Saturday, May 24, 2008


I often receive responses to the Kincare blog that are not published on the site. Some are like Elizabeth, an aunt who wants her niece to come to her loving home rather than to foster care. There are many dynamics to these questions. The situation of a relative intervening in the removal and placement of a related child depends on many things:
-The State in which the child and the intervening relative live. Every State responds to these issues differently. Most states do participate in an Interstate Compact with other state child welfare departments specifically for these types of cases. The relative must do research on the particular states involved and the process for interstate placement of the children.
-The circumstances of the removal – is the child welfare plan weighty on reunification with the parent or is this a more permanent removal?
-Timing of when the relative finds out about the impending placement. If a child is already placed in foster care, the relative’s plan of intervention will require action with the court involved. If the child has not yet been removed, the relative may be able to work with the child welfare agency that is authorized for the placement.
-Of course, the relative must also be concerned with their own ability to raise the child. The agency will do an investigation of safety for the child in the relative’s home. But also the relative must do some serious soul searching to determine the long haul which includes issues like extra finances for legal, medical, and therapeutic costs. Time to parent, other children in the home and other relatives are to be considered as well.
-The type of arrangement with the child welfare agency managing the case – will the relative be licensed as Kinship Foster Care? Or is the placement with the intention of Guardianship or eventually Adoption?
Sources relatives can use to determine the answers to some of these questions (and there will be many more questions – take your vitamins):
1. Begin with the child welfare workers involved. Be pleasant. Let them know your availability as a relative caregiver. Learn what the situation is and the intentions of the agency regarding reunification.
2. Study the state(s) child welfare policies on placement. Check to see if there is a central Kinship Care resource in the state – often a person in the state department of Health and Human Services is very knowledgeable and advocates for relatives. Ask. If the child welfare department does not have a kinship care advocate, check with a university extension office, AARP in the state, Child Welfare League of America, the statewide Area Agency on Aging, Office of Aging Services, local Senior Center or (see the Resources section of A Kinship Guide to Rescuing we tried to get a central resource in every state). The senior resources are leaders in the kinship care movement because nearly 2/3rds of providers are grandparents raising grandchildren.
3. Talk to an attorney who specializes in family law to find out what you many need to do to secure a child as a guardian. Before you get too deep into the legal entities be sure you know the costs you may face, the distances that are involved, and of course the timing of the possible placement/reunification.
This is just a beginning. Every State is different in their approach to child welfare, even smaller jurisdictions within states are different from each other. Learning all you can, understanding your own capabilities in raising a possibly troubled child in your own situation, and being able to respond to sudden changes are critical in the early days of considering Kinship Care.
Elizabeth, I cannot answer the specific questions in your situation, but if you write to me with a contact number, I may be able to direct you to sources that can help: . Kinship care providers are so dismissed in our society, yet the more than 3 million relative caregivers are, in most cases, the angels to families in trouble. I wish you well in your efforts on the difficult road ahead.

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