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July/August 2010Vol. 11, No. 6Recognition for Informal Kinship Care With Kinship Navigator Programs

Through Family Connection grants authorized by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, $5 million will be directed annually toward "kinship navigator" programs. These programs can help children in foster care or at risk of child welfare involvement connect with relatives such as grandparents. Navigator programs also support relatives caring for children at risk of entering the child welfare system by connecting the families with services and supports.

Writing about kinship navigators in Common Ground, the newsletter for New England child welfare professionals, Gerard Wallace suggests that this type of support for private caregivers may "signal a new direction in child welfare policy and practice" that could allow informal kinship care to become better integrated into States' and agencies' plans and resource allotments. Wallace points out that the informal kinship system cares for 12 times more children than foster care, but informal kinship caregivers have only limited access to the resources and supports often provided through formal foster care.

Wallace's article, "Kinship Navigators: The New Child Welfare System," goes on to describe some of the new kinship navigator programs funded through Fostering Connections, including programs in Maine and Rhode Island. He also explores existing kinship navigator programs, including the New York State Kinship Navigator, which he directs.

State programs that predate Fostering Connections vary in their components, size, and personnel. While some offer just information and referrals, others provide more extensive services, including advocacy, case management, and direct services. In some jurisdictions, grandparents answer phones and provide referral information. In other jurisdictions, child welfare workers serve as navigators for kinship caregivers. Generally, kinship caregivers who contact the programs are looking for four types of support: general services, child welfare services, specialized services such as support groups and respite care, and legal assistance.

In discussing the potential of the Family Connection grant support for kinship navigators, Wallace notes that the new grants may help identify what works best for informal kin caregivers. The funded programs may also serve as emerging models for other State programs, and they may pave the way toward integrating kinship navigator programs permanently into child welfare planning.

Wallace's article is available on the website of the Common Ground, Vol. XXV(1) (p. 3): (2.21 MB)

Related Item

See "Family Connection Discretionary Grant Cluster" in this issue for information about the Family Connection grantees.