Kinship caregivers receive less support than foster parents despite lower socioeconomic status

Feb 07, 2011

Children placed with a relative after being removed from their home for maltreatment have fewer behavioral and social skills problems than children in foster care, but may have a higher risk for substance use and pregnancy as teenagers, according to a report in the February issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. These relatives -- known as kinship caregivers -- appear more likely to be single, unemployed, older, and live in poorer households, yet receive fewer support services than do foster caregivers.

Most children who are removed from the care of their parents live with non-related foster parents, according to background information in the article. However, the number of children placed in kinship care is growing, and more than 125,000 children currently live in a relative's care. The increase is due to a decline in the number of foster homes at the same time that demand for out-of-home placements has increased. "Despite the move toward kinship care, the evidence for improved outcomes of children in kinship care vs. has been conflicting," the authors write.

Christina Sakai, M.D., and colleagues at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children's Medical Center, Dallas, studied 1,308 children entering out-of-home care after reported . Of these, 572 were placed in kinship care and 736 in foster care. At the beginning of the study and after three years, researchers conducted face-to-face interviews and assessments of children's behavioral and mental health and health service use, along with caregivers' receipt of services such as financial support, parent education and training, peer support groups and respite care.

Kinship caregivers were more likely than foster parents to have a low socioeconomic status—they were four times more likely not to have graduated high school and three times more likely to have an annual household income of less than $20,000. However, they were less than half as likely as foster parents to receive any form of financial support, about four times less likely to receive any form of parent training and seven times less likely to have peer support groups or respite care.

At the three-year follow-up, children in kinship care were more likely to be with a permanent caregiver than were children in foster care (71 percent vs. 56.4 percent). They also had 0.6 times the risk of behavioral and social skills problems and half the risk of using outpatient mental health services or taking psychotropic medications. However, adolescents in kinship care had seven times the risk of (12.6 percent vs. 1.9 percent) and twice the risk of substance abuse (34.6 percent vs. 16.9 percent).

"Our findings indicate that kinship caregivers need greater support services," the authors write. "The findings also indicate that kinship care may be associated with a reduced risk of ongoing behavioral and social skills problems and decreased use of mental health therapy and psychotropic medications. Conversely, adolescents in kinship care have higher odds of reported and pregnancy. These findings suggest that increased supervision and monitoring of the kinship environment and increased caregiver support services are urgently needed to improve outcomes of children in kinship care."

Explore further: 'Tis the season to overeat

More information: Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011;165[2]:159-165.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Vulnerable children fare well with relatives

Jan 21, 2009

Placing vulnerable children with relatives is a viable option, a new study by Cochrane Researchers suggests. In view of several recent high profile child abuse cases, the study may have important policy implications.

Kinship care more beneficial than foster care

Jun 02, 2008

Children removed from their homes after reports of maltreatment have significantly fewer behavior problems three years after placement with relatives than if they are put into foster care, according to new research at The ...

Recommended for you

Pregnant woman taken off life support in Ireland

14 hours ago

A brain-dead pregnant woman was taken off life support Friday after a court ruled that her 18-week-old fetus was doomed to die—a case that exposed fear and confusion among doctors over how to apply Ireland's ...

'Tis the season to overeat

Dec 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—Overeating is common during the holidays, but there are strategies that can help you eat in moderation, an expert says.

Don't let burns mar your holidays

Dec 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—The risk of burns from fires and cooking accidents increases during the holidays, so you need to be extra cautious, an expert says.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.