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Types of Foster Care: Group Homes and Kinship Care

Group Homes

Group homes were initially problematic in the foster care system, due to a shortage of experienced operators, and a lack of industry regulation. While many group homes were run by competent social workers or those in religious communities who -- though without formal training -- were instrumental in having a positive impact on the children in their care, in other group homes children were abused and forced to participate in the religious beliefs of their caretakers. Sometimes untrained workers tried behavior modification techniques that were cruel and inhumane. With little monitoring by the government, it was possible for group homes to cut back on food, clothing, education and program to make a profit for the operators.

Group homes are now subject to a number of federal regulations. Any care facility that houses six or more children is considered a group home. Most group homes are small, and try to integrate the children into the local community. The residents attend local schools, are closely supervised, have a structured life -- with a counselor on duty around the clock in most cases -- and a schedule of counseling, tutoring, and other services.

Kinship Care

Kinship care is the full time care of children by relatives, godparents, stepparents, or any adult who has a kinship bond with a child. The expansion of kinship foster care is, perhaps, the most dramatic shift to occur in child welfare practice over the past two decades.

Informal kinship care occurs when a family decides that a child will live with relatives or other kin. In this informal kinship care arrangement, a social worker may be involved in helping family members plan for the child's arrival, but a child welfare agency does not assume legal custody of or responsibility for the child. Because the parents still have custody of the child, relatives need not be approved, licensed, or supervised by the state.

Formal kinship care involves the parenting of children by relatives after a determination by a court and/or a Child Protective Services (CPS) agency. The court may 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 placed in the legal custody of the child welfare agency, and the relatives provide full time care. Formal kinship care is linked to state and federal child welfare laws. Federal legislation impacting kinship care includes The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, Title IV of the Social Security Act, and The Indian Child Welfare Act. Thus, kinship caregivers may be able to access Social Security Funds for the child, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds for the child, and medical assistance for the child.

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