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August 2012Vol. 13, No. 7Improving Systems That Support Kinship Care

Given the nearly 18 percent increase in the number of kinship caregivers in the last decade, a new report identifies several opportunities for States and communities to make systems-level improvements to kinship care services. The policy report by KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, describes the experiences and needs of the relatives and close family friends who care for more than 2.7 million children nationwide, roughly 104,000 of which have been placed with kin formally under the supervision of State child welfare systems. The report's recommendations emphasize the need for State systems to tailor services to address the unique financial, health, and social challenges kinship caregivers face.

About one-fourth of all children in out-of-home care are placed with kin, yet the report indicates many kinship caregivers are unaware of the numerous services and supports available to them or have inaccurate information about eligibility requirements. Given the Federal preference for  kinship care and the potential cost savings of diverting children from foster care, the report identifies numerous ways in which States can improve supports for kinship families:

  • Expand services, such as kinship navigator programs, to help families understand and access the numerous financial supports and subsidies that may be available to them.
  • Increase Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) payments to reflect the Federal government's estimated costs of raising a child, and adjust TANF requirements for kinship caregivers by increasing asset and time limits and offering flexible emergency funding during the initial transition period.
  • Strive to implement casework practices that identify and engage kin as early as possible and that tailor assessment, licensing, and training standards for kinship caregivers.
  • Adopt the Federal Government's Guardian Assistance Program (GAP) to offer subsidized guardianship arrangements for kin who provide permanent homes for children exiting foster care.
  • Address the need for a more comprehensive network of public and private agencies that coordinate support in areas such as housing, legal representation, health care, school enrollment, and other community services.

Drawing upon information from the KIDS COUNT Data Center, the report also includes several figures and tables providing national, State, and community-level data on kinship care in the United States.

"Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families," is available on the Annie E. Casey Foundation website:

The national, State, and community-level data upon which the report was based is available in the KIDS COUNT Data Center: