Although children in kinship care face challenges similar to children in traditional (stranger) foster care, they are more likely to live in families with less social support, fewer baseline resources, and greater challenges accessing available resources due to lack of knowledge as well as systemic barriers. Kinship families who are unable to access support and resources for the child in their home are less likely to provide safe, stable, and nurturing homes for the child- more likely to disrupt placement, to raise children in poverty, and to parent vulnerable children in ineffective ways- leading to poor long-term well-being outcomes with costly public health price tags.
Foster Kinship's practice model is grounded in research that points to the overall benefits of kinship care compared to stranger care for children who can't live with their parents. We believe that when biological parents cannot raise a child, this child should live with their family in a kinship home, and supporting kinship families is necessary for the child's well-being. The family provides safety, familiarity, and love to a child who has experienced the trauma of parental separation. Family also helps children identify who they are on the deepest, most essential levels.
The foundation of Foster Kinship's work is the recognition of the kinship bond. Coupled with that is the understanding that kinship caregivers are often more vulnerable- more likely to be older, single female caregivers such as grandmothers- who live on a fixed income and have limited access to the support traditional foster families receive. Without help, kinship families are often pushed into poverty. They may not have the tools to help children overcome trauma. Critically, kinship families do not know how other systems define them, what resources are available, or how to access them.
Theory of Change: Drawing from social support theory and transaction cost theory, Foster Kinship’s Kinship Navigator Program provides targeted information, referral, support, basic needs, and case management activities. Each service is designed to connect kinship families to networks of social support, provide tangible resources, and increase baseline resources by ensuring understanding of and access to available resources. Foster Kinship focuses on reducing uncertainty for new caregivers by connecting caregivers to accurate information at the right time and providing tangible and technical support to achieve goals.
The Navigator program reduces both search and acquisition costs on the caregiver, ultimately increasing the safety, stability, and nurturing capacity of the kinship home and caregiver. Children in safe, stable, and nurturing homes are more likely to overcome the challenges of early childhood trauma to experience typical adulthood.
Foster Kinship’s Navigator Program is the only program of its kind in Nevada. Our model was developed to meet the needs of all kinship families- formal, diverted, and private. The model has a program manual for each kinship population with fidelity checklists.
An external fidelity evaluation showed 93% fidelity to the intake and assessment portion of the model and 96% fidelity to the case management portion of the model.
An external outcome evaluation of the Navigator Program on the formal kinship population in Clark County provided evidence that the program:
Foster Kinship utilizes the Family Resource Scale [FRS], which measures the adequacy of different resources in households with children (Dunst & Leet, 1987). The FRS assesses whether or not the kinship family has adequate resources (time, money, energy, and so on) to meet the needs of the family as a whole as well as the needs of the individual family members. The conceptual framework predicts that inadequacy of resources will negatively affect personal well-being and parental commitment (Dunst & Leet, 1987). The Family Resource Scale is completed at intake and upon case closure to measure the change upon receiving Kinship Navigator Program services.
In addition to the outcome data from the baseline and follow-up interviews, Family Advocates note when a kinship family has achieved a key outcome, such as custody, securing financial resources, or other indicators of positive change related to safety, permanency, or well-being.
Foster Kinship’s Founder and Executive Director Ali Caliendo, Ph.D., is an expert in the field of kinship care. She focuses her academic work on policy and practice issues affecting both public and private kinship care. A licensed foster parent and an adoptive parent herself, Alison is a frequent contributor to the local, state and national conversation on kinship and foster care. Learn more about Ali.
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