Research Watch

A new look at kinship foster family types and its association with placement stability

Year of Publication
Reviewed By
Biru Zhou & Chris Morris

Zinn, A. (2012). Kinship foster family type and placement discharge outcomes. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(4), 602-614.


This study aimed to examine kinship placement among four different types of kinship families -- empty-nest grandparents, parenting grandparents, collateral kin with some children, and parenting collateral kin (Zinn, 2010). The author argued that biologically based ties are stronger and more efficacious than those that are not, leading to caregivers providing for the needs of the children before their own. 

This study compared placement disruption, community and child characteristics across different types of kinship family placements. Results showed that there were substantial differences in family and child characteristics across these different kinship family placements. Specifically, there are race and age variations in these kinship family placement types. For example, “[c]hildren placed with empty-nest grandparent families are more likely to be white (36.2%), and less likely to be African American (55.0%), than children in the collateral kin family types.” Children who are placed with parenting grandparents were younger than are children placed in other kinship family types. Moreover, parenting grandparents were located closer to the biological parents of the child than any other kinship family placement types in this study. 

In order to examine the variations in different types of kinship family placements and placement discharge, Hazard models were estimated for placement disruption, reunification with parents, and adoption or subsidized guardianship. Results indicated that children who were placed with parenting grandparents tend to have less placement disruption and exit to permanence than any other kinship family placement types. For kinship caregivers, their age also appeared to be a significant contributing factor for placement discharge, such that older caregivers were associated with higher rates of disruption and lower permanence.

Based on the results in this study, there appears to be significant variations across kinship family placements, and these variations across different kinship placements were associated with different child outcomes in terms of placement stability. This study provides important and most relevant evidence for distinguishing different kinship placements in child welfare practices.

Methodological Notes

The author cautioned that this may not be generalizable due to the small sample size and its geographical specificity (i.e. Illinois). The author also cautioned that the data was drawn from caseworker reports, which could include a priori evaluations (i.e. biases) of caregiver suitability as well as child characteristics.