Kinship care reaches a new statewide milestone

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DENVER (Feb. 22, 2024) — From February 2023 through January 2024, 50% of children and youth placed in foster care had their initial placement with kinship caregivers. This is the first time Colorado’s child welfare system has hit this milestone, marking an important emphasis in practice, providing assurances that children and youth will remain in family-like settings whenever possible.

“It is a tremendous accomplishment that speaks to the innovative practices that ensure children and youth can remain with kinship caregivers temporarily if possible and also find permanency with people they know whenever possible,” said Kinship Care Program Administrator Jeannie Berzinskas.

Kinship care is an arrangement in which children and youth who are unable to live with their biological parents are placed in the care of relatives, close family friends, or other people important in their lives instead of being placed in traditional foster care or group homes. In kinship care, the child or youth is placed with someone who has an existing relationship with the child, such as a relative, godparent, coach, teacher or neighbor.

“Kinship care keeps families together, and research suggests that placing children and adolescents with relatives or kin relations enhances mental well-being, stability and behavioral outcomes,” said Mollie Bradlee, interim director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families.

As Colorado shifts to using kin caregivers more often, there is a need for more support for kinship caregivers. Senate Bill 24-008, the Kinship Foster Care Homes Bill, was introduced this month in an effort to further support kinship placements. Senate Bill 24-008 would ensure that all non-certified kinship caregivers, or those who elect not to or are unable to become certified as foster parents, are paid a portion of the foster care rate. The bill also allows the state to modify the requirements and training for kinship foster care homes and provide emergency financial assistance, which includes goods needed for the child's basic care, including beds, clothing and transportation costs, and limited rental or housing assistance.

Colorado’s Kinship Navigator Program, Colorado Kinnected, also supports children, youth and their families who are involved in child welfare. Under the program, which has been enacted in four counties, families have a “kinship navigator” who acts as a primary point of contact for kinship caregivers. The model focuses on family search and engagement, providing facilitated family engagement meetings and enhancing other kinship supports (such as hard goods, family engagement and training). The Kinnected model supports the whole family system, not just the child or youth in placement. It encourages and supports the family’s natural support system with a focus on caregiver well-being.

Research shows that when children and youth cannot remain with their parents, they generally have better outcomes when placed with kinship caregivers. Benefits of kinship care include:

  • Reduced trauma by providing familiarity, continuity and retention of familial ties
  • Improved mental health outcomes
  • Fewer behavioral problems and better social outcomes
  • Better educational outcomes and stability
  • Greater stability in placements and higher levels of permanency
  • Better cultural, ethnic, racial and traditional connections to their communities of origin
  • Stronger ties to the child’s biological family
  • Greater placement satisfaction for children and youth, including feelings of love and belonging

Learn more about the kinship services through the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), as well as the Kinnected program, by visiting CDHS's website and following on Facebook.