Kinship care has grown dramatically in recent years. Increasing numbers of parents are unable to rear their own children because of substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, physical and mental illness, homelessness, incarceration, poverty and other life tragedies. In response to this increase, child welfare agencies have increasingly turned to kinship caregivers for children entering the legal custody of the state. But, many of these children living with relatives are lingering in the child welfare system for years.
The passage of the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) has forced many child welfare agencies to interpret and develop policies with the intent of achieving a permanency plan for children living with their relatives. Many child welfare agencies are informing kinship caregivers about the permanency plan of adoption.
Kinship adoptive families are different from non-related adoptive families because different familial relationships exist that is different from a non-related adoptive family. These different familial relationships need to be addressed and validated in order to have a healthy self-sufficient kinship adoptive family.
The legal adoption process changes the "natural family" relationships and create new legal and emotional relationships that can impact the entire kinship family. Support services that are appropriate to address the new family structure should be provided before, during and after the adoption takes place.
Since society and ASFA has sanctioned adoption as a method of obtaining permanency for children, child welfare agencies & other community agencies must actively support kinship adoptive families and provide a service network that address the effects of adoption on the child and family.
While adoption provides permanence for children, adoption disruptions do occur. Without proper support services, preparation and information kinship caregivers are left to resolve family crises alone. Also, the children in their care are in need of appropriate support services.
Kinship care families should have an active role in choosing the best permanency plan for the children in their care and should be informed of all the options available. The question remains is adoption the appropriate plan for adults and children who are related? When is adoption the best permanency plan and how do child welfare workers assess the family and provide proper support? Below provides some basic information on what motivate kinship caregivers to adopt, why they are reluctant to adopt, when adoption may not be appropriate, how to determine if adoption is appropriate and the support service needs of kinship families.
Motivation to Adopt
Why Kin May be Reluctant to Adopt
- To keep the child in the family.
- Love, bonding, attachment and concern.
- To provide legal protection for the child.
- To give a children a fresh start in life with a stable home.
- Realization that the birth parents will not be able or capable of providing for the child.
- Financial support.
- Get the children out of the child welfare system.
- No other choice.
When Adoption may not be Appropriate for Kinship Families
- The child is already a family member and they do not see a need to adopt.
- The procedures for terminating parental rights can be too painful.
- The adoption would harm their relationship with the children's parents.
- Fear of Role / Identity Confusion
- The manner in which adoption is presented to them.
- Involvement of siblings
- Paternal and maternal family relationships
How to Determine When Kinship Adoption is Appropriate
- When the child (age appropriate) does not want to be adopted.
- When adoption will cause too much of a disruption in the family system.
- When the age & health of the caregiver and the child would be factors
Pre & Post Kin Adoption Support Services Needs
- Provide basic information on the adoption procedure the pros & cons of adopting
- Hold family meetings / conference with a third party facilitating.
- Birth parents
- Kinship caregivers
- Child family members & significant others
- Consider & Discuss in family meetings / conference
- Families attitude towards adoption.
- Needs of the family.
- Family support system
- Consequences (role & identity change)
- Psychological / Emotional Impact (child, caregiver, & family members)
- Financial & Social support
- Siblings who are in the same or another home
- Kinship caregiver's & child's age & health status
- Quality of the child-parent's relationship.
- Quality of the caregiver's -parent relationship
- Adoption Subsidy
- Respite services
- Information & referral to community resources
- Kin Adoption Support Groups
- Youth Activities, including mentoring programs
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