Traditionally, foster care is thought of as children going to live with an unfamiliar family, and taken under the care of someone they don’t know. Because the main goal of foster care is to care for the child until they can be reunited with their family- is staying with relatives a better option?
When children go into the foster care system, they are placed in a new home with new people, in a potentially different neighborhood, with new siblings, pets, schools, and more. Just being away from their parents is a big change, on top of having to adjust and learn to trust completely new people. It can be very confusing and depending on the child, traumatizing. With Kinship care, these kids would go to stay with a relative instead- like grandparents, or an aunt and uncle. This makes for an easier transition for these kids because they likely already know and love their caregiver.
Another upside to Kinship care is that the desire to reunite the family is even stronger. With traditional foster parents, there may be feelings of anger or sadness towards biological parents. There is a level of disconnect that is not there in Kinship care. When a child is under the care of a relative, they may be more receptive and comforted in the situation- as their family can be very reassuring, and fully explain to them the situation from first-hand experience.
So why aren’t all foster kids placed in Kinship care? Well, there are some downsides as well. Because the caregivers have such a personal connection to the children’s parents, it can be a lot more challenging to accept restrictions and enforce the rules regarding how often the parents can see their kids, and more. Imagine telling your sister or daughter that they can’t see their kids. Alternatively, the parents may try and show up to a relative’s house much more likely than they would a stranger’s. However, there are plenty of classes, books, and resources available for help in handling kinship care issues like these.
So while there are a number of upsides to kinship care, there are some issues to overcome as well. While some kids may do better in a kinship care home, others may do better with foster parents. It all lies in the personality of the kids and the relatives available to take them. All in all, the caseworker ultimately explores all available options and makes the decision that is best for the child. However, spreading awareness about the option of kinship care is important, as many people are unaware. For especially nervous kids or those who are expected to be in the system for just a short time, kinship care is a great option.