Separating children from their families is traumatic, and children removed from their homes by child protective services deserve to be placed with kin — relatives by blood or marriage, or other people who the child or family views as “chosen family.” Kinship placement should be a universal expectation and goal in child welfare, and children placed with kinship caregivers are entitled to resources, services, and support that help protect their safety, promote their well-being, and facilitate permanency.
There are many benefits to placing children with relatives or other kinship caregivers. Doing so can reduce the trauma children experience from being placed with strangers, reinforce the child’s cultural identity, and maintain family and community connections. Research demonstrates that children placed with kin experience increased stability, improved well-being and behavioral health outcomes, and higher levels of permanency when compared with children placed in foster care with strangers.
Many child welfare agencies have shifted to prioritize kinship placement and to make it the norm, not the exception. Establishing a kin-first approach requires agency leadership to operationalize a strong vision through clear goals and firm expectations, followed by concrete changes to agency policies, frontline practices, and organizational culture. Community-based supports and services for kinship families such as navigation, family therapy, and legal advocacy are critical, both in partnership with and beyond the child protection agency.