Advocate for Improvement

Child & Family Well-Being  |  Advocate for Improvement

The Duke Endowment works with public agencies and private organizations to ensure all children in the Carolinas grow up in families safe from maltreatment and supported by nurturing parents and caring adults, enabling them to live successful lives. Using lessons learned from our grantmaking, we support advocacy and communications strategies to accelerate improvements in the child welfare system.

Challenge

It is established that early intervention and collaborative approaches produce positive well-being outcomes for vulnerable children and families. But in systems as complex as child welfare systems — with myriad individuals, organizations and agencies involved — advancing recognized practices that effectively promote child well-being is a challenge. 

For example, approximately 84,000 children in North Carolina and 74,000 children in South Carolina live with kin caregivers — a long-term placement option that allows vulnerable children to live with people whom they consider family. 

Research shows that kinship care placements result in better outcomes and fewer disruptions in a child’s life than other placement options because it lets a child maintain a family connection without entering the formal foster care system. Additionally, private agencies and counties across the Carolinas face tremendous challenges recruiting and retaining enough foster parents to take in all the children needing homes. 

Kinship care has emerged as a valuable placement alternative, ensuring that the limited pool of non-kin foster parents are available for children with no family option. 

Despite these positive benefits, many roadblocks remain for kinship caregivers. While foster parents receive federal and state or local financial support to defer some childcare expenses, unlicensed family caregivers — who take on the same full-time responsibility as foster parents — have access to minimal public assistance, depending on the caretaker’s income and relationship to the child.

Kinship care has emerged as a valuable placement alternative, ensuring that the limited pool of non-kin foster parents are available for children with no family option.

Response

Families are the foundation for helping children reach their potential, and kin caregivers fill an integral spot on the continuum of child welfare placement options. The Duke Endowment advocates for policy changes that can:

  • Accelerate efforts to identify appropriate kin caregivers 
  • Increase licensure among kin caregivers 
  • Guarantee they receive equal and adequate training and financial support
  • Ensure they are considered as a first placement option 

Working alongside our grantees, we provide information and resources to policymakers, agency partners and stakeholders so they are aware of, and can adopt, proven approaches to help accomplish these goals. 

To that end, Child and Family Well-Being provides funds for projects aimed at understanding the unique needs of kinship care families and equipping caregivers with the tools to care for children who come to their home from the child welfare system. 

For example, HALOS in South Carolina is assessing the Success Coach model. The Family Focused Treatment Association is evaluating a therapeutic skill-building model in North Carolina designed specifically for kin caregivers. We also participate in workgroups in North Carolina and South Carolina focused on strengthening kinship care policy and practice. 

As a long-term result of advocacy, The Duke Endowment expects measurable improvement in child well-being and parenting, less child maltreatment and reduced racial disproportionality in the child welfare system.

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