By: Taffy Compain, National Foster Care Specialist, Children’s Bureau
One of the greatest gifts a parent or guardian can give a child is a stable and loving home environment. During National Foster Care Month, we recognize the life-changing contribution that foster, relative and kinship caregivers make when they provide a supportive home for the thousands of children and youth who enter out-of-home care every year.
Because children tend to do best when they grow up with people they know and love, when a child or youth can no longer remain in the care of a parent, placement with a relative or close family friend—referred to as kinship care —is the preferred option when possible. In recognition of the role that these caregivers play in improving outcomes for children and youth in foster care, and to draw attention to the importance of supporting their complex needs, the HHS Children’s Bureau chose “It’s All Relative: Supporting Kinship Connections” as the theme for this year’s National Foster Care Month.
In the United States, the surge in opioid addiction has increased the number of children being cared for by grandparents and other family members. Substance use is the second most-cited reason for children being removed from their homes, according to the most recent Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System data.
Relatives and kin take on the role of primary caregivers in 30 percent of all foster care system placements. But there are significantly more kinship arrangements made privately and informally by family members outside of the foster care system. These caregivers often have no idea they are eligible for support and services that can ease the social, emotional and financial challenges of caregiving. Relative, also known as kinship care, and foster families may need training, financial help, legal services, counseling, or parent support groups to be effective caregivers.
The Children’s Bureau’s 2018 website offers comprehensive information and tips for parents, youth, kinship caregivers, foster parents, guardians, tribes, communities and child welfare professionals.
The website also shares real-life stories of the diverse faces of kinship care, such as a retirement-age couple who assumes care of their three young grandchildren while their daughter enters addiction recovery treatment and a young graduate who defers her professional advancement to care for her niece. These powerful stories illustrate how supportive networks can strengthen kinship and foster families and improve outcomes for children and families. They also provide valuable technical assistance on kinship and foster care by offering a first-person perspective from children, youth, families, and professionals involved with the child welfare system.
A Spread the Word section offers a toolkit to help child welfare professionals and community advocates engage the public through outreach and social media activities.
During May—and all year long–we salute all the caregivers, case managers, service providers and volunteers who nurture and support children and families working toward reunification or permanency. Visit the National Foster Care Month website today to learn more about how you can help families, child welfare professionals and the advocates in your community identify and support foster and kinship caregivers.