their families. These contexts include historical trauma, the forced removal of children who are AI/AN in previous generations to boarding schools and other out-of-home care arrangements, and ICWA.

First, the literature broadly on kinship care is reviewed. Second, studies specific to AI/AN communities are analyzed and summarized. Finally, areas for future research are discussed in detail to help move forward a research agenda about kinship care for children who are AI/AN.

Kinship Care vs. Non-relative Foster Care: Outcomes for Children

There recently have been several large studies and a metaanalysis of quantitative data indicating that kinship care confers benefits over non-relative foster care (Bergthold & Vizino, 2018; Lovett & Xue, 2018; Winokur, Holtan, & Batchelder, 2014; Winokur, Rozen, Thompson, Green, & Valentine, 2005). These studies are of the general U. …

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