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.