Sometimes grandparents or other relatives care for children whose own parents are unable to care for them. This is referred to as “kinship” care. Kinship care is typically a private arrangement between the parents and the relative caregivers. In other cases, relative caregivers may be granted guardianship without child welfare agency involvement; while in other situations, the local child welfare agency is involved.
Omni Visions can help you navigate the ins and outs of kinship care to help work effectively with the child welfare system in your state. We’ll also link you to resources and provide more detailed information based on your individual situation. Relatives are an important part of the foster care community and we’re here to empower and support you.
Different Types of Kinship Care
Informal Kinship Care
When parents leave children with family members without any involvement from the courts or child welfare agencies, this is called informal kinship care. A parent may leave children with a relative while ill, overseas on a work or military assignment or various other situations. It is a mutually agreeable situation between the parent(s) and the other family members. Legal custody remains with the parents and the parents can take their children back at any time.
Kinship caregivers often run into issues when trying to enroll children in school, authorize medical care or grant parental permissions. In this case, kinship caregivers should check with their State agencies to request a consent form that parents can sign to allow kinship caregivers to have some temporary decision-making power regarding the children.
For parents who able to have their children live temporarily with a relative, they may consult an attorney in order to grant temporary guardianship to the relative. Depending on the State in which you reside, the court can grant temporary guardianship which permits the guardian relative to make medical and educational decisions for the welfare of the child or children. When parents initiate temporary guardianship, it helps negate issues that arise when parents are unwilling or unable to grant temporary guardianship to relatives.
Voluntary Kinship Care
Voluntary kinship care means that a child welfare agency is involved with children living with relatives, but the State does not assume legal custody of the child/children. Sometimes children have been placed with relatives by a court, and in other cases an arrangement is made by the child welfare agency with no court involvement. This type of kinship care varies widely from State to State.
The following situations could result in voluntary kinship care:
*Signs of abuse or neglect are reported and checked out by a child welfare agency. If evidence is insufficient for the State to take children into legal custody caseworkers, parents and relatives may work out a voluntary agreement for the children to live with relatives.
*Working alongside child welfare staff, parents may voluntarily place their children with relatives. This situation may be due to incarceration or mental health or substance abuse issues.
Formal Kinship Care
In this situation, children are placed in the legal custody of the State by a judge, and the child welfare agency then works toward placing the children with relatives. The child welfare agency, acting on behalf of the State, has legal custody of the children and relatives have physical custody. Family and child welfare workers collaborate to make legal decisions about the children and the child welfare agency ensures the children are attending school, receiving adequate medical care and they also oversee visits with parents or siblings. Formal kinship care is most like certified foster parenting in that relative caregivers are certified/approved and have rights and responsibilities similar to those of nonrelative foster parents.
A Band of Brothers and Sisters
The importance of keeping sibling groups together cannot be understated. Often, the relationships children have with their brothers and sisters are the most enduring relationships they’ve ever had. The sibling bonds grows even more important when children are removed from their parents. Omni Visions strives to keep sibling groups together whenever possible.