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March 2003Vol. 4, No. 2Kinship Care Policies Differ by State, Continue to Evolve

Almost all States give preference in out-of-home placement to kin over non-kin foster parents. However, how States provide kin deferential treatment in, or alternatives to, the traditional foster care licensing process, and how they assess and support kinship care families, varies from State to State and continues to evolve.

A recent discussion paper published by the Urban Institute, The Continuing Evolution of State Kinship Care Policies, provides a State-by-State analysis of kinship care policies and procedures, how those policies and procedures relate to the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and the challenges and benefits inherent in each State's program.

One of the primary differences among States is how they define "kin." Many States have made changes in the past few years: 24 States now include only individuals related by blood, marriage, or adoption in their definition of "kin" (which mirrors the TANF definition), while 22 States include those who are not related by blood, marriage, or adoption but have a strong emotional bond to the child. While the broader definition might be in the best interests of the child, kin outside of blood, marriage, or adoption will not be eligible for TANF, Medicaid, or other programs that traditionally serve only "blood" kin.

The paper also discusses:

  • Waived or modified standards and requirements for kin (including custody issues, supervision, support services, approval process).
  • Which payments, grants, benefits, and financial assistance programs kinship caregivers qualify for on a State-by-State basis.
  • An analysis of the numbers of kin offered full licensure, waived, or separate standards in each State.

The paper concludes with a discussion of the challenges and lingering questions regarding kinship care. A PDF version of the report is available on the Urban Institute website at UploadedPDF/310597_state_kinship_care.pdf. An HTML version can also be viewed at 73&Template=/TaggedContent/NewReports.cfm& PublicationID=8080.