Keeping the Family Tree Intact

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Through Kinship Care


Cathy and Frank Battle thought two children was the right number for their family. Their sons, Mitchell, 3, and Anthony, 5, fulfilled their lives and their dreams.

Then in April 1994, Cathy and Frank were shocked into expanding their family. Cathy's brother-in-law, Bob, was arrested for sexually abusing his children, and the county's protective services division determined that her sister Susan's serious drug abuse problems made her an unfit mother. "We knew that there was trouble in my sister's home," Cathy said."But we had no idea that the kids were being abused. We were stunned."

The Battles are among a fast-growing number of people who are caring for a relative's children in their own family. Sometimes, the caregiver is a brother or sister, as in the Battle case. More often, it is grandparents who step in to fill the shoes of a son or daughter too overwhelmed with problems to be a nurturing parent.

More than l.3 million American children are being raised by relatives other than their parents. Even more startling, the number of grandparents raising their grandchildren soared more than 40 percent in the last decade.

Sometimes the arrangement is informal: family members decide that a child will live with a selected relative and no child welfare agency is involved. Or it may be formal: an agency retains legal custody of a child while he or she is raised by a relative. Sometimes an agency is involved initially, to plan the child's care, but does not assume legal custody.

In either case, kinship parents, as defined by the Child Welfare League of America in Washington, DC, perform the following functions:

  • Protect, nurture, and care for their kin children for a temporary or extended period of time
  • Assure that the children's needs are met
  • Help return the children to their birthparents whenever feasible
  • Help establish a plan to connect the children to safe, stable, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime, when they cannot be reunited with their birthparents

This factsheet examines the practice of kinship care. It looks at the reasons child protection agencies are turning to relatives to care for the children in their custody, the value of kinship care, the barriers that prevent more families from participating in such arrangements, the steps some States have taken to remove those barriers, and what else needs to be done to ensure that agencies consider family first when placing a child in a foster or adoptive home.


Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (

Visitor Comments (2)
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Kathy - 2 years ago
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A child that may be my grandchild is in foster care and we can't seem to get an order for paternity! If this child is my grandson, he belongs with family!! #1
calvin cole - 3 years ago
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If his aunt was able to adopt my grandson than my family name would be no more and that would be the last of the cole name it would be done! #2

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