Nearly a quarter of all children currently in foster care live with relatives.
The proportion of children in state custody across the country who were placed with licensed relatives increased significantly in the late 1980s, rising from just 18 percent in 1986 to over 30 percent in 1990. For the past 10 years, this number has stabilized at approximately 24 percent of all foster care placements.
It’s estimated that approximately 150,000 foster care children are living with relatives.
Informal kinship care is far more common than formal kinship care.
The rate children in foster care are placed with licensed relative homes varies greatly from state to state — with some states placing less than 10 percent of children with relatives, and others placing more than 40 percent of children in such homes.
Most kinship parents are grandmothers or other close relatives.
Kinship families tend to have limited incomes. Compared to parents who live with their own children, kinship caregivers tend more often to be currently unmarried, less-educated, unemployed or out of the labor force, to live in poverty, and receive benefits through government social welfare programs.
Kinship families have less formal contact with social workers than traditional foster families. Only 37 percent of relatives had telephone contact with social workers, compared with 83.5 percent of traditional foster families. Children in “informal” kinship care relationships are even further removed from the service system. Despite experiencing similar levels of hardship as children in other kin arrangements, they often do not receive needed services.
Kinship Families are much less likely to adopt the children in their care than non-relative foster families. Only 8 percent of in kinship foster care are adopted.
Research suggests that kinship care offers greater stability for children who are living with their relatives, but it reduces their chances of obtaining permanent legal status such as adoption, custody and guardianship.
Older children (ages six to 17) are more likely to live in kinship care settings than are younger children (under five).
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- Find out how Children’s Rights improves failing foster care system through our child welfare reform campaigns and policy advocacy.