Research suggests that kinship placement is best practice when youth are placed in out-of-home care. Courts must first consider a relative or kinship placement and child welfare agencies are tasked with preserving the family by allowing birth parents to coordinate care for their children with a relative or kin. Although kinship care is the best option for youth in foster care, it often is accompanied by limited supports for kinship providers.
Lessons learned from our Pathways to Permanency Projects focus groups shed light on the challenges child welfare and kinship providers face when supporting youth in out-of-home care. Kinship providers have limited access to financial resources to support the youth in their care. Additionally, kinship providers may experience difficulties navigating the foster parent licensure process to gain access to available financial resources.
Kinship providers that become licensed have access to additional professional supports and financial reimbursement. However, they are sometimes met with significant challenges to this process. It may be a burden for homes to pass the licensure standards and families who have the willingness may lack the financial resources to make changes to their homes. Participating in training and going through the licensure process is a significant time commitment for kinship families who are trying to meet their family’s demands as well as the needs of their relatives in the home. These issues serve as barriers to otherwise willing kinship providers becoming licensed and, thus, receiving additional supports.
In North Carolina, unless kinship homes become licensed, they are not provided a stipend for the youth in their care. To address this barrier, Clay County Department of Social Services set aside financial supports for unlicensed kinship homes for youth in foster care. The County established guidelines which have been helpful to help keep children local and close to their communities of origin. This funding has been beneficial in many ways that support the family and youth in care. Examples of how families were able to utilize this funding include being able to make needed car repairs, assist with car insurance payments for youth obtaining their license, and to make necessary home repairs.
Supporting child welfare-involved youth and their families can be complex. We honor the commitment of Clay County DSS to keep youth close to their families and communities of origin through creative solutioning and supports.