Kinship is More than Just Blood

//Kinship is More than Just Blood

Today’s Guest Blogger is Mollie Kohler.

As the title suggests, Kinship is More than Just Blood discusses the issue of kinship care being preferential to non-relative care for children in out of home placements and the implications of this value. It was written by Marie K. Cohen, a former child welfare social worker from Washington D.C. Specifically, this article addresses the issue of children in the foster care system being placed with relatives after spending a significant amount of time in a non-relative foster placement, causing disruptions and additional trauma for the child. The article focuses on a licensed provider in Idaho who had a child in placement for the first year and a half of his life and was completing paperwork for adoption when “the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare placed him with an aunt he had never seen” (Cohen, 2016).

It is brought up that timelines in place under the Adoptions and Safe Families Act of 1997 serve to ensure that parental rights are terminated if a child is in out-of-home care for a certain length of time, so that a child is not waiting in foster care for extended periods of time. However, there are no such timelines for relatives to come forward. In some cases, children are removed from a non-relative foster home willing to provide permanency after more than two years due to the fact that a relative has come forward (Cohen, 2016).

An organization in Idaho, Idaho Foster Care Reform, is seeking to address this issue by enforcing timelines for relatives to come forward. They are proposing a bill that would require agencies to locate and contact relatives within 30 days of a child’s removal, and relatives would be granted a 45-day period to volunteer as a placement option for the child. Even with legislation requiring relatives to come forward within a certain time period, there is still the issue of a child waiting during the period of time that a relative is becoming licensed. Some states have moved towards an expedited process for relatives, to avoid this extra time spent in a temporary home. The article argues that while every effort should be made to place children with relatives in a timely manner, when that can’t happen, “blood should not trump the bond formed by many months of daily loving care” (Cohen, 2016).

This article is strengthened by the use of personal stories of foster parents who have experienced this issue and are seeking to shine light on the way we define kinship and its implications for children in out-of-home care. It explains the legislation that is being proposed and the reasons for its proposals. This article is limited in the sense that it describes situations in one particular state. While it does address the matter of timing for licensure as a barrier for relatives, it fails to acknowledge other challenges and barriers to a relative coming forward as a placement option for a child. Families are complex systems, and there are many potential barriers families might experience in their journey to come forward. This article challenges the traditionally held view that relative care should always be preferred to non-relative care. However, it does promote the widely held value that children in out-of-home care deserve permanency and that permanency should be a priority. This article represents the continually swinging pendulum between family preservation and timely permanency for a child. It is possible that this article propels the myth that it is not possible to achieve both of these outcomes, but rather that one must take priority.

Work Cited: Cohen, M.K. (2016). Kinship is more than just blood. The Chronicle of Social Change.
Retrieved from https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/blogger-co-op/kinship-just-blood/15969.

About the Author:

Melissa Batalden Mendez, MSW, LICSW is the Title IV-E Field Coordinator at CASCW. She coordinates the field placements for MSW students who are receiving the Title IV-E child welfare stipend through CASCW. She leads a special Title IV-E field placement program at Hennepin County.

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