What is Kinship Care?

Kinship care is the full-time care and nurturing of a child by a relative or someone who has a significant emotional relationship with a child not born to them.

Kinship care is often looked to when children must be separated from their parents, either voluntarily or by court order;

  • Informal Kinship Care: : Informal Kinship Care refers to an arrangement made by parents and other family members without any involvement from the court or child welfare system.
  • Formal Kinship Care: Formal Kinship Care involves parenting of children by relatives, or someone who has a significant emotional relationship with a child not born to them, as a result of a determination by the court and/or the child welfare agency. The courts rule that the child must be separated from his or her parents because of abuse, neglect, dependency, abandonment or special medical circumstances. The child is then placed in the legal custody of the relative or the child welfare agency. If legal custody is granted to the child welfare agency, the relative provides full time care, protection and nurturing of the child as a relative foster parent.

Why is it important?

When children are raised by kinship caregivers, they experience greater continuity of care and family preservation. Children living with kin have a sense of permanency, nurturing, safety, and well-being. Kinship care also assists in maintaining the family’s culture, traditions, values, and goals, and kinship placements help children maintain connections not only to family members, but often to their schools and communities.

There are many benefits of kinship care arrangements that include:

  • Reduces the trauma that children may experience when they are placed with strangers, and it enables children to live with people they know and trust
  • Allows children to maintain connections to extended family, siblings, and community which are essential to a child’s well-being
  • Children in kinship care experience fewer placement moves than children in non-kinship care
  • Children are more likely to be placed with siblings in kinship care.
  • Children in kinship care have fewer behavioral problems as rated by their caregivers, than their peers in other out-of-home care settings

Challenges Kinship caregivers may experience include:

  • Lack of adequate housing
  • Financial difficulties
  • Physical health issues
  • Emotional stress caused by childrearing responsibilities
  • Strained relationships with the children’s parents
  • Lack of easily accessible training about specific needs and issues parenting grandchildren or other related children, limited peer support and lack of information on available resources.

What are Kinship Navigator Services?

The Kinship Navigator (KN) programs provide information, referral, education and advocacy for kinship families. Our collaborations are based upon the Kinship Navigator’s federal Children’s Bureau grant associated with the passing of the Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First) on February 8, 2018, where the goal is to identify private (informal) kinship families and to connect them to the Kinship Navigator and local resources.

Kinship Navigator programs in Virginia provide services and supports to strengthen the kinship caregivers’ capacity to provide a safe, nurturing home for the child and to help achieve permanency for the child. Additionally, supports and services should assist the kinship caregiver in addressing the effects that maltreatment may have had on the child in their care.

For kinship caregivers in Virginia, there is a toll-free support services hotline that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call (888) 593-1972 to receive information and referrals for your family’s needs, including:

  • Housing
  • Benefits (Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, Child Care)
  • Physical/Dental Health Services
  • School information, etc.

Regional Kinship Navigator Grant Programs

Virginia is excited to pilot 6 Kinship Navigator Programs throughout the Commonwealth, through two years of federal funding, and it is our hope that we can expand these programs over the next several years.

Arlington Department of Social Services:

Serving: Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Prince Williams, Loudoun

Program Description:

  • Offers services to kinship caregivers having trouble finding assistance for their unique needs and who may need help navigating the county’s service system.
  • Seeks to connect kinship families and form a network of kinship caregivers who can support each other and their changing families.
  • Assists kinship families who need a connection to services, such as childcare, education, health care, and financial help, and are seeking support from professionals or peers.
  • Provides seminars, trainings, and workshops focused on kinship families’ needs, as well as support groups for these families.
  • The Kinship Navigator Program is conducting an assessment of kinship care engagement throughout the jurisdictions. The assessment will assess best practices in communication and information sharing with those kinship families currently in the child welfare system as well as those kinship families in the community who are not connected to the child welfare system and are seeking general information on kinship care service options.

Bedford Department of Social Services:

Serving: Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell, Lynchburg, Nelson

Program Description:

  • To provide Kinship Resource Family Training regionally three times yearly. This will be a five-week course based on established evidence-based curriculums (Pride, Traditions of Caring, and Foster Parent College) but with a focus on the unique needs and concerns of kinship families. The training will result in the kinship families’ certification as resource parents, providing that they meet the other requirements for licensure. The training will be open to kin who intend to foster, relative custodians, as well as diversionary families. Dinner will be provided for families before each class. Child care will be provided by volunteers from Patrick Henry/Safe Families. Transportation assistance in the form of gas cards will be provided to support families who are traveling to the training from outside the hosting locality, as needed.
  • A support group will be facilitated by Patrick Henry/Safe Families to provide ongoing support and encouragement to the families participating in the Kinship Resource Family training. Any family who is caring for a relative’s child or fictive kin is invited to attend.
  • Patrick Henry/Safe Families will employ a part-time Regional Kinship Navigator who will work with kinship families to ensure that they are connected with the resources available to them, including benefits (TANF, SNAP, Medicaid) and services (including a variety of counseling and respite options, educational support, legal support, mental health support, etc.)

Dickenson Department of Social Services:

Serving: Dickenson, Buchanan, Russell, Tazewell, Lee, Wise, Scott, City of Norton

Program Description:

  • Provide an information and referral network system that links kinship caregivers to kinship support groups, legal assistance, and benefits, such as TANF, SNAP and Medicaid.
  • Provide advocacy for kinship caregivers and youth in schools, court systems, health care, mental health agencies and benefits programs.
  • Assist kinship caregivers in utilizing services to meet the needs of the children they are raising.
  • A Kinship Navigator will provide face-to-face meetings in the home to support families and ensure the families’ needs are being met.

James City County Department of Social Services:

Serving: James City County, Williamsburg, York-Poquoson

Program Description:

  • A Kinship Navigator will provide information, referral, education and advocacy for kinship families. This will include linking families to needed resources including legal assistance, mental health services, healthcare, education and support groups.

Virginia Beach Department of Human Services:

Serving: Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Norfolk

Program Description:

  • The Kinship Navigator program will provide targeted case management services in order to link families with needed resources as well as build service capacity for kinship families.

Smyth Department of Social Services:

Serving: Bland, Bristol, Carroll, Galax, Giles, Grayson, Montgomery, Pulaski, Radford, Smyth, Washington, Wythe

Program Description:

  • Provide guidance, information, referrals, and face-to-face case management services tailored to each family’s unique circumstances
  • Collaborate and coordinate with local community partners to include Legal Aid, public schools, health department, private counseling services, faith-based entities, non-profits, court, community services boards, parent education programs, and child-abuse prevention coalitions
  • Link kinship caregivers to a wide array of services and supports to ensure stability and safety within the home
  • Establish a network of support for kinship caregivers and youth

Kinship Navigator Program Resources