Kinship care placements have become an important part of the child welfare system due to the lack of adequate foster care homes for maltreated youth. Kinship care is generally defined as providing full-time nurturing and protected care to a child by relatives or those who have “family-like” relationships with a child. These relationships are often categorized into formal or informal arrangements. Formal arrangements involve public child welfare agencies arranging legal custody of children, while informal arrangements exclude government involvement.
In recent years, more research has studied the lasting effects of trauma for maltreated youth. As a result, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has made efforts to develop models of trauma-informed care. Also, child welfare agencies have been offering trauma-informed parenting programs. Unfortunately, there have been few programs specific for kinship caregivers, leaving questions about what kinship caregivers know about childhood trauma. A recent study examined three research questions: 1) “How do kinship caregivers perceive their knowledge and the knowledge of other kinship caregivers about child trauma?”, 2) “What are the relationships between kinship caregivers’ knowledge about child trauma, reported demographic characteristics, and background training in child trauma?”, and 3) “Is there a difference in kinship caregivers’ perceived knowledge and actual knowledge about child trauma?”.
In the study, researchers collected data from 130 kinship caregivers through online surveys that included the definition of child trauma, training about child trauma and its effectiveness, and both perceived and actual knowledge of child trauma. The vast majority of the caregivers were grandparents (n= 111), while 19 identified as an aunt or uncle to the child. To assess how helpful the training was in understanding child trauma, participants were asked to rank on a Likert-type scale as 1=” Very Unhelpful and 5=” Very Helpful”. Results showed that participants rated their self-knowledge and perceived knowledge of child trauma higher after given more exposure to child trauma training.
Most of the participants in the study were White (95.4%) and about 87% were married. Descriptive findings also indicated that on average, participants had been in a kinship care-giving role for nearly five years. The study suggests that most kinship caregivers (90%) receive some training about child trauma, and that many caregivers knew more about trauma than they thought. However, some groups of kinship caregivers knew more than others, caregivers who were more educated knew more about child trauma.
Agencies are considering mandating trauma assessments to children entering kinship care to ensure a minimum level of understanding. This study, one of the first to focus on this important topic, suggests that these trainings can be helpful for kinship caregivers’ knowledge about trauma, which may improve the lives of the children that they care for.
Miller, J., Koh, E., Niu, C., Bode, M., & Moody, S. (2019). Examining child trauma knowledge among kin caregivers: Implications for practice, policy, and research. Children and Youth Services Review, 100, 112-118.