Kinship Caregivers are family and friends who step up and become responsible for raising a child when their parents cannot care for them. The child may live with kinship caregivers for a number of reasons. There are two types of kinship care, informal care is a private arrangement between the parents and caregiver, while formal care occurs when a child is in the custody of a public child welfare agency. The rights and responsibilities of caregivers vary based on these arrangements, so it is imperative the adults in these roles understand their responsibilities.
Custodial agreements range from informal custody to kinship guardian, with legal custody and direct custody in between. The primary difference between non-custody and custody arrangements is the responsibility to make major life decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, education and medical needs. A caregiver can attain legal custody through a custody order by a judge, legal guardianship, which is generally granted in a probate court, or adoption, which gives complete legal guardianship over a child.
In both arrangements, the caregiver is responsible for providing a safe environment that meets the child’s basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. The caregiver must provide the child with transportation to any required appointments and encourage social and recreational activities which are fundamental to a child’s growth and success. The caregiver should monitor the progress of the child’s social, academic and personal growth, and work with professionals as well as the child’s birth family to ensure positive development.
The children in kinship care often struggle to cope with complex feelings as a result of challenging family dynamics. Caregivers can provide emotional support by ensuring the child feels included and an equal member of the family.
Both the child and caregiver need a supportive, comfortable, and secure environment. Child welfare professionals should provide the caregivers with training and a support system to ensure a successful homelife for everyone involved. There should also be consistent communication to discuss and address challenges that may come with bringing a child into a new home. Caseworkers can provide support through offering therapy and support groups for families and children.