A new report shows Iowa is below the national average for the number of kids who are raised by relatives other than their parents. Michael Crawford, a senior associate at the Child and Family Policy Center, says it’s an arrangement known as “kinship care.”
“Kinship care basically is a situation where children are cared for by a blood relative or another adult with a family-like relationship. In the United States that represents about 4% of all children, and in Iowa it’s about 3% of all children,” Crawford explains.
“However, we’ve seen about a 50% increase in kinship care in Iowa in the last decade, so it is becoming more prominent that it has been in the past.” Kinship care can involve cases where a family takes over care on its own, and Crawford says there’s also a subset of that where relatives are requested to take over care.
“That’s where the children are in the legal custody of the state, but they’re placed with a relative. Of all children in foster care in Iowa, almost one-fourth are put into kinship care situations. Really that is a good situation for the kids, because research has found that kids placed with relatives often thrive better than kids placed in a situation where they don’t know the foster parents as well,” Crawford says.
The national study was conducted by the Annie E. Case Foundation. Crawford says the goal is to make states aware of the growing cases of kinship care. He says it’s something to watch for our state.
“We’re liked tied for ninth lowest, so I think that’s a good sign, and we are again below the national average,” Crawford says. “In a sense we have maybe fewer kids in a foster care setting than the United States as a whole, but the kinship care is a growing portion of that, so it’s something we need to be attuned to.”
He says the increase awareness of kinship care is important so that families in the situation can take advantage of resources available to them. Crawford says,”The recommendation the report has…is really kind of an increase in awareness and education and basically having states ensure that the kinship families are aware of and receive available assistance to meet the needs of the children in their care. Through temporary assistance for needy families, or the school lunch program or Social Security, Medicaid and other types of assistance that are available to them. That’s the important thing, so they can financially take care of the kids that are in their custody.”
Crawford says if the kinship families don’t take advantage of the support services that are available, it could increase their hardship in trying to take care of their overall family.
You can see the entire kinship report here: Kinship report PDF.