Kinship Caregiver Challenges & Concerns
Kinship caregiver challenges are very similar to challenges faced by foster parents, but the emotional impact of raising a relative’s child is unique. While foster parents make a conscious, well-planned decision to take a child into their home, kinship caregivers often have to make the decision quickly and without preparation. Also, because the child is family, there are complex emotions that kinship parents must cope with; including being torn between the needs of the child they’re caring for and, in many cases, the wants of their own child.
There are many topics of concern that kinship caregivers face; here is a partial list:
- Are court appearances possible?
- Financial assistance, food and clothing
- Permission for medical treatment
- Safety requirements for my home
- Schooling Who will help?
- What services are available?
- Working with the caseworker and understanding the service plan
- What if I need a break?
Financial assistance to overcome some kinship caregiver challenges
Perhaps the best resource a kinship care provider can utilize is the child’s caseworker. A caseworker is a professional member of the child welfare system. They have access to many resources. Their primary responsibility is to help ensure the care and well-being of the child. They work on developing a service plan for each child placed in care. Kinship Specialists are another resource for foster parents to utilize. A Kinship Specialist can provide foster parents with community resources, school resources and advocate for both the foster parents and the children in care.
Other Kinship Caregiver Challenges
Schooling is another situation in foster and kinship care that may provide challenges for both caregivers and the children themselves. School systems must be aware of special situations that occur due to care. Children in care are likely to have assimilation and discipline problems. Ongoing and clear communication among the kinship caregivers, the caseworker and the schools is essential. Children may have physical and emotional obstacles to overcome.
Respite care is another term for simply needing a break. Many kinship caregivers are grandparents. A majority have not cared for a child in a number of years. They may have settled into a particular lifestyle. Please remember that it is difficult to help others unless you take care of yourself. Respite care where the child is placed in a licensed home for a weekend or week, to allow for some rest for the caregivers.
Health care is a primary concern for everyone, including new kinship caregivers. According to statistics highlighted in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, “Nearly 90 percent of young children entering the foster care system have physical health problems, and 55 percent have two or more chronic conditions.” A large number of children in care are in need of behavioral health assistance. Some articles indicate approximately 60% of children in foster care are in desperate need of dental care. The Medicaid program, which can cover health care benefits for foster children, provides a base for their health needs.
Sometimes kinship caregiver challenges can be overwhelming; at those times, it’s important for kinship parents to remember why they are doing what they do. A very positive factor about kinship care is described by the Children’s Defense Fund. They have written, “There is also strong evidence that children placed in kinship care experience greater stability and have fewer behavioral problems.”
Kinship caregivers should not be shy to ask about resources that can assist them with the children they have taken into their care. There is help for you and the child you have taken into your home.