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Dec/Jan 2008Vol. 8, No. 11Supporting Kinship Caregivers With a National Network

Kinship caregivers are an essential and growing part of the foster care system, but many need increased support to meet the needs of the children and youth in their care. A recent article in the Journal of Health and Social Policy describes a project designed to provide support to older relatives caring for children. Funded by the Children's Bureau and modeled after the Brookdale Foundation's Relatives As Parents Program, the KinNET (NET = Nurturing, Educating, and Teaching) demonstration project was a collaborative effort between Generations United, the Brookdale Foundation, and the Syracuse University School of Social Work that sought to create a national network of agencies and support groups to provide assistance to these overburdened caregivers.

The article describes the funding, organization, and evaluation of the KinNET project. Collaboration with 23 community organizations resulted in the creation of support groups in all 10 Federal Regions of the United States. Drawing from these groups, a sample of 102 caregivers completed evaluation surveys, providing information about themselves and the 226 children and youth in their care. Among the findings was the fact that only 6 percent were licensed to provide foster care and receive foster care payments.

Based on the survey results and other findings, researchers noted three broad lessons learned:

  • Support groups and services for kinship caregivers must be flexible, since this is a diverse group with many burdens.
  • Successful support groups need to provide easy access to services as well as an ongoing connection with relevant agencies. Providing child care, transportation, and onsite referral also promotes the success of these groups.
  • Both licensed and unlicensed caregivers should be supported in the same groups.

The full article, "KinNET: A Demonstration Project for a National Support Network for Kinship Care Providers," by Carrie Jefferson Smith and Deborah J. Monahan, is available for purchase online: