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April 2011Vol. 12, No. 3Health Outcomes and Family Services in Kinship vs. Foster Care

Conflicting evidence has been reported in the literature regarding outcomes for youth in kinship versus nonrelative foster care placements. To explore these findings, a recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine examined behavioral and mental health outcomes and health care access and use of health services for children placed in both kinship care and foster care.

Using data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, researchers Christina Sakai, Hua Lin, and Glenn Flores looked at baseline characteristics and 3-year outcomes for 1,308 children who entered out-of-home care (572 in kinship care and 736 in foster care) due to reported maltreatment. Initial baseline results revealed the following:

  • Kinship caregivers were:
    • Generally older and more likely to be single than nonrelative caregivers
    • More likely to have not graduated from high school, to have an annual household incomes of less than $20,000, and to be unemployed than nonrelative caregivers
  • Kinship caregivers were less likely to:
    • Receive financial support to care for the child
    • Receive parent training or have peer support groups or respite care

At the 3-year follow-up, the following results were found:

  • Children in kinship care were more likely to be with a permanent caregiver.
  • Children in kinship care had a lower risk of behavioral problems and social skills problems than children in foster care.
  • Adolescents in kinship care had an increased risk of pregnancy and substance use compared to adolescents in foster care.
  • Children in kinship care had half the risk of needing outpatient mental health therapy and psychotropic medication use.

Implications of these findings, especially the need for support services for kinship caregivers, are discussed.

"Health Outcomes and Family Services in Kinship Care: Analysis of a National Sample of Children in the Child Welfare System," was published in the February 2011 issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 165 (No. 2). The abstract is available online: