Kinship/Relative Caregivers

Relative caregivers play an increasingly important role as resource families for children placed out of home. Benefits to both children and birth parents have been well-documented, and include increased stability, extended family connections, continuing lifelong family traditions, and placement of siblings together.

Locating and appealing to family members to take on the challenge of becoming foster parents is an ongoing effort for many agencies. The Fostering Connections Act recognizes the importance of engaging relatives as caretakers for children--how does your agency accomplish this?

This edition of Foster Care Footnotes highlights the unique characteristics of recruiting and retaining relative caregivers.

We hope this information is useful for you! We also want to remind you that we are here to help and support you. Please don't hesitate to reach out to the Resource Specialists at the Coalition: 414-475-1246, 800-762-8063, .
Featured Resource: An Introduction to Relative Care: A Resource Guide for Child Welfare Workers by the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families

You've identified and engaged a relative caretaker. It's tempting to scratch "find permanency" off your to-do list for that child or children. But we all know the job is far from complete. Assessing and supporting relative families can be time consuming and comes with no guarantees. However, skills around developing and monitoring relative caregivers are critical to successful outcomes of children placed in these homes.

This guide will help you and your ongoing case managers assess relative caregivers in the areas of:
  • Motivation
  • Resources and ability to care for the child
  • Caregiver interactions with birth parents
  • "Family legacies" and the caregiver's role in interrupting the passing down of  disruptive family traditions to the children
You'll be able to assist relative caregivers in navigating changing family roles and the associated emotions. Permanency planning with relatives will be explained. In addition, you'll guide relatives down the challenging road of co-parenting with birth parents where appropriate.

By investing in your relative caregivers you may reap benefits around recruitment and retention in other ways:
  • Your "word-of-mouth" inquiries from prospective foster families may increase, due to positive feedback your relative caregivers spread in their social circles (for more on this topic, see last month's Foster Care Footnotes on using customer service concepts).
  • Potential flexibility with placement capacity. You may find that relatives can also provide respite, or even longer-term placement options for other (non-relative) children.
  • The potential development of foster parent champions. These are foster parents who provide a support system for other caregivers by mentoring, connecting with resources, sharing parenting strategies, and helping caregivers navigate the child welfare system. 
Here's an Idea: Family Find and Engagement

The Department of Children and Families is training agency staff around the state in the " Family Find and Engagement" model. Groups of counties are trained together. This model utilizes multiple approaches to locate and engage family members. The child is at the center of the process and the goal is to have dozens of relatives identified.

Looking for more "family find" ideas? Check out the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment at AdoptUSKids
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