NACAC recognizes that children and youth have a right to be connected to kin and to other significant family and community members. NACAC encourages kinship foster care as a preferred alternative placement when the kinship care provider is able to ensure the child or youth’s safety and well-being.
NACAC also supports placing children or youth with relatives as an alternative to placement in foster care, and believes that relative caregivers in such placements deserve support to help them ensure the safety and stability of the children or youth in their care. Too often, relative caregivers are told that they must accept responsibility for their kin or else the child or youth will be placed in foster care. These caregivers often need support, and should not be forced to choose between raising a child or youth with no support or having their kin enter the foster care system. Placement decisions should be made on an individual case-by-case basis based on the child or youth’s best interests.
NACAC recognizes that even if relatives are not able to provide care for a child or youth, they may have a positive role to play in the child or youth’s life.
Practice and Policy Recommendations
Kinship Foster Care
Diligent searches must occur for maternal and paternal relatives or others with established relationships with the child or youth in a timely and effective manner prior to or immediately when a child or youth enters care. A diligent search must include identifying, locating, contacting, recruiting, and supporting relatives and others with significant connections to the child or youth, and then exploring with them their interest and capacity to provide a temporary or permanent placement for the child or youth. Children and youth should be actively involved in identifying those connections.
If a diligent, culturally appropriate search has been completed and no kin placement resource has been identified, and the child or youth is in an approved permanent placement, any further searches, if conducted, should not be allowed to disrupt the permanent placement. Any searches after this point should be conducted solely to provide the new permanent family with relative or kin connections that can enhance the child’s or youth’s life.
Kinship foster families should be reimbursed at standard foster care rates, and adoption or guardianship should be options when they protect the best interests of the child or youth. When adoption or guardianship is considered the best option, the federal, state, or provincial government should also provide subsidies when they are in the best interests of the child or youth or when required by law. (see Adoption Assistance and Subsidized Guardianship statements)
Kin foster families should be evaluated to assure that the child or youth will be safe and nurtured in the care of the family. These families should also be provided support and services to ensure that the child or youth’s needs are continuing to be met.
Recognizing the unique value to children and youth of placing them with kin, NACAC opposes federal regulations mandating that all kinship foster parents be subject to the same licensing requirements as non-kin foster parents in order for states to be reimbursed through Title IV-E for payments made to kinship foster parents. Notwithstanding the exemption from licensing requirements, the safety of the child should be assured in any placement.
Placements with Kin to Avoid Placing a Child or Youth in Foster Care
Children and youth who are placed with kin through the child protection system or by the department of social services to avoid entry into foster care should be eligible for relative assistance payments equal to the foster care rate the child would have received if in care.
The department of social services should evaluate these kin caregivers to assure that the child or youth will be safe and nurtured in the care of the family. These kinship families should not, however, be subject to the same licensing requirements as foster care providers.