• January-February 2016
  • Vol. 16, No. 10

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Internet-Based Learning to Support Kinship Caregivers

For children who need to be placed in out-of-home care, a kinship placement generally is preferred over nonrelative foster care. Evidence suggests that children who are cared for by relatives may fare better on a range of outcomes, including preservation of family ties, greater placement stability, and fewer behavior problems. However, research also suggests that kinship caregivers do not receive the same level of support and training as nonrelative foster parents. An article in the Journal of Family Social Work describes KinCareTech, an online learning tool designed to target the specific needs of kin caregivers in a direct and cost-effective manner. Building on the lessons learned from other e-learning programs, KinCareTech promotes early reading and parenting skills.

KinCareTech was developed as part of a 1-year pilot research project. In the first phase of the study, researchers conducted a focus group consisting of 10 kinship caregivers who were members of a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren based in Detroit, MI. In phase two, utilizing the information collected from the focus group, the researchers developed two Internet-based modules, one focusing on managing difficult behavior and one focusing on facilitating success in school through building early reading skills. Both intervention modules included brief assessment and motivational enhancement techniques, as well as video clips to model relevant skills.

In phase three, the modules were tested using volunteers from the focus group. Half of the participants tested the managing behavior module and half completed the reading skills module. Participants received a brief introduction to using tablet computers prior to completing the module. Following completion of a module, participants provided feedback on the module and working with the computer by responding to a brief post-intervention survey and providing unsolicited qualitative feedback via unstructured observation. Feedback from these kinship caregivers suggested that they saw the software as easy to use, helpful, and relevant to their concerns.

The article concludes by noting that this study shows that computer-based tools that target the needs of kinship caregivers can be an inexpensive vehicle for assisting kinship caregivers in a way that existing resources do not. However, given that this study was limited in scope and number of participants, additional study is needed.

The article, "KinCareTech: Interactive, Internet-Based Software to Support Kinship Caregivers," by Amy M. Loree, Daniel Beliciu, and Steven J. Ondersma, Journal of Family Social Work, 17(2), 2014, is available for order at Taylor and Francis Online at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10522158.2014.880983#.VeWeeIzbKpp.

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