Study finds support for kinship care placements

Date Published: 

Rubin, D., Downes, K., O'Reily, A., McKonnen, R., Luan, X., & Localio, R. (2008). Impact of kinship care on behavioral well-being for children in out-of-home care. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, 162(6), 550-56.

Reviewed by: 
Elizabeth Fast

This study aimed to examine the influence of kinship care on behavioral problems after 18 and 36 months of out-of-home care. The data were taken from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), a nationally representative survey of American children investigated for child maltreatment. Of the 5,501 children who were included in the main sample, this study restricted its sample to the 1,309 children who entered out-of-home care following a maltreatment report between October 1999 and December 2000. The children were followed for 36 months to compare the behavioral problems of those who were placed with kin (50% of sample) with those who were placed in a traditional foster care setting. The Child Behavior Checklist was completed by the current caregivers when the children entered care and after 18 and 36 months of placement. These scores were used to predict probabilities of behavioral problems. After controlling for placement stability, baseline risk, and reunification status at 18 and 36 months, children who were initially placed in kinship care had a lower probability of behavioral problems after 36 months. Although 17% of children were moved to kinship care after first being placed in foster care, 58% of them still achieved later placement stability, compared to only 40% of children in traditional foster care.

Methodological notes: 

Although this study finds support for placing children with kin, the authors caution the reader on three points:

  • NSCAW did not collect enough information about extended families to determine whether children placed in foster care had safe alternatives within their own families, making kinship care a realistic option. Nonetheless, this study supports previous findings that early placement stability decreases risk of future behavioral problems;
  • Reporter bias may have contributed to the findings as earlier studies have found that kin caregivers are less likely to accurately report the extent of behavioral problems exhibited by children in their care; and
  • This is an observational study and, therefore, it is possible that some unobserved selection effect explains placement stability and differences in behavioral outcomes.