What Is Kinship Care?
For generations, extended families have played significant roles in rearing children when parents are having a difficult time. This is called Kinship Care by Child Protective Services (CPS). Relatives and other people who the child or family have a significant relationship can often provide children with stability when they can't live with their birth parents.
How Does a Child Come into Kinship Care?
When children have been abused or neglected, DFPS may remove them from their homes to ensure their immediate safety. The courts are required to consider a temporary placement with a relative and ask the parents to tell DFPS how to contact relatives who may be able to care for their children at least temporarily.
When placing children, the court considers their needs as most important. Often a Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) conference is held and everyone involved recommends a particular family member or friend is the best place for the child. The placement may be court ordered, usually after DFPS completes a home assessment to make sure it's safe and appropriate for the child. CPS also takes the parents' desires into account whenever possible. If placement with a kin caregiver not available or appropriate, the child may be placed in foster care.
What Are the Benefits of Kinship Care?
- Provides love and care in a familiar setting;
- Provides parents with a sense of hope that children will remain connected to their birth families;
- Enables children to live with people they know and trust;
- Reinforces a child's sense of cultural identity and positive self-esteem;
- Helps a child make and sustain extended family connections;
- Continues lifelong family traditions and memories;
- Supports the child in building healthy relationships within the family;
- Supports the child's need for safety and well-being; and
- Creates a sense of stability in the life of a child.
DFPS updated policy (CPS Handbook 3224 and 6121.2) to require staff to have the family help identify all grandparents and other adult relatives, not just three relatives who might be considered for placement. A notification form letter was developed with attachments regarding the notice of removal and options to become a:
- Kinship foster parent.
- Kinship unverified caregiver.
- Supporter of the child in placement by participation in the service planning for the child.
The form letter has now been put in the DFPS automated system, where such notices can be tracked.
Senate Bill (SB) 993 from the Texas 82nd legislative session amended the Texas Family Code provisions regarding notification of adult relatives to include the Fostering Connections requirements on this issue and to clarify that this notice must be provided to all adult relatives related to the child within the 3rd degree of consanguinity (i.e. all grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and siblings).
The notification letter and attachment information were revised in August 2011 to incorporate the requirements in SB 993.
Kinship placements are required to meet the same standards for verification as non-kinship placements, though all applicants may be eligible for a waiver, depending on the circumstances of the home. Child Care Licensing (CCL) processes requests for waivers on a case-by-case basis. The relationship between the child and the kinship family is an important that's taken into consideration..
The DFPS automation system for the Child Protective Services (CPS) program and the automation system for the CCL Program were updated in order to improve reporting on the home verification process; the standards for which waivers/variances were requested and granted; the number and percentage of children in verified kinship foster homes, kinship homes declining verification; and kinship homes not completing verification.
DFPS, which has its own CPA program called the Foster / Adoptive Home Development (FAD) program, strengthened policy and efforts to support kinship foster home verification. A shortened foster home training program was developed for kinship families who, because of their relationship with the child, did not need all the training provided to new prospective families who might be approved to care for unrelated children in foster care. The FAD training program exceeds minimum standards. The kinship training program meets or exceeds minimum standards.