A new Child Trends brief from Drs. Tyreasa Washington and Brittany P. Michalec-Adkins studied children in out of home care (OOHC) and found that children in kinship care performed better academically than children in non-relative foster care. Children placed with kin tend to have better academic, behavioral, and mental health outcomes, and an increased sense of family connectedness and belonging, compared to children placed in non-relative OOHC.

Research demonstrates that children removed from their parents and placed with non-relative foster caregivers experience significant trauma, which may be less significant than children placed in kinship care. Children in formal kinship care performed the best among all children in any form of OOHC, with similar performance levels to children living with their birth or adoptive parents. This suggests that kinship care can eliminate widely observed deficits in academic functioning among youth in OOHC. Formal kinship care can come with more resources and supports than informal care, which may also aid in supporting students’ academic performances.

The authors provided three recommendations for supporting academic success for children in OOHC. Firstly that kinship care should be considered a strategy for promoting academic well-being for children in OOHC. Kinship care should be prioritized over other placement alternatives whenever possible and lastly, kinship care is one way to reduce the overrepresentation of children of color in the child welfare system.

Along with this brief, new regulations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will allow child welfare agencies to adopt simpler licensing or approval standards for kin foster family homes and require states to provide such homes the same amount of financial assistance as traditional foster homes.

By Harper Dilley, Policy Intern