During times of crisis when parents are unable to care for their children, which can be due to a wide range of factors, the next desirable option is when a grandparent or relative such as an aunt, uncle or cousin can provide a safe and caring environment.
Children may come to live with a grandparent or relative in a number of ways, and not all involve the child welfare system. The Child Welfare Information Gateway describes three categories of relative (kinship) care:
- Informal kinship care: does not involve the child welfare system. A parent may leave a child in a relative’s care while he or she is overseas or when an illness prevents the parent from caring for the child. Legal custody of the child remains with the parent.
- Voluntary kinship care: the child welfare system is involved, however the State does not take legal custody. In many cases, child welfare workers have investigated a report of abuse or neglect by the parent and a court decides to place the children with relatives while the parent receives Family Preservation and Reunification Services to resolve conflicts or disruptions and learn healthy skills so that the child can safely return home. Legal custody of the child remains with the parent.
- Formal kinship care: a case in which a judge places children in the legal custody of the State and a child welfare agency places the children with relatives or a foster family. The child welfare agency has legal custody of the children and works in partnership with the family to make legal decisions about the children.
According to a U.S. census report, over 2.7 million grandparents across the nation are raising their grandchildren.
Due to a unique and successful public/private partnership, KVC Kansas provided foster care services for more than 5,400 children served by the Kansas Department for Children and Families last year. KVC matched 51% of those children with relatives and other people they were familiar with, which is a high kinship care rate. This includes non-related kin such as teachers, neighbors, and family friends. (Data from FY17)
Coordinating placement of children with relatives or other people they know and trust helps promote a child’s sense of identity and self-esteem which develops from knowing their own family history and culture. It also strengthens the ability of families to give children the support they need and facilitates familial bonds. In many cases, children can also remain in their same school district and community.
All states including Kansas need more adults ready and willing to provide care. Learn more about how you can provide a safe home for a relative, a child you know, or other children in the community.