Kinship is a method of care that emphasizes familial bonding and the preservation and strengthening of close relationships between caregivers and children in the child welfare system. There are varying types and degrees of kinship. This article will explain what kinship is and the benefits of becoming a licensed kinship caregiver.
What is Kinship: The Go-To Solution for Out-of-Home Placement
Most of us can agree that living in a close-knit family environment is a crucial stepping stone on the pathway to a strong future. With this logic in mind, child welfare organizations decided that if a child must be removed from her birth parents it would be best to keep her in the care of someone she knows. The decision led to an increase in the number of children and families involved in kinship care, where children are raised by relatives or close family friends when their birth parents are unwilling or unable to do so.
Studies suggest that the new focus on kinship care has worked well for children and their families. It is associated with a reduction in the number of out-of-home placements a child experiences, an increase in the likelihood of reunification with her birth parents and an increase in a child’s ability to maintain connections to her community, school and family – all hugely important parts of becoming a confident adult.
Right now there are 2.7 million children and youth being cared for by relatives or family friends in the US, but only about 105,000, or four percent of those have been placed in a kinship care situation formally by a child welfare organization.
It’s easy to see why: imagine receiving a phone call from your sister, brother, or perhaps even your daughter or son late one night. They’ve fallen on hard times and are in an unfortunate situation where they are unable to properly care for their child.
What is Kinship: Families and Friends Supporting Each Other
“Would you be willing to take my child into your home?” your relative asks.
Without so much as a second thought, 2.7 million Americans agree to help out their distressed family members.
But what if your relative doesn’t have time to call you? What if he or she is broadsided by an unfortunate event and becomes unable to provide for their child in an instant? This is when state agencies become involved.
Some states may differ slightly when handling child welfare issues, but when a judge in New Jersey determines that a birth parent cannot provide proper care for his or her child because of abuse or neglect, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) will immediately reach out to someone who fits their definition of “kin” – namely, a relative or family friend – to ask if he or she is willing to care for the child. If so, the relative or family friend in question becomes a kinship caregiver. He or she does not need to undergo state-sanctioned trainings and licensing prior to becoming a caregiver, but will be expected to become licensed in the future.
Kinship care is a temporary placement plan. There is, however, a permanent kinship plan called Kinship Legal Guardianship, or KLG. When a judge determines that a child’s birth parents are unfit to provide care but cannot justify terminating their parental rights, the child can be placed in KLG care. KLG parents are given the same responsibilities as the child’s birth parents, but the birth parents may still be able to visit the child and may be held accountable for child support.
What is Kinship: Knowing You Make a Difference
It may take some time to become a licensed resource parent, kinship caregiver or KLG caregiver. But what many unlicensed kinship caregivers may not realize is that becoming licensed means joining a strong, supportive and resourceful community of caregivers and advocates throughout the state that will be there for you every step of the way. Keep in mind that licensed resource parents may be entitled to monthly subsidies to help cover the cost of their child’s extra-curricular activities and everyday living expenses and are always just a phone call away from the wealth of services, learning resources and expert advice provided by non-profit Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS). Licensed kinship providers help make kinship homes across the state even more nurturing and stimulating environments for our growing children.
Do you live outside of New Jersey and want to become licensed?