Incereasingly, there is a recognition that we need choices for protecting children that balance keeping chidlren away from unsafe family conditions while trying to place children in environments that will continue to support their growth and family ties. Foster care has difficulty achieving that given that these carers are not family. Kinship care has often been seen as the best way to achieve the balance.
Critics of kinship worry that such placements may not receive the same approval scrutiny that foster care placements receive. They wonder about family patterns that may exist in kinship that are the very same ones that caused child protection to be involved. Such a worry may be valid.
A recent review of kinship in the USA is suggesting that it remains an important placement option. It states:
"Kinship adoption is on the rise for many reasons, including
• increased understanding of the benefits of kinship care for children,
• state and federal preferences for kinship care,
• agency practices that place large numbers of children with kin as a means of
moving them out of foster care, and
• a recognition that relatives will adopt."
One interesting feature in this is the second bullet which helps us to see how policy drives lives in child protection. Why does the government preference exist - is the best interest of the child? Is it limited foster placements? Is it funding and cost saving? It might be all of these.
Yet, as has been discussed before, foster care is no panacea. Group care can be worse and instutional care in all but very specialized stuations is often hard on children. These placements can and do work in a variety of cases but they should not be the preferred choice. Nor should there be an assumption that kinship is the best until the kinship option is understood.
This same report from the USA also states:
"The benefits of kinship care over traditional foster care are well established.
Kinship care is more likely than traditional foster care to:
• reduce the stigma and trauma of separation from parents and family,
• result in placement with and connections to siblings and parents,
• respect family cultural traditions,
• be a stable placement, and
• result in fewer behavioral, educational and mental health problems...."
Any approach that can reduce the rates of behavioral, eduactional and mental health problems deserves attention as these are highly prevelant in child protection populations.
The report is not long and worth a review. It can be read at http://www.childfocuspartners.com/pdfs/CF_Kinship_Adoption_Report_v5.pdf