The Dangerous Classes: Why is Kinship Care the Hot New Thing?

In my last post, I explained why kinship foster care is the ideal out-of-home placement for children in foster care. The concept of extended families taking care of each other’s children is not new. Even today, millions of children are being raised by their relatives in informal kinship care, where government agencies are never involved. The modern increase in kinship care was a result of legislation intended to alleviate the nation’s decades-long foster home shortage. With their back against the wall, lawmakers are finally supporting the types of policies we should have used all along: placing kids with their families. Why did it take so long?

In this post, I will discuss the history of the Child Welfare System with a focus on socioeconomic class, and how that history impacts our system today. The forerunners of today’s Child Welfare System were right to focus on placing kids with families but were wrong about which families were best. That history helps explain why kinship care has been historically disfavored.

Continue reading “The Dangerous Classes: Why is Kinship Care the Hot New Thing?”

The U.S. Foster Home Shortage: Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

The foster care system has me pulling my hair out. Everyone agrees it’s broken. That’s pretty much all they agree on. I don’t think that anyone wants to hurt kids, but the system as it is does just that. Politics can be maddening, but nothing puts it in perspective like a child’s suffering. Still, I can’t scream at the ceiling about the ways of the world forever (I guess I could, but what’s the point?). I want to figure out how to work around the bureaucracy to help kids.

I think the most pressing issue is the shortage of foster homes, so I’m starting there. It’s interesting to think about how many other problems are caused by this one. Placement instability leads to inconsistent schooling, which leads to inadequate education, which leads to fewer future opportunities for a child. Often the only option in a strained system, group homes are a hotbed for further abuse and neglect. I hope that addressing the foster home shortage can have a lasting positive impact on multiple issues.

Over the past five years, the number of children in foster care has increased by 10 percent, while the number of homes is dropping. Growing social problems like the national opioid crisis and inadequate affordable housing are among many factors contributing to this problem.

In the past three years alone, California has spent an estimated $140 million on efforts to increase the number of foster homes. Legislation is blooming around the country with measures to recruit and approve more foster families. In January 2018, Arizona lawmakers made changes to their kinship placement program which prioritized placement with non-parent family members. California is also speeding up its approval process for kinship placements. California and South Carolina reworked their licensing standards so that more families could qualify to be foster homes. In Washington state, officials raised the maximum number of children that can be placed in a foster home in an emergency.

What are these programs, and will they work? Through my research this Spring, I will compare programs from around the country and analyze their impact. I will also look at the spiderweb of problems that are connected to the foster home shortage, and what practical solutions lawmakers should use to address these issues.