Dec/Jan 2009Vol. 9, No. 10Comparing Outcomes for Children in Kinship and Foster Care
A recent study of permanency, safety, and stability outcomes for children in out-of-home care concluded that children placed in kinship care fare as well as or better than children in foster care. Outcome data were collected from 12 Colorado counties that strongly value kinship care as an out-of-home placement option. After controlling for variables, researchers studied 318 matched pairs of children in kinship care or foster care who spent more than 60 days in out-of-home care.
The children in kinship care experienced fewer placements and were seven times more likely to achieve permanency through guardianship. In contrast, children in foster care were 10 times more likely to have a new allegation of institutional abuse or neglect, 6 times more likely to be involved with the juvenile justice system, and 2 times more likely to be reunified with their biological parents. An exploratory comparison of paid and unpaid kinship care providers also revealed that outcomes for children in these placements were comparable, suggesting that kinship placement may be a more cost-effective option.
The authors caution that these findings do not support the adoption of a blanket policy increasing the use of kinship care. Placement decisions should still take into consideration the needs of the child and an assessment of the kin caregiver. However, the authors call for a greater commitment by child welfare professionals, policymakers, and researchers to make kinship care a more viable out-of-home placement option for children and families.
"Matched Comparison of Children in Kinship Care and Foster Care on Child Welfare Outcomes," by Marc A. Winokur, Graig A. Crawford, Ralph C. Longobardi, and Deborah P. Valentine, was published in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, Vol. 89(3), and is available online:
To read more about kinship foster care, see "Effective Foster Parent Training for Kinship Caregivers" in this issue.