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March 2000Vol. 1, No. 1HHS Releases Kinship Care Multi-State Study

With increasing numbers of children placed with relatives rather than in foster care, data on these "kinship care" placements are needed. Child welfare policies and practices, which were originally designed for caretakers who are strangers, are evolving to meet this trend.

Data for this study were collected in seven States (California, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, and Utah) in 1996. Additionally, States provided demographic and fiscal data for children placed in related and nonrelated placements for 5 years (1991-1995). The final report, entitled Children Placed in Foster Care With Relatives: A Multi-state Study, builds on the Office of the Inspector General's 1992 report on kinship care in 29 States. It provides descriptive information to the Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau on:

  • State policies and practices
  • Fiscal and demographic trends
  • Services provided to foster children, foster parents, and birth parents in related and unrelated foster care placements

In examining caseworkers and foster care providers, the study specifically addressed:

  • Case management practices
  • Foster care providers' involvement in case planning and with birth parents
  • Birth parent visits
  • Demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of foster parents
  • Health status and motivation of foster parents
  • Caregiving experiences

Governmental policies in the seven States revealed a preference for care by relatives rather than nonrelatives. In analyzing the two types of placements, program structure, demographic trends, costs, and experiences of caseworkers and foster caregivers were compared. Among the findings were the following:

  • In most States, licensed or certified relative homes are eligible to receive foster care maintenance subsidies.
  • The number and percentage of children placed with relatives increased, especially among African Americans.
  • Minority children and children with less placement experience were more likely to placed with relatives, while children with disruptive behavior, those in special education, and those with mental illness were usually placed with nonrelatives.
  • The comparative costs of relative and nonrelative care could not be determined on the basis of the data provided because the States maintain data that covered differing periods.
  • Workers' case management practices were similar for foster parents, birth parents, and foster children, regardless of the type of placement.
  • Foster care workers had positive opinions regarding relative caregivers and the well-being of children placed in their care.

Implications and recommendations based on the findings for foster care policies, practices, and research are discussed. Appendices include a bibliography, fiscal information on the seven States surveyed, and State-by-State findings of relative vs. non-relative placements.

While supplies last, copies the Final Report and an Executive Summary of this multi-state study are available free of charge from the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information (, 800-394-3366.

For more information about the related 1992 OIG report and other materials on kinship care, search the documents database of the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information (